Wednesday, February 28, 2007

City Councilor Quits Day Job

West End City Councilor David Marshall has been forced to give up his 20-hour a week job at Portland West because of scheduling conflicts with his new position as a Portland City Councilor. Marshall was elected to the Council in November, 2006.
Marshall’s hours at Portland West were between two and six PM, and many of his City-related meetings are at 5PM and later. The City Council post pays $5500 a year. Marshall will be doing property management and maintenance work in addition to continuing paint pictures which he sells at his Pine Street studio.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Police Looking into Lost Complaint

The Portland Police Department is investigating a citizen’s complaint to the City’s Civilian Police Review Subcommittee that got lost somewhere in the City bureaucracy. The incident came to light at the Review Committee’s annual meeting at City Hall, when West End City Councilor David Marshall told the committee that he had been contacted by a Bayside resident who had filed a complaint but had not heard from anyone at the police department in response to the complaint.

Marshall says that he told the complainant that it takes about a month for a complaint to get processed. The person, who had filed the complaint online as well as in person at police headquarters on Middle Street, continued to wait for a response, but received none. Lt. Peter Wentworth of the department’s Internal Affairs division said the incident is being investigated and should be cleared up soon.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Towing Resumes on Munjoy Hill

City staffers have asked elected officials for permission to resume towing illegally parked cars on Munjoy Hill, as a result of the Valentine’s Day snowstorm, when City workers encountered problems providing basic services such as clearing the streets of snow.

East End Councilor Kevin Donoghue said that he has given the go-ahead for City workers to enforce City ordinances as they are currently written, in regard to parking issues.

The City mailed 2500 postcards to residents on February 15th detailing the City’s policy. The notices say that the City has resumed its practice of towing vehicles that are parked in violation of the posted street maintenance signs. These signs prohibit parking on one side of each street between 8:00 a.m. and noon on Mondays & Tuesdays. Vehicles parked in violation of the signs will be ticketed, and if the City has to perform a street maintenance function such as snow removal, catch basin cleaning or street sweeping etc., then cars in violation will be towed at the owner’s expense.

The Bollard (, reported on October 20th that, except in emergency circumstances, wreckers could no longer tow vehicles on Munjoy Hill. Cars on the wrong side of the street during street-sweeping days were ticketed, but not towed. However, it was reported at the time that towing was to resume on the Hill during snow-removal parking bans this winter.

Former East End City Councilor Will Gorham said that he pursued getting the towing ban enacted because of abuses by tow truck operators. Any questions regarding the City’s parking policies can be addressed by calling (207) 874- 8443 or at

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cummings to Present PAC Reform Legislation

AUGUSTA– Speaker of the House Glenn Cummings will present legislation at a public hearing on Monday, February 26th to limit donations to political action committees by capping contributions at $7,500.

Under the proposed law, PACs could accept no more than $7,500 in one two-year election cycle from a single source. This would apply to donations from individuals, corporations and unions, political parties, and all other political action committees.

Like all legislative leaders, Cummings says he operates a leadership PAC, but he hopes that passing new limits on PAC contributions would make such PACs less important, and limit the influence of individual contributors in politics.
The states that do place caps on contributions to PACs vary widely in their limits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Louisiana puts a cap at $100,000 over four years, while Massachusetts limits contributions to a PAC made by registered lobbyists to just $200 in a calendar year, prohibits contributions made by corporations and unions and limits donations to $500 for all others. New Hampshire limits contributions to PACs by individuals, corporations and unions to $5,000 per election while contributions by political parties to PACs are unlimited. Vermont limits contributions to PACs to $2,000 per two-year cycle in all instances.

The Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee will take up LD 348, An Act To Limit Contributions to Political Action Committees at a public hearing on Monday, February 26, 2007 at 1:00.
WENA, St. Dominic’s St. Lawrence May Be Shut Out of Federal Funding by Council

The City Manager’s Policy Advisory Committee recommended on February 9th that the Portland City Council not vote in favor of new grant requests from three local groups in this year’s round of Community Development Block Grant funding from the federal government.

