From Kate Snyder, Portland, Maine <[email protected]>
Subject I'm voting No on Question 2
Date October 19, 2022 1:06 PM
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The sweeping changes to our city's government structure go too far...

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October 19, 2022

Dear Portlanders,

I'll be voting No onCharter Commission Question 2, ([link removed]) which creates a new executive mayor position.

Here's one reason why:
Good, durable policymaking engages many stakeholders. Working policy initiatives with elected colleagues, community partners, stakeholders, experts, and yes, City Staff (who implement Council policy no matter from whom it originates) is the work!

But in its rationale for Question 2, the Charter Commission's Final Report argues the opposite: that good policy will arise only when a strong mayor has the option to skip that work:

"The current system relies on the elected mayor to convince the council and the administration of their policy objectives separately. If the council declines to take up the mayor’s platform, or the administration ignores the mayor’s goals, the only other avenue for the mayor is to pursue these outside of city hall. That means aligning with referendum campaigns, or forming public-private partnerships that exclude council oversight and coordination. The result is frequent legislation by-referendum – lawmaking that is often out of sync with the council. Successful referenda laws cannot be altered for five years after passage, so bad laws remain on the books longer than the drafters might even intend. Giving the mayor the power to effectively pursue a platform promises to lead Portland out of the two poles of frustrated mayors, or conflict-ridden ones.”

I find legislation by referendum concerning too. But the answer to that concern involves the grind of good policy formation, not the consolidation of power.

I’ve been mayor, and have seen that the best policy outcomes have come not when one person gets their way, but when the policy objectives of elected representatives have been shared, tested and refined through the very work Question 2 seeks to dismiss as mere obstruction or frustration.
Is finding consensus hard work? Yes. Is it the most important work our City Council can do? Also: yes.

If a mayor can't get buy-in for their policy initiatives from fellow elected colleagues - if an idea can't be shepherded successfully through the iterative process, including Council committees, workshops, stakeholder feedback and public engagement - then that idea needs more work.

“Giving the mayor the power” to pursue an idea without consensus might alleviate one mayor’s momentary frustrations, but is in direct conflict with Portland’s need for durable, representative and thoughtful public policy.

City Managers and City Administrators don't make policy.

Elected officials do.

Why would we implement a system where those officials don’t have to work together?

If you’ve read this far, I am grateful for your engagement (and perhaps your patience). Wherever you land on Question 2, please be sure to vote on (or before!) this November 8th.


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Mayor Kate Snyder . 389 Congress St . Portland, ME 04101-3566 . USA

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