Portland City Council and the Mayor at Impasse Over Budgeting Roles

Dec 28, 2017

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling is offering what he calls a compromise in his latest showdown with other city officials, this time over committee assignments.

Strimling says he is willing to back off his initial proposal to chair the budget-writing Finance Committee but would still appoint himself to sit on the panel, while also chairing the Health and Human Services Committee.

Last week the rest of the nine-member city council united to oppose his initial plan to appoint himself chairman of the Finance committee — which would be unprecedented since the city charter was changed in 2010 to include an elected mayor. But Strimling is making it clear he still wants the post; and has also put on the table an alternate plan that would allow it.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling - FILE IMAGE
Credit Ed Morin / Maine Public

“It still fundamentally makes the most sense for the mayor to chair that committee. As the only full-time member of the body I have the time an ability to lead our budget process, which is really what the charter lays out,” says Strimling.

The impasse marks a return to early tensions over how powerful the city’s mayor should be, with many of Strimling colleagues saying he is trying to go beyond limits set by the city charter. The council’s newest member, Kimberly Cook, says she’s disappointed in the way the new council’s first innings have gone. And she says in individual conversations with other councilors, Strimling appears to be telling varying stories.

“To each member of council, but then asking you to keep it confidential has certainly made me uncomfortable,” Cook says. “I’ve not always felt that I’ve received the whole truth. And I in that case would rather not have the Mayor chairing any committees.

Other councilors could not be reached for comment. Under council rules, the mayor’s committee list is effective unless at least six members turn it down. The council will not meet again until the new year.

This story was originally published Dec. 27, 2017 at 5:24 p.m. ET.