The West End Neighborhood Association is seeking $45,000 to move ahead with planning and design work on the Reiche Community Center.

The Maine Irish Heritage Center is seeking $99,500 for masonry repairs and stabilization of St. Dominic’s Church on Gray Street.

The St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center on Munjoy Hill is seeking $150,000 to go toward the dismantling and rebuilding of its historic sanctuary structure.

City Manager Joe Gray met with CMPAC one more time on February 22nd to discuss the recommendations he will make to the City Council, which will vote on the funding next month.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Portland Citywide Crime Wave Ignored By Authorities!

Portland property owners who failed to clear their sidewalks of snow and ice by Friday, February 16th are in violation of the law.

But the City will do nothing to enforce the law unless this violation is reported. To report un-shoveled sidewalks please call 874-8493 or 874 8693. Please have ready the street number address of the violator(s). (I'd suggest walking around your neighborhood with a notebook.)
Let's keep pedestrians and children off the streets and out of traffic, and give them their civic right to walk safely. More info at PPW website:

Thursday, February 22, 2007

City Hires New Assistant City Manager

After reviewing over 80 applications and going through two rounds of interviews, the City of Portland has hired Pat Finnegan as the new Assistant City Manager. Her starting salary will be $84,000.

Finnegan served as Auburn City Manager for the past 12 years where she was a key player in a number of successful economic development projects, strategic planning and joint services and collaboration with surrounding communities and other organizations. Noteworthy achievements in Auburn during her tenure include the development of two industrial parks, the revitalization of Auburn’s downtown, and a recent successful grant application to fund increased joint efforts with the City of Lewiston.

In addition to her knowledge of municipal government and its operations, and particularly the challenges facing service center communities like Portland, she has extensive prior experience advocating for municipalities at the State House in Augusta, and with the Congressional delegation in Washington. She gained that experience starting in her college years and subsequently became the Assistant Director of State and Federal Relations for the Maine Municipal Association, a position which she held for three years before becoming the Assistant City Manager in Auburn in 1991.

As one of her major assignments she will advocate for the City in legislative settings, a role previously filled by former Assistant City Manager Larry Mead prior to his leaving the City last November to begin his new job as Kennebunkport’s Town Manager.

Other assignments will include overseeing major development projects acting as the City’s liaison on certain neighborhood issues, overseeing the City’s communications program, working with the City’s Tax Acquired Property Committee, working with a number of organizations on public/private and public/public partnerships including efforts to regionalize municipal services in a cost-effective manner, and taking on special assignments as the need arises.

As part of her transition, Finnegan requested that she give the City of Auburn considerable advance notice so that she can work with her staff to prepare and submit a proposed budget for FY’08 for Auburn, and will start working for the City on June 4th.
Two Lenders Fined, Speaker Calls for Stricter Consumer Protections

Augusta – Speaker Glenn Cummings is calling on Maine lawmakers to enact tougher consumer protections after two local mortgage lenders were fined for deceptive businesses practices that included arranging cash loans on the side in order to pad consumer bank accounts and to qualify them for home mortgages, revealed as part of an investigation by the Office of Consumer Credit Regulation.

While existing laws provided protections for consumers in this instance, Cummings noted that it highlighted the aggressive practices of predatory mortgage lenders and the need for added protections. Cummings is working with Will Lund, the Director of Office of Consumer Credit Regulation, to tighten Maine laws to prevent predatory home lending and create new protections for Maine homeowners.

“We are seeing numerous examples of bad business practices and predatory lending that is putting Maine consumers in financial jeopardy,” said Cummings. “Maine laws need to be updated and strengthened so that we can protect homeowners, ensure good faith business standards and keep predatory lenders out.”

