Former State Senator Ethan Strimling Announces Campaign for Portland Mayor

Posted on August 18, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

His campaign press release:

    Ethan Strimling announces run for Mayor of Portland

    Today, Ethan Strimling stood with his wife, friends and supporters in front of Learning Works in the West End, where he’s worked for the past 18 years to announce his plans to run for mayor of Portland.

    Ethan Strimling announcing his candidacy as Mayor of Portland during a press conference.

    Ethan Strimling announcing his candidacy as Mayor of Portland during a press conference.

    In his remarks, Strimling noted that he has been spending time listening to what Portland residents from all walks of life are saying about their hopes for the city and their vision for its future.

    “People want to be able to say: ‘I’m raising my kids in Portland because we have the best schools in the state. I work in Portland because it is where I found a great job that pays a livable wage. And I live in Portland because it’s affordable, safe and has a great quality of life.

    Strimling closed his remarks by saying, “As Mayor, my job will be to bring all of us together to build a vision for our city that we can achieve. We know we are stronger together, because only when we are united can we achieve our greatest potential.”

Ethan Strimling, who served in the 122-4th Maine State Legislature, had previously lost the Portland mayoral race to incumbent Michael Brennan in 2011. That race had a field of 19 candidates seeking the office. More about him from his campaign:

Ethan Strimling speaking with WCSH colleague reporter Pat Callahan, prior to 2016 presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders' town hall in Portland.

Ethan Strimling speaking with WCSH colleague reporter Pat Callaghan, prior to 2016 presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ town hall in Portland.

    Ethan is the director of LearningWorks, a non-profit that provides learning opportunities for at-risk youth, the immigrant community, and low-income families in Portland, Maine and regionally. Ethan has led LearningWorks for almost two decades, spearheading its transformation from a small Portland neighborhood advocacy group to a life-changing multi-million dollar organization that provides the best learning opportunities in Maine to the communities it serves.

    Ethan is a Senior Political Analyst for WCSH/WLBZ TV and The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram where he co-authors the weekly opinion column, Agree to Disagree. From 2002 – 2008, Ethan served in the Maine State Senate as Chair of the Labor Committee, Criminal Justice Committee, and the Homeland Security Task Force, while also serving on Taxation for six years. Prior to, he ran a national Political Action Committee focused on electing young leaders and provided policy analysis to Maine US Congressman Tom Andrews.

    Ethan lives in Portland with his wife, Mary.

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LePage, Portland, Homeless Advocates Battle Over General Assistance

Posted on March 8, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Sen. Justin Alfond, Sen. Anne Haskell, Rep. Mark Dion, Rep. Diane Russell, Rep. Drew Gattine , Rep. Peter Stuckey, Rep. Erik Jorgensen, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, Portland City Council Ed Suslovik, Preble St ED Mark Swann, and many others at 2/27/15 Oxford St Homeless Shelter press conference.

Sen. Justin Alfond, Sen. Anne Haskell, Rep. Mark Dion, Rep. Diane Russell, Rep. Drew Gattine , Rep. Peter Stuckey, Rep. Erik Jorgensen, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, Portland City Council Ed Suslovik, Preble St ED Mark Swann, and many others at 2/27/15 Oxford St Homeless Shelter press conference.

At the end of the coldest February on record in Maine, political leaders and homelessness advocates held a press conference in Portland to discuss the needs of some of the region’s most needy and address the attacks by the LePage administration regarding the city’s spending of General Assistance monies.

A reminder: this is part of an ongoing legal battle between Portland/ Westbrook and the state over GA funds.

    Alfond, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and others on hand at the shelter Friday said they can explain why Portland seems to have an outsized share of the state’s General Assistance allocation, but that they can’t get a prompt audience with LePage or DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew to discuss it.

    “We want the coordinated attacks on Portland to end, and the work to make our social services better to begin,”
    Alfond said, pointing out that Portland is not only an “outlier” in its distribution of General Assistance funds but also in that it represents an outsized share of the state’s economy.

    Alfond acknowledged Friday the audit was “troubling” and that Portland’s city officials and state representatives were eager to meet with the administration to discuss ways the city could better administer General Assistance. Brennan said he called the governor’s office on Monday to set up an appointment to discuss the audit.

    “I thought it was urgent, but the first date they gave me [for a meeting] was the end of March,” Brennan said Friday. “Obviously, it’s not as urgent to them as it is to us.”

