Kate Snyder

Portland needs a leader who can listen. One who can turn division into teamwork. One who puts progress ahead of ego.

That’s why we support former school board Chairwoman Kate Snyder for mayor.

As set up in the city charter, the mayor’s position is a complex job that comes with little inherent authority.

The only way a Portland mayor can be effective is to work with the independently elected members of the City Council. The mayor can drive the development of city policy when backed by a majority of the council. But if the majority isn’t there, the mayor is just another angry voice.

Snyder’s experience on the Portland Board of Public Education during the tough budget years of the Great Recession shows why she is best suited for this position.

Beginning in 2007, money was scarce: The previous administration had overspent its budget by over $2 million, which needed to be repaid. The next year, the state cut back on its support for education when the global economic crisis tanked tax receipts.

But the needs of students and families did not recede with the funds. During those years, the school board had to function within financial restrictions without abandoning teachers and students. They expanded programs, improved equity between rich and poor schools and developed a long-range facilities plan.

This did not call for fiery speeches or surprise news conferences. It took strong communication – both within the board and with the community at large – as well as the ability to work on more than one thing at a time.

That’s exactly what’s called for on the city level now. When it comes to things like the lack of affordable housing, homelessness and substance abuse, everyone knows what the problems are. But we don’t have coherent plans to address them that have been well articulated by the leadership at City Hall.

This is where the incumbent, Mayor Ethan Strimling, has failed. He’s proven to be much better at grabbing headlines than at building coalitions. Over four years he has shown that he can’t do the job as the charter defines it and doesn’t deserve another term.

City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau shares some positive qualities with Snyder and would also be a big improvement over the current mayor. But we would rank him second on our ballot because he doesn’t have her experience and record of successfully managing complex public policy issues.

Snyder understands the job and has the skills to do it. Portland voters should elect her on Nov. 5.

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