District 1: Ben Chipman
District 1: Ben Chipman
Your Top Three Priorities
1. Establish a process for an elected Mayor
2. Make the City and School Committee budget and finance process more efficient
3. Engage members of the public, citizen groups, neighborhood associations, and elected officials as much as possible in the Charter Commission meetings and public hearings
Please list prior applicable experience:
I have worked over the last 8 years to successfully help several progressive candidates get elected to public office in Portland, including John Eder for State Representative as well as members of the School Committee and City Council. I worked as a Legislative Aide at the State House from 2002-2006. In mid-November 2006 I organized the collection of over 24,000 signatures in 8 weeks for the Opportunity Maine petition drive to meet the January deadline. In 2007 I managed City Councilor John Anton’s campaign. In 2008 I led the effort to keep all the polling places open for the Presidential election and was appointed to serve on the Polling Place Task Force.
What do you hope to accomplish as part of the commission?
I want to solicit as much public comment as possible and work together with the other Charter Commission members to develop a new Charter that will give Portland an elected Mayor and make a few other improvements.
What do you see as issues within the current structure of city government?
We do not have a real visible leader for the city. The City Manager makes a lot of decisions with no accountability to the voters. Also, we have one financial body with two heads, the City Council and the School Committee.
What are you thoughts on the 1986 charter report? What prior issues would be the most helpful for the current Commission to consider?
The 1986 report recommended that district City Councilors be elected by the whole city. This is probably one reason why the 1986 proposal was rejected by the voters. It is important that develop a Charter that includes an elected Mayor but does not make other changes that do not have enough voter support to be enacted.
What other city charters have you examined? How would it inform your approach to analyzing our city’s charter?
Auburn and Westbrook, both of which are cities in Maine that, although have smaller populations, have an elected Mayor. Also Burlington, Vermont which has an elected Mayor as well as several social, cultural, and political similarities to Portland. I would like to talk with people who live in each of these communities and get feedback from them about their Charter.
Would you support an elected mayor? If no, why not?
Yes. I have always thought Portland should have an elected Mayor. I believe one reason the voters approved the formation of a Charter Commission last November because they support an elected Mayor as well.
What parts of the current city charter do you feel are antiquated?
1. Article 6, section 5 Powers and duties of the City Manager. Many of these duties should be given to an elected Mayor.
2. Article 1, section 2 City powers and duties. The financial responsibility should not be divided between two bodies, the City Council and School Committee.
3. Article 3, section 4 School Committee Powers and Duties. This is another section we should change.
Would you consider re-districting the City of Portland? Why and how?
If we develop a new Charter that includes an at-large elected Mayor then at-large City Council and School Committee seats may no longer be necessary. I would be open to having more city districts that are smaller in size. At-large seats are expensive campaigns that are not very grassroots oriented.
Would you modify the current relationship between the school committee and city council?
The current Charter gives the School Committee more power over finances than is required by state law. I would still allow the School Committee to develop an annual budget to submit to the Council but the control of the expenditures would be consolidated under one office.
What role do you think the charter commission should play to educate the public on changes made to the city charter?
The Charter Commission should play a large role in educating the public on proposed changes. In campaigning I have found that most people do not even know what the Charter Commission is. My campaign is the beginning but not the end of process of educating the public.
What role is the charter commission for public engagement during the process of re-examining the charter?
The Commission’s role is to hold well publicized public hearings on a regular basis throughout this process with information provided to the local media. All meetings should be televised with meeting notices and minutes posted on line. Many forms of engagement should be encouraged.
What else would you like to add?
I would be honored to receive the League’s endorsement and, if elected, would work together with the League to inform the public and get as many people as possible involved in this process. It is very important that we develop a proposal that will improve our city government and that a large majority of voter support.