Governor LePage immediately fired back and issued the following statements via a press release:

    “My quarrel is not with the people who stayed at the shelter,” said Governor LePage. “Mental illness often plays a role there. It’s a matter of who pays. The City of Portland knew these people had this money in the bank, but they decided to bill the taxpayers anyway for years’ worth of welfare reimbursement. Municipalities complain about losing revenue sharing, but then I see abuse like this. When municipalities set priorities that unfairly burden Maine property taxpayers, it’s hard to have sympathy for them. Tax relief should go directly to the property taxpayer, not to fund more government. That’s why my tax reform plan gives money directly to the Maine people by tripling property tax fairness credits, doubling the homestead exemption for those over 65 and significantly lowering income tax rates. The most recent news out of Portland shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it serves as an example of why Maine needs real tax reform.”

This weekend, State Senator Anne Haskell (D-Portland) responded to the governor and administration via the Democratic radio address:

    At 8 p.m. last night it was 12 degrees. And it’s March–not January. Together we’ve experienced one of the longest, most frigid, and snowiest winters in history.

    Good Morning. This is State Senator Anne Haskell of Portland. And, I don’t really want to talk about the weather. But I do want each of us to stop for a second and think about a time this winter: Think about the ten minutes it took you to walk from your office to your car on a blustery cold day. Your cheeks froze. Your fingers and toes hurt and you couldn’t wait to seek shelter from the wind.

    What if you didn’t have a home. If you didn’t have a place where you could crank the heat, pull up the blankets, and settle in with a cup of tea.

    What if, at sun down, you had stand in line for hours with the hopes–not the guarantee–that you could get a mat to sleep on at a shelter. A mat, by the way, that is only three inches thick. A mat that is placed in an open room–flanked on each side by strangers–only five inches from you. Clutching all that belongs to you, in a bag or a backpack.

    Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street Homeless Shelter: We are just trying to keep people alive

    Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street Homeless Shelter: We are just trying to keep people alive

    Mark Swann, the executive director at Preble Street in Portland, said, one day this winter, there were 282 people who showed up for one of the 142 mats. The math on this one is easy: 140 people were left to find shelter elsewhere that night. Some slept on the floor of the soup kitchen down the street. Others, had to sit up in chairs all night at city offices. And, a few others waited at the shelter–hoping a mat would open up. One person waited 11 hours; only to lay his head for two hours before the morning came, and the shelter closed for the day.

    Who chooses this?

    The answer is, nobody.

    Nobody chooses to be homeless. Nobody chooses to be mentally ill. Not one of the 282 people who lined up at the Oxford Street Shelter that night was trying to get away with something. Nobody working at the shelter or the city who is trying to provide life-saving shelter is trying to get away with something.

    At its core, this service of providing EMERGENCY shelter is serving the most basic and fundamental and crucial needs of humanity.

    Yet, in recent weeks, it’s become a political football. The LePage administration has attempted to garner salacious headlines by vilifying the people who utilize the shelter, and also those who provide the service.

    It’s not an easy story to tell. Why? Because we are talking about mental illness. We are talking about diseases like Schizophrenia.

    Recently the City of Portland studied 30 of the so-called “long stayers” at the shelters. What did they find? All of them, 100% had serious and persistent mental health issues–often untreated. Some had money in the bank. Some even had thousands of dollars in the bank.

    What does this mean?

    It could mean many things.

    For some, it means that perhaps a special account was set up by family members to put money aside for them. Perhaps intended to pay for things like dental and medical care.

    For some, it could be the remnant of another time in their life–before they got sick.

    For all, it is money that–because of their psychosis, they are unable or unwilling to use.

    DSC_0132They are not staying at homeless shelters to save a buck. They are staying there because they believe staying at a shelter is the best option available to them.

    And…most importantly, they are not numbers on someone’s spreadsheet. They are our brothers and sisters, our parents, our aunts and uncles. They are our fellow human beings–living much more difficult lives than we can imagine.

    Mental illness is not easy to understand. But it is something that we all need to take a closer look at. We can’t be afraid of it. And most of all, we can’t play the blame-game–that serves no purpose other than to distract and delay from a meaningful solutions-based dialogue.

    Long before this administration, the mental health system in Maine has been broken. The overflowing shelters in our state is one symptom of that–as are our jails–that are also overflowing with people who would benefit more from mental health intervention and treatment.

    As a member of the Health and Human Services Committee and a former member of the state’s Criminal Justice Committee, I can tell you that there are dozens of lawmakers who are interested in solving this problem and helping our fellow Mainers who are suffering. But the first step toward a solution has to be one that is honest.

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(UPDATED x4) Maine Mayors Warn of Revenue Sharing Cuts, Tax Increases and Impact on Communities

Posted on January 15, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte addresses media at Maine Mayors' Coalition press conference, urging lawmakers reject Governor LePage's revenue sharing cuts as part of FY 14-15 budget proposal.

Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte addresses media at Maine Mayors’ Coalition press conference, urging lawmakers reject Governor LePage’s revenue sharing cuts as part of FY 14-15 budget proposal.

(Originally posted 11 Jun 2013) Last week a press conference was held at the State House’s Welcome Center where leaders from Portland, Lewiston, Auburn, Augusta, Gardiner, Waterville, Sanborn and Bangor addressed the media and voiced concerns regarding the impact Governor LePage’s proposed zero revenue sharing cuts will have on their communities. Dozens more municipalities across the state have sent resolutions and communications to the Legislature protesting the cuts.

Augusta Mayor Bill Stokes said, “Maine communities have already absorbed a 30% cut in revenue sharing. This year, we are receiving just under $98 million, instead of the $140 million we would have received by law. Now there are proposals to cut that by $20 million a year or more. That will mean a significant property tax increase in Augusta.”

Karen Heck, Waterville’s Mayor, has long been outspoken in her criticism of tax cuts and how those cuts affect municipalities, as was her predecessor, Paul LePage. She laid out a bleak picture:

“Even the best of these (Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee) proposals means a loss of nearly 50% million to municipalities over the next two years. We have been cutting services and trimming payroll for several years. We simply cannot absorb that kind of cut without raising taxes. Revenue sharing is an obligation, a bill the state should pay.”

She had spoken up the previous evening at a Waterville city council meeting as well, blasting the Governor’s proposal:

heck waterville

“This is really a ridiculous position for all of us to be in,”

      Heck said of the man who was mayor of the city from 2004 until he became governor in 2010.

“When the governor was mayor, clearly he used some profane language to describe exactly what he’s doing to us in a much worse way.”

She continued: “I’m not sure why the governor is interested in making sure hospitals get paid. But the mayors feel that the state needs to pay its bills when it comes to what it’s mandated to pay us in revenue sharing.”

Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett noted that “we have a revenue problem in Maine and we need to look at additional streams of revenue”:

“We are calling on all legislators to commit to preventing this tax shift to the property tax. As we recommended in a letter to the Governor last month, this tax shift can be prevented by some modest shifts to the sales tax. The Mayors Coalition is supportive of proposals that temporarily raise the sales tax to 6% and raise the lodging tax.”

Jonathan Labonte, Mayor of Auburn, who noted that his city has been working to share services with nearby Lewiston for some time now, added that “Eliminating revenue sharing would effectively undermine the state’s 40 year cooperative agreement with municipalities. These are the revenues that keep your property taxes from skyrocketing and help to pay for municipal services such as firefighters, schools and road maintenance.

Also speaking out were Cathy Conlow (VIDEO), Bangor’s city manager, Maura Herlihy of Sanford and Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett for Mayor Macdonald (VIDEO), who mentioned at length the expensive, multiple fires his city had recently endured:

Mayor of Portland Michael Brennan (VIDEO) concluded by asking, “all legislators to work to prevent a property tax increase in virtually every community in the state.”

(Bonus: Q&A clip)

————

UPDATE #1: Originally posted in June 2013 and oh, what a difference a year made. In June 2014, Governor Paul LePage selected Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte to serve as Office of Policy and Management director, as outgoing head Richard Rosen had been tapped to temporarily take over at Department of Financial Services for the retiring Sawin Millett.

    The chance to serve the state of Maine and the governor was one he (LaBonte) couldn’t turn down, he said.

“When a governor calls and asks you join their team, that’s a unique opportunity,” LaBonte said.

LaBonte said he did not believe his appointment had anything to do with election-year politics.

“If there’s anything political about this, it is the governor was eager to see this office created and is looking to see works delivered out of it,” LaBonte said.

DAFS Commissioner Richard Rosen presents the LePage FY 2016/2017 biennual budget to AFA, 1/13/15.

DAFS Commissioner Richard Rosen presents the LePage FY 2016/2017 biennual budget to AFA, 1/13/15.

Yesterday, the LePage administration continued to roll out the governor’s proposed FY 2016/2017 biennial budget as now DAFS Commissioner Richard Rosen, deputy commissioner Dr. Michael Allen and Labonte sat down with Maine media, a day after Rosen presented the budget to the newly seated 127th Legislative Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. This jumps out:

      LaBonte, who also is the director of LePage’s office of policy management, said Wednesday during a briefing with reporters that fears the proposal would decimate municipal finances are overblown.

He said in 2008 revenue sharing only accounted for 5 percent of municipal budgets statewide and that the figure had decreased to 3.5 percent by 2012.

“So revenue sharing is not a large share of those municipal budgets and certainly not a large share of what’s going toward those expenditures,” LaBonte said.

When revenue sharing was first put in place, its intent was to provide property tax relief. Because the funding was directed to municipal government and did not go directly to property owners, they never ultimately benefited, LaBonte said.

