Portland, Maine’s ‘Weak Mayor’ City Hall Power Struggle

City Hall in Portland, Maine

City Hall in Portland, Maine Shutterstock


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STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | Illinois governor vetoes major education bill; Miami’s new “puppy mill” ordinance; and an Alaska town’s entire police force quits.

CITY HALLS | The city manager in Portland, Maine, threatened to resign during a contentious city council meeting on Monday, the latest chapter in an ongoing power struggle with Mayor Ethan Strimling, who wants to gain access to lower-level municipal staff. City Manager Jon Jennings says what the mayor wants violates the city charter. Portland has a “weak mayor” system, which puts Strimling’s powers on par with the city council’s. Municipal operations are overseen by the city manager, who is hired by the council. "You know, there's a lot of focus on this relationship and it's unfortunate," City Manager Jon Jennings said. "I find this the most demeaning thing I've ever done in my professional career." The acrimony at Portland City Hall needs to stop, one City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau said: "The council is telling you, Mayor Strimling, that you need to get it together. I am just being perfectly blunt: This cannot continue." The council has urged the mayor and city manager to meet more often to resolve their differences. [Maine Public Radio; Portland Press Herald]

POWER OUTAGES | It could take up to 10 days to repair damaged underwater power cables in North Carolina’s Outer Banks that were severed last week during a construction incident and forced evacuations from Hatteras and Ocracoke islands during the middle of the summer tourist season. The Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative is working on two simultaneous solutions. "People are hanging in there,” Dare County Commissioner Danny Couch, who represents Hatteras Island, said. “When you're only accessible by bridge or boat, you've got to be ready for this kind of thing. It's a price we pay for living here.” A law firm is filing a class-action lawsuit “on behalf of businesses, hourly employees, tourists and rental property owners who had been financially impacted by the Ocracoke, Hatteras Island blackout.” [WRAL-TV; Outer Banks Sentinel]

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield (Shutterstock)

STATE BUDGETS | Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a broad education bill Tuesday, saying the measure would put Chicago in line for millions of dollars that would be diverted from needier school districts. Rauner revised the measure to take away a $250 million block grant for Chicago Public Schools and changed how CPS pension funding is factored into distributing money for schools. Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement accused the governor of using “fuzzy math.” It’s unclear whether Democratic state legislators can round up the Republican votes needed to override the governor’s veto. [Chicago Tribune]

LAW ENFORCEMENT | The entire police department in Sand Point, Alaska quit last month, leaving the town without any law enforcement staff. With about 1,000 residents, Sand Point is located on one of the Aleutian islands and is a hub for the commercial fishing industry. Until mid-July, its police force consisted of three officers and a chief. The town has since hired a new interim chief.  [Alaska Dispatch News]


Hoosick Falls, New York: The Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics manufacturing plant that contaminated the village’s water supply with perfluorooctanoic acid has been declared a federal Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. [Albany Times Union]

Miami, Florida: A newly passed local ordinance cracking down on “puppy mills” may force the last two pet stores in the city to close if they don’t change the way they source animals for retail sales. [Miami Herald]

Spring Lake, Michigan: Voters in this small community of 3,200 residents near Lake Michigan are considering a charter amendment to “create a mechanism by which the village can disincorporate.” The idea of doing away with village taxes and services has touched a nerve: “...[I]t's so sad to see how people have acted over this whole thing.”  [The Grand Rapids Press / MLive.com]

Salt Lake City, Utah: A police officer shot and killed a mountain lion on a downtown street early Tuesday morning, after the animal charged at him. The mountain lion came at the officer even though a state wildlife officer had shot it with a tranquilizer dart. [Salt Lake Tribune]

Santa Barbara, California: Up and down the California coast, local officials are playing a cat-and-mouse game with people living in RVs parked on city streets. “...[L]iving in a vehicle is not a lifestyle choice, but a last resort—a desperate effort to stay off the streets in an area where affordable housing is scarce, the cost of living is high, and shelters are already stretched to their limits.” [Pacific Standard]

New York City, New York: Just as city and state lawmakers prepare for “a two-day 24-hour subway tour this week,” the latest cover of the New Yorker pretty much sums up the “Summer of Hell” for commuters. [New York Daily News; New Yorker; Gothamist]

Honolulu, Hawaii: A renegade souvenir salesman who sells “I climbed Diamond Head” certificates at the top of the iconic extinct volcano near Waikiki has “managed to infuriate and elude enforcement” for more than a decade. The state says Chris “Chico” Gomez’s business is illegal and he says he has free speech rights. “It seems so ridiculous and pathetic that the state has not been able to chase him out. He is just playing games with us.” [Civil Beat]