“Maine consumers aren’t the only victims,” noted Cummings. “Responsible Maine lenders are put at a real disadvantage when predatory lenders enter the scene. We need to raise the bar and level the playing field for the Maine businesses that uphold the standards we would expect.”
Details of today's settlement can be accessed on the website of the Office of Consumer Credit Regulation,, under the "Press releases" link. “Although this problem resulted from the actions of a particular loan officer without the knowledge of the company’s owner, all licensed lenders and loan brokers are ultimately responsible for the actions of their employees,” said Lund.

Cummings is sponsoring the Maine Home Protection Act, a bill designed to create tough new protections for Maine consumers and to weed out predatory lenders and bad business practices in Maine. Cummings’ bill would require all lenders to accurately consider a consumer’s ability to repay a loan, ensuring lenders consider basic factors like income and debt, including basic fixed costs like property taxes and insurance, before offering loans that use a home as collateral.
These requirements aim to stop the practice of selling loans based solely on the equity in a home, which can effectively strip the equity from a home, and lead to foreclosure.
According to Cummings, Mainers could be particularly vulnerable to equity stripping.
“We have the sixth highest rate of home ownership in the country, but Mainers often have moderate incomes,” said Cummings. “That means we are equity rich and cash poor, making us a target for predatory lenders looking to sell loans that consumers can’t afford and cashing-in instead on their home equity.”

The bill would also guarantee Maine consumers the right to go to court if they are treated unfairly by their lenders, banning so-called mandatory arbitration clauses that are often used to block access to the courts. Other components of the proposed legislation would limit the fees lenders can charge consumers, and ban fees for early repayment on high cost loans.
Another provision would ban the practice of flipping, where loan brokers encourage consumers to refinance without any benefit to generate quick profits through fees. Loan flipping can cost consumers tens of thousands of dollars, and leave consumers with less beneficial loans and increased debt.
West End Loses St. Patrick’s Parade

Organizers of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade plan to start the parade this year at Commercial and Center Streets, in the vicinity of Becky’s Diner and the Casco Bay Bridge, and end the event in the city’s East End, at the Maine State Pier or at RiRa’s Pub on Commercial Street. The parade has traditionally wound through the City’s West End and ended with a ceremony at Harborview Park on York Street. Last year, for the first time, the parade began on India Street and marched west along Commercial Street before ending with a ceremony at Gorham’s Corner.

According to the Maine Irish Heritage Center’s website, the March 17th festivities will begin at 12:30 PM with an Irish flag-raising and memorial to West End activist Eddie Murphy at Harborview Park. Immediately following what is being billed as “the Governor's Toast at the Icehouse” at 1:40 PM, the Governor's entourage will walk down under the Casco Bay Bridge to meet up with the parade at Center Street & Commercial. The parade will kick off at 2 PM, marching east on Commercial Street ending at Maine State Pier or Ri Ra’s.

Parade organizer Robert O’Brien said that he tried to get the Maine Irish Heritage Center to host the old processional from the front steps of St. Dominic’s down to Harborview Park, but the Center is “too overwhelmed these days.” O’Brien said that may happen next year, but some local residents are making plans to follow the old route this year. (Editor's note: After this week's newspaper went to press, O'Brien announced that there would be a procession from the steps of St. Dominic's to Harborview Park, starting at 12 Noon.

Governor John Baldacci has been invited to the event, but has not yet responded, according to O’Brien. The governor usually participates in the St. Patrick’s Day celebration and ends his visit to Portland with a celebratory Coca Cola at Popeye’s Ice House.
The February 23, 2007 issue of the West End NEWS is on the street!

The West End NEWS
PO Box 5234,
Portland, ME 04101-0934
(207) 828-1403
5,000 copies of each issue distributed to
over 150 locations throughout Portland.
Published every other Wednesday.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A Good Cigar is a … Cigarette?

State legislator John Brautigam of Falmouth has proposed a bill that would reclassify "little cigars" as cigarettes, making them subject to the same state taxes as cigarettes, according to a report in the Bangor Daily News on February 19th. A pack of little cigars costs less than half the price of a pack of cigarettes because they are not subject to Maine’s cigarette tax, according to the article.