On Friday, Governor LePage attempted to minimize the effects of municipal revenue sharing and the impact its removal will have on Maine’s 460 plus cities and towns.

So same as 2013 Governor Paul LePage thought 2009 Mayor LePage wrong* on municipal revenue sharing, apparently 2015 OPM Director/ LePage team player Jonathan Labonte seems to now think that 2013 Auburn Mayor Labonte was making a big deal out of nothing.

*RELATED: Video: Did 2009 Waterville Mayor Paul LePage Rip 2013 Governor LePage For Revenue Sharing Cuts To Towns, Education Funding Failures?

————–

UPDATE #2: OPM Director/ Auburn Mayor Labonte has responded via Twitter in an interesting exchange as well as Bangor city councilor Ben Sprague:

When the email is received, it will be shared here. ~AP

——————–

UPDATE #3: The February 2013 email exchanges between Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte, members of the Maine Mayor Coalition and legal counsel were shared by Labonte moments ago:

——————–

(2/16/15) As Labonte continues to see his own position as not inconsistent, this post is being updated below with more conversations via Twitter today.

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Thousands Gather For POTUS/ Mike Michaud For Governor Portland Rally (Video, Pix)

Posted on October 31, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

DSC_0061President Barack Obama came to the Portland Expo to campaign with Democratic nominee for governor U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud on Oct. 30 to kick-off the Maine Democratic Party’s get out the vote efforts just days before Election Day.

He was joined by Senator George J. Mitchell.

Other speakers included Rep. Chellie Pingree, US Senate candidate Shenna Bellows, Maine Democratic Party chair Ben Grant and Portland Mayor Michael Brennan.

Here are videos of the entire rally in order of speakers.



Link here to photo album.

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2014 Maine Democratic Party Convention Videos: Day 1, 5/30/14 (Friday)

Posted on June 2, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Day 1: May 30

1. MDP Chair Ben Grant addresses convention

2. Senator Geoff Gratwick (D-Bangor) at 2014 Maine Dem Convention

3. Portland Mayor Michael Brennan Addresses Convention

4. Speaker Of The House/ 2014 Maine Democratic Convention Chair Mark Eves (D-N Berwick) Speech To Delegates
(transcript of speech as prepared previously shared and available via this link)

5. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree Addresses 2014 Maine Dem Convention delegates

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(UPDATED W/VIDEO) Maine’s First Mass Same Sex Marriage Ceremony Conducted At Southern Maine Pride Festival

Posted on June 18, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

UPDATE: Here is a rather shaky video of the ceremony.

Rob Hopkins and Michael George from Pennsylvania, before their wedding.

Rob Hopkins and Michael George, visiting from Pennsylvania, decided to get married in Maine. The couple has been together for 18 years.

As the country awaits SCOTUS’s decision regarding DOMA, ten happy couples decided to tie the knot before family, friends, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and thousands of their closest supporters at this past weekend’s 27th Annual Southern Maine Pride Parade and Festival at Deering Oaks.

The theme of this year’s event, “Marry Me”, was in honor of the 2012 marriage equality law that went into effect last December and the first same sex couple married in Maine, Portland’s own Michael Snell and Steven Bridges, were honorary marshals of the parade proceeding the wedding ceremony. The grand marshal for this year’s parade was Bethel resident Richard Blanco, who was the inaugural poet at President Barack Obama’s ceremonial swearing-in last January.

Rob Hopkins of Pennsylvania, who had been in a relationship with his fiance for 18 years, said the couple decided to travel specifically to Maine to exchange vows: “We came to get married because Maine recognizes gay marriage. Maine is a beautiful state.”

More from the happy couples via Portland Press Herald:

    Chris Fleuriel and Chris Andre of Brunswick said the mass wedding was a perfect way to celebrate Maine’s gay marriage law. They said the public ceremony spared them a lot of complicated wedding preparations.

    “We know a lot of our friends will be here so this keeps it real simple. We just emailed our friends,” Fleuriel said.

    Ryan Pearson and Michael Nadeau of Portland

    Ryan Pearson and Michael Nadeau of Portland

    Ivy Gibbs and Courtney Vandermartin of Portland, who got engaged in November, said that when they heard about the mass wedding, they knew they had to take part.

    “It is nice to know everyone is supporting us,” said Vandermartin, who planned to take her new spouse’s last name.

Ryan Pearson, who had been engaged for four years to Michael Nadeau, said the two decided the day before to get married as part of the mass wedding: “It was very last minute.”

After the ceremony, Mayor Brennan read a proclamation, recognizing June 15, 2013 as Southern Maine Pride Day.

proclamation

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