Post-Election Portland: Jubilant
Jubilant. That was the mood at the polls at 7 a.m. on Tuesday. Party affiliations aside, though at my polling place it was heavy heavy Dems. The West End was once affectionately known as the People’s United Republic of the West End because supposedly there were more Democrats per square mile here than anywhere else in Maine.
Outside the polling place at the Reiche School, the parents association was selling baked goods to support the arts, the temperature was downright balmy and the line snaked around the block. No complaints. I waited for more than an hour. Took my son in the polling booth and let him make history.
Around town people were grinning ear to ear. The Artist Studio building put up huge “VOTE” signs. The window at MECA had signs saying “I voted because…” and people filled them in. Starbucks handed out free coffee.
That night, there was no shortage of parties. Official party parties at hotels and general celebrations at the Empire and Local 188. Nearly 80 percent of registered voters in the city cast a ballot.
The next day, once the results were in, with Obama winning 77 percent of the vote in Portland, the mood was even more joyous. In the farmer’s market, it was hugs all around.
The good news on the local politics front: it’s time to form a charter commission.
After several unsuccessful attempts in twenty years, voters finally agreed to review the charter that governs the city. You know the idea has merit when the two champions for reform are the League of Young Votes and the Chamber of Commerce. Unlikely bedfellows, indeed.
The core issue is whether Portland should have an elected mayor. Currently, we have nine elected city council members who take turns being mayor. The goal of a charter commission would be to change to a system with an elected mayor who would have a higher level of accountability and authority. A review of the charter would also put into question the relationship between the school department and city hall. They currently maintain separate budgets much to the dismay of some. While this vote is only the first step in a multi-step process to change the charter, it indicates a growing desire for a city with a strong singular, leader.