Critics of the little cigars say they are designed to encourage smoking by young people - a charge industry spokesmen deny. The cigars come in different flavors, with filters, and bright packaging that does not include any health warnings. Brautigam told the BDN that calling little cigars ‘cigarettes’ would deter young people from smoking and provide up to $2 million in state taxes annually.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Nathan Clifford School Honored At State House on 100th Birthday

Forty fourth-graders from Nathan Clifford School in Portland visited the State House on February 1st for the presentation of a special Legislative Sentiment sponsored by Representative Jon Hinck in honor of the school’s 100th anniversary. The sentiment was co-sponsored by all members of the Portland delegation.

The second-oldest continuously-operating elementary school in Portland , it was designed by noted architect John Calvin Stevens, and named after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Nathan Clifford. Students sat in on a session of the House of Representatives, visited the State Museum , met Gov. Baldacci and asked Hinck many questions about being a representative.

Monday, February 12, 2007

"Share Your Heart" Drive to Benefit Wayside Soup Kitchen

On Thursday, February 8th, in the State of Maine Room at Portland City Hall, students from eight area high schools joined several Greater Portland businesses and community leaders to unveil this year’s "Share Your Heart" campaign, a community-wide Valentine's effort to raise public awareness about homelessness, as well as raise much -needed funds for the Wayside Soup Kitchen.

Schools participating in the campaign this year include Portland High School, Deering High School, Cheverus High School, McAuleyHigh School, Waynflete School, Westbrook High School, South PortlandHigh School and Cape Elizabeth High School.
The "Share Your Heart" campaign will include students collecting donations in downtown Portland on Valentine's Day, an in-store promotion at Hannaford Supermarkets, and contributions from businesses, organizations and groups. For more information contact Cheryl Leeman at 773-4161

Sunday, February 11, 2007

West Enders Join in D.C. Anti-War Protest

A small crowd gathered in near sub-zero temperatures at 8pm on Friday January 26th at the parking lot on Marginal Way to send off a two buses filled with over a hundred protesters joining an anti-Iraq war protest to be held the following day in Washington.

In addition to the two buses from Portland, three buses also left from Bangor. The buses were organized by members of Peace Action Maine. The protesters traveled south through the night and with very little sleep, arrived just outside of Washington D.C. early Saturday morning.

Cheryl Lynn Davis of Spring Street rode the D.C. Metro to the national mall with an armful of signs in tow.
“I’m here just to make a difference,” said Davis, a veteran of anti-war protests. “The power of all of us who are here will make a difference.”

The group from Portland joined what they estimated were five hundred thousand protesters from all over the country to rally on national mall in bright sun and fifty-degree temperatures. The mood of the crowd was upbeat and there was a cautious optimism that the Democrats now in the majority might get the U.S. out of the war in Iraq if their feet were held to the fire.

The calls of the throngs were for immediate troop removal from Iraq and Afghanistan. Some protesters chanted “No war on Iran,” anticipating that a run -up to a U.S. military conflict with Iran was now underway.

The crowds listened to a slate of celebrity speakers like Jesse Jackson and Sean Penn, who spoke against the war before marching on the streets of the Capitol. The peaceful marchers then lined up and waited two hours to begin a march that circled the Capitol building. Some protesters reported having been stopped by police so as to let President Bush’s motorcade pass.

At 5pm, all of the sleep-deprived protesters from Portland re-boarded their buses to make the 10-hour trip back home. On the ride home they spoke of plans to attend the next march on the Pentagon, to be held on March 17th, the day that marks the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion on Iraq.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Survey of Local Businesses Shows Big ‘Buy Local’ Results

The Portland Buy Local campaign has had a significant positive impact on local shopping habits, according to the results of a new survey of independent businesses.

Nearly three-quarters of the independent business owners who took part in the survey (73 percent) report that their customers made an effort to shop at local, independent stores this past holiday season because of the Buy Local campaign. And over 60 percent of respondents said the campaign had a “positive impact” on their business this holiday season, generating increased sales and greater customer awareness and appreciation of their enterprises.

