PORTLAND — With incumbent Brian Batson not seeking re-election, District 3 residents will have a new city councilor representing them.

Tae Chong, Andy Graham, Layla Kargar, Ed Suslovic and Andrew Volk are vying for that seat to represent residents in the Deering Highlands, Woodfords Corner, Libbytown, Nason’s Corner, Stroudwater, Oakdale and University of Southern Maine sections of Portland. Residents will also cast votes Nov. 5 for mayor, the District 1 city councilor, two at-large seats and the District 3 seat on the Portland School Committee.

Each District 3 candidate said they want the council to focus more on District 3.

Kargar said if elected, she would be a vocal advocate for her district.

“I want to start by putting District 3 back on the table as far as City Hall knowing we exist. It is not just about the peninsula,” Kargar said.

Volk, the owner of two downtown restaurants, said: “District 3 I view as the future of the city of Portland, the future where sustainable growth can happen and where there needs to be more attention paid.”

“A district councilor’s role is to be the squeaky wheel on behalf of the district,” said Suslovic, who served as an at-large councilor from 2006 to 2009 and the District 3 councilor from 2010-2016.

Overall, Volk said he would like to see a better public transportation system in the city. “It needs to be a better system that people can get excited about,” said Volk, who lived in Portland, Oregon.

Graham, a resident of the district for 41 years, wants better road maintenance, better sidewalks and more attention paid to the basic services.

Graham said he would focus on retaining the neighborhood’s character with the need to increase the housing stock across District 3.

Former School Board member Tae Chong said if elected, he would work to bring more investment into District 3 neighborhood centers by making them more pedestrian-friendly, with public art and centrally located bus shelters.

“If you have a pedestrian-friendly, traffic friendly area with public art, you can begin creating a sense of place,” he said, highlighting Woodford’s Corner as a good model.

Neighborhood hubs, he said, attract people and become a place where people convene and shop.

“We are a patchwork of neighborhoods and every neighborhood should be celebrated,” he said.

All candidates said they support increasing the amount of affordable housing in the district.

Kargar said she supports some sort of rent control.

“Greed is out of control. Capitalism is out of control,” she said. “Portland is all about the numbers and not about the people who live here.”

Graham said easing regulations and allowing for increased density along traffic corridors is one way to boost the housing stock in his district and across the city.

Volk said the affordability issue is not unique to Portland.

“This is not a new issue. It’s not about reinventing the wheel. Looking at what other communities have done is important to see what sort of solution we can bring to bear in the city,” he said.

Suslovic said housing affordability is not an issue that the city government can fix on its own. The city, he said, has to work with non-profit and for-profit developers to find a solution and look to neighboring communities to tackle the issue on a regional basis.

“The best way we can close the housing gap is to build our way out of it. People want to live in Portland,” he said, agreeing with Graham’s notion of building higher density development on transit corridors.

Chong said the city has to incentivize developers to build off the peninsula, alter zoning and find solutions that work for each of the city’s individual neighborhoods.

“Everyone knows housing is an issue, but if we don’t build more of it, prices won’t go down. That is just simple supply and demand,” he said.

Suslovic is keeping his eye on Portland Recreation Department’s ongoing recreation space needs assessment and master plan development of the Kiwanis outdoor pool on Douglass Street.

“I am eager to see what the needs are for the city as a whole, but I am hoping they can break it down by district, too,” he said of the needs assessment.

Suslovic said he would like to see more interest in the plan for Doherty Field, which was finalized years ago but has yet to funded and put into place. The plan calls for more and improved fields, the addition of public restrooms, a concession stand and improvements to the Kiwanis pool area.

Kargar said she would like to see the pool area expanded and improved to be more of a community space that could possibly include a senior center or fitness area. The Recreation Department has hired a consultant to look into how the facility could be improved.

“I want to turn Kiwanis pool into something it should have been a long time ago,” Kargar said. “A lot can be done in that little area that can uplift District 3.”

Graham said while there is a strong need for improved community space in District 3, he doesn’t know how available funding would be.

“This would be great to have, but do we raise taxes to support this, reduce school spending, find funding elsewhere. What do we give up in order to accomplish this,” he said.

It is a concern Chong shares.

“It is about what we can afford and the return on investment,” he said.

A better approach, he said, might be to increase the city’s investment in after-school or recreational programs already in the works.

“Any way we can bring people together in a community space is a great idea, but there is a lot of different ways to do that,” Volk said.

 

 

 

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