Nearly 2 dozen candidates earn Portland Charter Commission ballot

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More than 20 candidates will be on the June 8 ballot for nine seats on Portland’s upcoming Charter Commission.

At least 22 people will vie for four at-large seats and one seat from each of the city’s five voting districts. Three other commission members – Michael Kebede, Peter Eglinton, and Dory Waxman – were appointed by the City Council last summer.

Monday was the deadline for potential candidates to turn in nomination papers to the city clerk’s office. It is possible additional candidates may qualify for the ballot, depending on how long it takes city officials to verify signatures.

The 12-member commission will be empowered to propose changes to the structure of city government, subject to approval by voters. The last time a commission was convened it proposed reinstating a popularly elected mayor, with day-to-day operations the responsibility of the city manager.

The at-large seats drew the most candidates – 14 people took out nomination papers, and 10 candidates qualified, according to the city clerk’s office. They are Planning Board member Marpheen Chann; Black POWER organizer Nasreen Sheikh-Yousef; former Maine Democratic Party Chair Benjamin Grant; Patricia Washburn; Ian Houseal; Catherine Buxton; Lawson Condrey; restaurateur Steve DiMillo; William Bailey, and Anthony Emerson.

Two more potential at-large candidates, Hope Rovelto and Christopher Vail, turned in their papers but had not qualified by Tuesday morning. 

Three candidates qualified for the District 1 ballot: David Cowie, Shamika (Shay) Stewart-Bouley, and Karen Snyder. Twain Braiden also turned in papers, although he had not qualified by Tuesday morning.

Two candidates qualified in District 2: Robert O’Brien, who served on the last Charter Commission, and Em Burnett.

In District 3, former City Councilor Brian Batson, Zachary Barowitz, and Charles Bryon qualified.

In District 4, the candidates are former Mayor and City Councilor Cheryl Leeman, and Marcques Houston.

District 5 has two candidates: Mony Hang and University of Maine School of Law student Ryan Lizanecz. 

Voters created the Charter Commission last summer, after the Fair Elections Portland group tried to put a proposed charter amendment on the city ballot to provide taxpayer funding for city elections. The group sued the city in September 2019 after councilors rejected the proposal. 

Fair Elections Portland originally sought language requiring the council to ask voters to establish a Charter Commission only if it felt the proposal required a revision to the charter.

That language, however, was accidentally left off petitions by the city clerk’s office. After the city attorney ruled such a question could not be sent out as a proposed charter amendment, and would first require the creation of a Charter Commission, the council voted in October 2019 to put the question to voters. 

The referendum question passed overwhelmingly last July.

Munjoy Hill Historic District proposal returns to City Council next week

Portland city councilors on April 5 will reconsider their rejection of a proposed Munjoy Hill Historic District. 

Councilors voted 5-4 against the designation on Feb. 1 but voted 5-4 to reconsider on Feb. 22. Councilor Andrew Zarro, who voted against the proposal, moved for the reconsideration.

The district has been debated for three years. It was approved in 2017 by the Historic Preservation Board and narrowly recommended by the Planning Board last Aug. 11, before being rejected by the council.

— Colin Ellis