SOUTH PORTLAND — South Portland City Council, at a Nov. 24 meeting, expressed optimism about the progress made to meet eight goals that had been set earlier in the year.

On May 5, the council adopted eight goals that had been developed in a workshop in February, said City Manager Scott Morelli.

Morelli went through each of the goals — address climate change, develop complete streets, improve transit, improve housing, increase diversity, long range planning, support public health and human services, and better communications — and ways that the council has attempted to meet them through ordinances, policy changes, committee formations, etc.

South Portland recently finalized and adopted One Climate Future on Oct. 13, touching on the goal to address climate change Morelli said. There are 67 strategies across four focus areas, expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 81 percent by 2050.

For goal No. 4, improve housing, the city is collaborating with the South Portland Housing Authority on a housing study to do stock on need for future decisions, Morelli said. There was also a focus group with various stakeholders regarding homelessness.

The Human Rights Commission, which helps the city work on the council’s fifth goal, to increase diversity, was formed this year, he said.

During the public comment section, resident Margaret Brownlee told the council that she is impressed with the work of the city, including a new Uber service for the South Portland Food Cupboard and the formation of the Human Rights Commission.

“I am very impressed with the goals and progress you’re making,” she said. “The diversity goal, it’s obviously a passion of mine but also extremely important right now, given the importance of the Human Rights Commission being formed, what’s going on in the country in terms of racial justice, so that’s exciting.”

Since the pandemic started, the city has shifted focuses, but work has still progressed on meeting each goal, Morelli said.

“COVID-19 has definitely changed the focus on many departments in 2020,” he said. “Dealing with that and keeping employees in the public safe has been one of our primary goals and concerns, but despite that, we’ve still been able to make good progress on a number of areas.”

From left, Shaun St. Germain and Patrick Mendelsohn of the South Portland Fire Department and Kathryn Violette of the city’s COVID Team. The fire department and grant-funded COVID Team have been reaching out to homeless and transient populations to educate and provide assistance regarding COVID-19. John Pobrislo courtesy photo

Councilor Sue Henderson emphasized how the city has been working on the Public Health and Human Services goal.

“I’m not sure our city manager stressed the wonderful grants we got for health,” she said. “If people go around now, there’s hand sanitizer in all the parks, and the health officers and EMTs have been visiting the homeless and made little backpacks for them because we got grants.”

Communication between city staff and the council has benefitted the work done this year, said Councilor Misha Pride.

“A lot of groups put together these aspirational goals and then they put them on a shelf and never look at them again,” he said. “I’m really happy that our city moves forward with our goals … it’s something we pick up all the time and try to align every action we do with those goals.”

Looking to the future, Mayor Kate Lewis said she wonders how lofty the city can be with the resources it currently has, noting that the pandemic has changed the public’s focus and situation.

“One of the things I’m starting to hear more in the community is a lot of trepidation about money and resources,” she said. “I think we’ve done a lot with the resources that South Portland has had and I think we’ve pushed it quite a lot in 2020, even in the face of the pandemic, but I guess I’ll keep us grounded a little bit in thinking forward, to doing in 2021 as much as we can with what we have already. I’m worried about breaking the bank with goodwill and tax dollars of residents.”

She also said that the work of city staff and committees has been instrumental to the progress on these goals.

Overall, the update was entirely positive, said Councilor Katelyn Bruzgo.

“Seeing how so many things have had results, things like the ordinances and how they affect our community, and the idea of being able to acquire land parcels through a bond if that’s voted through, and things like planting a food forest,” she said. “All these things benefit our citizens even during the pandemic, so I just am very thankful to our city staff and to Scott and the city clerk’s office and to everyone working so hard and to my fellow councilors really advocating for so many of these things and spending a lot of time really making sure our citizens are taken care of. I’m constantly inspired by that.”

There will be another update at the beginning of 2021, said Morelli.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: