We believe Portland should be a city where our most vulnerable are cared for, our middle class is strong and working families have a path to the American dream. That’s why we’re strongly supporting Mayor Ethan Strimling for re-election.

This summer, many in our city felt pride and even relief, given our national politics, to see Ethan at the Expo every day, welcoming new immigrants to our city and showing with his presence and attention just who we are as a city.

Ethan has spent his career helping people. For nearly two decades before being mayor, he served as director of LearningWorks and transformed it from a small Portland neighborhood advocacy group into a life-changing nonprofit that serves thousands of young people and families each year.

In a similar way, Ethan has gotten important results for our city. From property tax relief for seniors to increased wages for workers to hundreds of new units of affordable housing, he has made a difference in the lives of countless working people, children and seniors – earning the support of an unprecedented coalition of local organizations, including the Portland Working Waterfront Group, the Portland Firefighters, Equity in Portland Schools, the Maine People’s Alliance, 30 additional labor unions and councils and immigrant leaders, among others.

But let’s take public education, perhaps his signature work on behalf of our city.

When Ethan took office, our city had spun its wheels for two decades debating what to do about the condition of our rundown elementary schools, convening seven different task forces. Seven!

That inaction meant that year after year, decade after decade, children went to school in buildings that didn’t meet minimum academic standards, had asbestos and mold, weren’t compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and posed fire, safety and security hazards.

At Reiche, for instance, special education is taught in a utility room with no windows, a ladder to the roof and two utility closets containing loud electrical equipment and internet systems, with multiple wires draped throughout the room.

At Presumpscot, kids as young as 6 go to class in old trailers without bathrooms. At Longfellow, kids are taught in hallways crowded with computer carts, garbage and recycling bins, and supplies.

Yet, the City Council had rejected previous attempts to pass a local bond – as South Portland, Westbrook and communities all around us did each year. For 23 years, the city didn’t repair these four schools. The city didn’t fix two schools. The city didn’t fix one school. For 23 years, the city renovated zero schools.

It was only with Ethan as mayor that we finally got it done. And it wasn’t easy, to say the least.

When the bond got to the City Council, just two or maybe three councilors supported it. So Ethan created a special committee of city councilors and school board members to study the issue in greater depth – and it was only through that process that enough councilors came to support the bond, eventually sending it to the ballot on an 8-1 vote. The voters then finally had their say and passed it overwhelmingly, with 65 percent of the vote.

It took incredible commitment, creativity and collaboration to build support on the council and in the community to pass the bond. Ethan worked his butt off, for months on end, to make it happen.

Now, construction is well underway at Lyseth Elementary School in North Deering, and we’re already at work redesigning the three other schools.

On top of that, Ethan fought tirelessly for the funding our schools desperately need, securing the largest increases in school funding in our history. These investments mean that we have finally reversed the trend of squeezing our schools. As a result, we’ve strengthened and expanded pre-K. And, after years of stagnation, we’re on a path to close what have been substantial and persistent gaps in achievement and opportunity among students who live in poverty and students of color.

We’re incredibly fortunate to have a mayor who believes so deeply in public education. So it’s no surprise that a majority of the school board has endorsed him for re-election.

He is, unequivocally, The Education Mayor.

On Nov. 5, please join us in voting to re-elect Ethan Strimling for mayor.

 


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