The survey was conducted by the Portland Independent Business and Community Alliance (PIBCA), the non-profit, volunteer group that organized the Portland Buy Local campaign last summer. Sixty-one of the over 200 businesses taking part in the campaign thus far responded to the online survey PIBCA conducted in mid-January.

Later this month, PIBCA is launching another poster campaign promoting local, independent businesses themed “Be Passionate for Portland: Buy Local.” The group is also developing an online directory of member businesses on its Web site,

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The February 9, 2007 issue of the West End NEWS is on the street!

The West End NEWS
PO Box 5234, Portland, ME 04101-0934
(207) 828-1403

5,000 copies of each issue distributed to
over 150 locations throughout Portland.
Published every other Wednesday.
St. Lawrence Sanctuary To Be Dismantled and Rebuilt
The sanctuary auditorium in the former St. Lawrence Church on Munjoy Hill is currently in an advanced state of deterioration, but is structurally braced and ready for the next step in the rehabilitation process, according to Deirdre Nice, Executive Director of the Friends of St. Lawrence, the non-profit organization that owns and manages the St. Lawrence Arts & Community Center.

The Friends of the St. Lawrence has applied for HCD funds to help with this next step, which will be used towards the thoughtful and methodical dismantling of the sanctuary, while preserving all possible options in the design of a 400-500 seat auditorium.

The Friends have hired Mills Whitaker Architects, a recognized firm specializing in the restoration and phased alterations of historic properties, with an emphasis on educational and assembly spaces such as churches, schools and community centers. They are also working with Structures North Consulting Engineers, Inc which provides services to building owners and architects, developers, historic preservationists, and conservators. Approximately 50 percent of their work is in the evaluation and preservation of historic and archaic structures.

Nice outlaid the group's plan to members of the City Manager's Policy Advisory Committee on December 15th. That group is considering a request for $150,000 in federal funding to go toward the cost of the dismantling, as part of an overall budget of about $670,000 for measured drawings, planning and pre-design, and stabilization of the sanctuary. Nice spoke of the group’s mission of creating an accessible and affordable performing arts center, while preserving a neighborhood icon, and how this funding would help them achieve their goal. Nice told CMPAC that the plan to approach the rehabilitation of the structure by dismantling it in a controlled and historically thoughtful manner been discussed with the city and state's historic preservation directors.

The Friends of St. Lawrence Church was created in 1996 to rehabilitate the former church into an arts center. The sanctuary takes up about one-half of the entire St. Lawrence property, which runs from Munjoy Street to Beckett Street along Congress Street in the city's East End.

The group has a nine-member board of directors, a capital campaign steering committee, and a full and part-time staff. Starting at its creation in 1996, the organization has raised $1.5 million and renovated half of the building, opening the 110-seat Parish Hall Theater in May, 2001. The Parish Hall plays host to theater, music, film, and other artistic and culturally diverse programming. The St. Lawrence manages the theater house and rents the facility to artists and production companies. The yearly operating budget of approximately $160,000 is supported by revenues from the theater operation and unrestricted fundraising. The capital campaign steering committee has currently developed an estimate of $5.2 million to complete Phase III of the renovation project, the rebuilding of the sanctuary the into an auditorium seating approximately 400-500.

The St. Lawrence Church was built in 1897 in the Romanesque Queen Anne style, with fanciful architectural features such as turrets and a belfry. The granite and slate building has long been admired for its beauty, and was listed as a national landmark in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and as a local landmark by the City of Portland in 1990. Its original congregation dwindled and went extinct, closing the church's doors in 1986. Water damage and neglect were taking their toll when the Friends of the St. Lawrence Church purchased the deteriorating historic structure in 1997 with hopes of saving the building.

The interior of the St. Lawrence is decorated with wood wainscoting, two tiers of stained glass windows and high, wooden ceilings. The building splits into two halves - the Parish Hall and the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is grander, with 40-foot vaulted ceilings, sloped floor and circular pews seating 400, radiating like an amphitheater from the altar. Even in its dilapidated state, the room never fails to impress, not only with its grandeur but with its obvious potential. The 110-seat Parish Hall Theater, while not as grand, has been serving the artistic community since May 2001 with its accessibility, affordability and intimacy lauded by performers and audiences alike. The HCD funding would help the group achieve it’s goal of returning the building to the community for use.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

City Changes Trash Pick-up Day in Bayside, Parkside
The City of Portland has announced that trash and recycling day will change from Wednesday to Thursday, beginning the week of January 8, on all of the streets listed below. Residents who live in this neighborhood should place their material out for collection no later than 6:30 AM.
The affected area includes:
- Alder St., Avon Place, Avon St., Brattle St., Cedar St., Chapel St.,Chestnut Street (from Cumberland Ave. to Somerset St.)
- Congress St. (north side only from High St. to Deering St)
- Deering Ave., Deering St., Deering St. Place, Elm St. (from Cumberland Ave. to Somerset St.)
- Grant St., Hanover St, Henry St., High St. (from Congress St. to Park Ave.)
- Kennebec St., Lancaster St., Mechanic St., Mellen St., Oxford St. (from Wilmot St. to Park Ave.),
- Park Ave., Parris St., Pearl St. (from Cumberland Ave. to Somerset St.),
- Portland St., Preble St.(from Cumberland Ave. to Somerset St.),
- Sherman St., Somerset St., State St. (from Park Ave. toCongress St.)
- Stone St., Vernon Place and Wilmot St.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Pingree Joins Brennan, Strimling in Congress Race

Former State Representative and US Senate candidate Chellie Pingree said on January 30th that she would be leaving her position as head of Common Cause to explore whether to seek election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine's 1st District.

Pingree joins former State Senator Michael Brennan, who announced in January that he was forming an exploratory committee to look at running for the office.

State Senator Ethan Strimling has not yet made an official announcement, but his organization is in place for the race and began meeting in mid-November, just a week after his re-election to the Maine State Senate. Other possible Democratic Party candidates include Portland City Councilor Jill Duson, and former Maine Senate President Mark Lawrence, who ran against Senator Olympia Snowe in 2000.

Congressman Tom Allen, who currently holds the seat, has not said that he will not run for re-election, but has said that he is seriously considering a run for the US Senate seat held by Senator Susan Collins.

Friday, February 02, 2007

‘Formula Business’ Issue Strikes Paris (France)


Portland is not the only city in the world trying to figure out how to deal with international business chains that are increasingly working their way into downtown settings.

According to an article published in The New York Times on January 31st, Paris officials have banned the Swedish clothing retailer H&M from opening a megastore on the Champs-Élysées, the City of Light’s most famous and elegant thoroughfare, where rent for a 1,000- square-foot retail space can be more than $1 million dollars a year.

Most of the music clubs and movie theaters on the avenue have been replaced by well-known international names like Adidas Gap, Benetton, the Disney Store, Nike, Toyota, Renault and Peugeot, and McDonald’s. Paris officials are putting together a plan they say is aimed at “stopping the ‘banalization’ of the Champs-Élysées,” according to the Times article. But some Parisians see changes on the avenue as a sort of ‘democratic’ evolution— and a reflection of the increasingly multi-ethnic French society.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Police Review Committee to Hold Public Hearing

The Police Citizen Review Subcommittee of the City of Portland will be holding a public hearing on Thursday, February 8, at 7 p.m. in Room 209, City Hall, 389 Congress Street, to take comment on the Portland Police Department's citizen complaint process.
The Subcommittee's charge is to review the Portland Police Department process for handling citizen complaints alleging police misconduct, from intake of the complaint itself, through the Internal Affairs investigative process, to the final communication with the citizen regarding outcome.
For more information on the Police Citizen Review Subcommittee visit the City's web site at or call Elizabeth Boynton, City of Portland (207) 874-8480.