Vote or Quit Bitchin’ 2006
Local election coverage
Voters’ Guide: Portland City Council District 2
Beyond the Geraghty Era
By Chris Busby
Not everyone was surprised when it became clear Karen Geraghty would not seek a fourth term on the Portland City Council representing the West End and Parkside neighborhoods. Weeks prior to the early September deadline for candidates to turn in nomination papers, Geraghty was quietly meeting with would-be successors, hoping to convince a like-minded individual to carry on in her stead.
That individual turned out to be Michael Patterson. Patterson, 41, works in human resources for Martin’s Point Health Care. He and his partner live in the Parkside neighborhood, where Patterson is president of the neighborhood association. He’s also on the Portland Planning Board, currently serving as the board’s vice-chairman. This is his first run for public office.
Soon after Patterson took out nomination papers, former Planning Board member and chair Cyrus Hagge jumped into the race. Hagge, 53, runs a property management company and serves as president of the board of the Cumberland County YMCA. A civic over-achiever of sorts, Hagge is also currently vice president of Rippleffect, a youth development organization with a strong environmental emphasis; VP of the Portland Downtown Improvement District, better known as Portland’s Downtown District; and a Maine College of Art board member.
Hagge ran for City Council in the late 1990s, and lost in a highly competitive four-way race for two at-large seats, representing the whole city. (Current Councilor Jim Cloutier and past Councilor and Mayor Nathan Smith won that year.) A married father of three, Hagge lives on the West End.
One person Geraghty certainly did not approach last August was Dave Marshall. The West End artist, who manages a teen community service crew at Portland West, had been actively campaigning against Geraghty for many weeks before she dropped out of the race. Marshall, 28, lives with a domestic partner on Pine Street and is involved with the West End Neighborhood Association and the local Green Independent Party. This is his first run for public office.
Like his friend and fellow Green Independent Party member Kevin Donoghue, the Council candidate on the Hill, Marshall is banking that his progressive district will give the edge to a young up-and-comer with a fresh take on city issues. Marshall and Donoghue have even coordinated some of their campaign efforts, such as flyers featuring the two would-be representatives of Portland’s “East Side” and “West Side” together at High Street, the street that divides their districts downtown.
Patterson can run on the strength of his own record of neighborhood work and planning experience, but Geraghty’s endorsement is probably his strongest political card – and his biggest weakness. The outgoing Councilor has obviously been popular enough to win three consecutive terms in this high-turnover district, but she has also been a divisive figure, and her detractors are likely to look unfavorably on the candidate she’s anointed her successor.
That strengthens Hagge’s hand, making him the experienced alternative to Patterson for those voters who feel Marshall is too green (or Green) to lead. Hagge’s political appeal is not dissimilar to that of another former Planning Board member, Orlando Delogu, who ran against Geraghty three years ago and made a strong showing at the polls. Though Geraghty won that two-way race with 63 percent of the vote, this fall’s incumbent-less, three-way contest is still anyone’s to win.
Who should lead this district into the post-Geraghty Era? Read the candidates’ responses to our questions below – edited for length, clarity and style – and decide for yourself.
Should taxes be increased for all property owners to pay for a property tax rebate program for homeowners/renters?
Hagge: “No. I think until the State Constitution is changed, it’s pretty clear in the rulebook that you have to have a uniform tax rate across the board. It’s just bad policy.”
Marshall: “I don’t think it makes sense to raise property taxes in order to give property taxes back.”
Patterson: Wants to “understand better the process,” such as how other sources of revenue, like a local-option sales tax, could be used to pay for rebates.
Would you support a proposal to build a hotel on the eastern waterfront?
Hagge: “It may be the best solution, but I think we need to take the time to study it…. I’m not convinced [the area’s rezoning] has been completely thought out properly.”
Marshall: “So far, I haven’t seen any proof a luxury hotel would be compatible with marine industrial use [of the Maine State Pier site].”
