Kate Snyder, the first woman elected by voters as mayor of Portland, was sworn in Monday, Dec. 2, taking the reins at a time when the city is seeing unprecedented growth and facing associated challenges.
Snyder and City Councilors Jill Duson, Belinda Ray and Kimberly Cook wore white scarves to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Maine’s ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
Also sworn in were at-large Councilor Pious Ali, re-elected to a second term after being the first African-born Muslim elected to the council in 2016, and newly elected District 3 Councilor Tae Chong, who is the city’s first Asian councilor.
The nine-member panel is also pioneeringly diverse, with four women and five people of color.
During her address to a standing-room-only crowd at City Council Chambers in City Hall, Snyder thanked outgoing Mayor Ethan Strimling for his help advancing progress on a local bond to renovate four elementary schools; restrictions on pesticide use; property tax relief for seniors; advocacy for wage and labor standards, and for his leadership in responding to the city’s influx of asylum seekers.
Snyder said that while many people support the growth and development occurring in Portland, an equal number struggle with the changes that accompany that growth: from the annoyances of heavy traffic and searching for parking, to the stresses of long-term residents as their homes and life in the city become unaffordable to them.
During her address, Snyder spoke of the impact of the property tax rate on the city’s ability to attract and retain a broad range of residents, which is not helped by declining school funding from the state, derived from a formula that relies heavily on sharply rising property values in the city.
She pointed to the need for Portland to diversify its municipal revenue sources, but expressed frustration that Maine law does not allow cities and towns to assess local option sales taxes on such things as restaurant meals and lodging. This would be a way for visitors to Portland who enjoy its municipal services to contribute to their costs.
Snyder also spoke of the city’s strengths: its opportunities for outdoor recreation, its arts and culture scene, strong educational opportunities, its diversity.
“And importantly, most importantly in my opinion,” she said, “we have positivity; a strong sense of community, generosity and pragmatism that fuels our work together toward good solid outcomes that respect history, respond to needs celebrate change and chart our path into the future.”
The council will hold a workshop Dec. 10 to set goals and priorities.
Later Monday afternoon, the Board of Public Education also held its inauguration ceremony in City Council Chambers.
Sworn in were newly elected District 3 Board member Adam Burk and two board members who were re-elected in the Nov. 5 election: at-large representatives Roberto Rodriguez and Anna Trevorrow. Rodriguez was also selected by the board to serve a second one-year term as board chairman.
The board members spoke at length of their appreciation of Laurie Davis’ nine years of service on the School Board and additional 11 years working for the Portland Public Schools. Councilor Justin Costa and Mayor Kate Snyder were also present and added their appreciation for Davis’s service.
Also sworn in were student representatives to the board: Stephanie Brown, representing Portland High School; Fabio Caciel-Reyes, representing Casco Bay High School; Sahar Habibzai, representing Deering High School; and Mangasa Magalie Yangala, representing Portland Adult Education. Sam Parrott, who represents the Portland Arts & Technology High School, was unable to attend the ceremony.