There it was, my name in red as a public enemy. This mailer sent by a certain political group who claims to put people first was not necessarily a surprise to me, just a disappointing reminder of the political atmosphere in Portland today.

Unfortunately for this group there doesn’t appear to be any curiosity, there is no middle ground, collaboration, or compromise. No one was interested in talking to me about the handful of reasons they listed as justification to call me the enemy. Or the fact that the questionnaire they sent out was a loaded weapon filled with put-you-in-a-box questions, many of which had absolutely nothing to do with the city charter.

As the city councilor for District 3, I could never quite figure out what I was to groups like this. To many home owners I was too “progressive,” yet to the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America and other self-proclaimed progressive groups whenever I did something they didn’t like I was painted as “in the pocket of big real estate” and blamed for Portland’s “endless condo construction.”

To me, and the many who knew me, I was just Brian, a political newcomer with no grand ambitions who decided to run for City Council because I cared about Portland.

I fear pragmatic, caring, and middle-of-the-road candidates may not have a future in our city. Sadly, with groups like this if you don’t align with their agenda then you are the enemy. If I aligned with former Mayor Ethan Strimling on policy during my council tenure, I was his best friend. If I strayed, I received coordinated constituent harassment and political pressure to fall in line.

This is no secret – every councilor experienced it – but it’s important to note that the Portland City Council is nonpartisan and we all just so happened to be registered Democrats. Let’s be clear, all three years of my council term I was labeled as the 2nd most progressive councilor on the Progressive Portland “scorecard” that considered just a few cherry picked votes out of the hundreds I took. I was, of course, behind my very good friend Pious Ali, and no surprise our former mayor always ranked #1.

In 2017 I pulled in a respectable 82 percent, in 2018 slightly lower at 73 percent, and in 2019 I came home strong with a whopping 87 percent! That’s right, business as usual for Brian aka (insert label).

I am writing this because I am worried about the future of our city. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade those three years for anything. It was one of the best experiences of my life, but we can do better, folks. I implore voters to do their research, and not settle for labels or the hate and division that is being masked as advocacy or caring from these groups. I reference my voting history because this letter is not about policy. It is about division, polarization and pitting neighbor against neighbor to further agendas.

I do believe we can all work together if we set some intentions to find common goals, recognize ourselves in one another, and bring back civility to our city. If you feel as though this letter applies to you, then here lies my invitation: Instead of immediately going on social media and rebuking this letter and discrediting me in some way as your nemesis, give this quote a few reads and then take several deep breaths.

“With an open heart, we can abandon the overheated rhetoric and the oversimplification that reduces whole categories of our fellow Americans not just to opponents, but to enemies.” – Barack Obama

— Special to the Press Herald

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