Patterson: “At this point, no.” It’s “not an appropriate site” for a hotel or convention center.
Should bar owners be subject to a special tax to help cover police overtime costs?
Hagge: Not opposed, but added, “it has to be fair and spread out far enough so the burden doesn’t fall on a small group of people.”
Marshall: “I don’t think our current bar-stool tax is effective. It’s kind of a gerrymandered system. At the very least, it deserves revision.”
Patterson: “I think they bear some responsibility, and if they’re not managing their patrons appropriately, then they need to bear some of the responsibility for the additional resources required to solve the problem.”
Is Portland’s community policing program effective?
Hagge: “I think it’s our best approach to fighting and solving crime in the city, and as we look at scarcer and scarcer resources, it becomes a better method. But a stronger partnership has to be developed between the police force and the [neighborhoods].”
Marshall: “It’s a good start.”
Patterson: Yes. “We in Parkside have seen the benefit of community policing.”
Who is the officer assigned to your neighborhood?
Hagge: Did not know.
Marshall: Did not know.
Patterson: Dan Knight.
If consolidating elementary schools would save money but lead to some increase in class sizes, would you support consolidation?
Hagge: “I’d [need to hear] a really, really compelling argument to consider closing a neighborhood school…. I think we need to really think this through.”
Marshall: “I don’t support consolidation of the schools. I support consolidation of administration of the schools.”
Patterson: Depends on the size of the increase and other factors.
Do you support a ban or restrictions on formula businesses?
Hagge: “The short answer is no. But there are some really good ordinances elsewhere in the country that approach this issue.” Suggests the city study those approaches, and “if we’re interested in going down this road, let’s really spend some time on this.”
Marshall: Supports creating a “formula-free zone” in town, “because that’s proved effective in other cities.”
Patterson: Limit formula businesses with more than 20 franchises in certain areas, such as downtown and the Old Port.
Do you support establishing “drug-free safe zones” in Portland?
Hagge: “I would support it. I think it makes a lot of sense. Sounds like a great idea. Obviously you don’t want people dealing drugs around Reiche [Elementary School].”
Marshall: “I would have to see some good evidence to prove that creating those zones would be effective in actually preventing that activity from happening in the area.” Noted recent drug bust near Reiche Elementary School, a “drug-free zone.”
Patterson: “I would be a strong proponent and supporter of that. Living in a neighborhood that abuts one of the largest parks in the city, I think it’s extremely important.”
What can be done to help the fishing industry in Portland?
Hagge: “I think Maine has to, unfortunately, stand up to the local lobstermen a bit and allow the [lobster] bycatch to be landed in Portland. Until we tackle that issue, we’re in trouble…. It won’t hurt the lobstermen because the lobsters are being caught anyway.”
Marshall: Begin by holding a community discussion with those involved in the industry “and ask them what the best way would be.”
Patterson: Examine ways the industry can “adapt” to current circumstances.
Should voters citywide get to vote on Peaks’ secession?
Hagge: “I don’t care how we vote ‘no’ on Peaks’ secession. I’m not convinced Peaks is a community similar to Long Island or Chebeague, with longtime family connections and folks who’ve been there for generations…. I believe [the secession movement] is a tax issue, and the city should fight ’em and not let it happen.”
Marshall: There’s nothing the city can do at this point. It’s up to the Legislature.
Patterson: Yes. It’s an issue that pertains to the whole city, so that [vote] is an important aspect. The way that I think of that is if Parkside wanted to secede from the city of Portland. That’s a city issue. Same thing with Peaks Island.”
Should the city revisit the idea of an elected mayor?
Marshall: Favors a system of eight district councilors and one at-large councilor who serves as mayor for a three-year term, but has a vote equal to the others.
Patterson: “My understanding is the voters have said no to that on, I believe, numerous occasions. The voters have spoken pretty clearly about that.” Notes there are other options, like a two-year mayoral term within the current system.