WHAT IT IS For 250 years, Cumberland County has had the same rules, granted by the state legislature. This would increase the number of county commissioners from three to five, and would eliminate the election of the county treasurer and register of deeds, but would preserve the election of sheriff, district attorney, probate judge, and register of probate, which are required by the state constitution.
WHAT WE SAY County government needs a major reboot in this state. (Example: It's very difficult to find the text and substance of county election questions, and completely impossible online.) Though it doesn't go far enough, it goes as far as is possible without major changes in state law (and possibly the constitution). It's the best shot we have at making county government more effective, accountable, and affordable.
No on Portland Question 1 — Elected mayor
WHAT IT IS The Portland Charter Commission has proposed a full-time, elected mayor be created from one of the current at-large City Council seats. The idea is that the mayor will be able to drive policy and provide real leadership. That will come at a price, though: $87,000 for salary and benefits.
WHAT WE SAY Anyone who follows City Hall closely knows that this is a dispute about power, and whether city manager Joe Gray has too much. Creating a new paid position is a roundabout way to counterbalance him.
VOTE NO and ask the city councilors to simply step up and allocate the power as they see fit — not depend on citizens to inject another power broker into the messy mix.
Yes on Portland Question 2 — School budget responsibility
WHAT IT IS This would solidify accountability for the school budget, in the wake of a couple of recent years' overspending by the schools, and give the city council more opportunity to review planned school expenditures — in public.
WHAT WE SAY As inconvenient as it may be to know how taxpayer money is spent, it's good and important. Increasing transparency about — and advance notice of — school spending is a valid and valuable goal.
Yes on Portland Question 3 — Technical charter changes
WHAT IT IS The existing city charter has several items that are outdated (references to a non-existent board of voter registration, for example), some inconsistencies between handling vacancies on the school board and the city council, does not require the city's fiscal management to adhere to generally accepted accounting principles (a legal standard that has increased significance in the wake of the economic collapse), and other small tidbits that need tidying up.
WHAT WE SAY This is mostly stuff that makes no difference to how the city is actually run, or improves things in small-but-important ways. Nobody's rights or obligations are affected.
VOTE YES to help the lawyers stay focused on important things and out of the litigation muck.
No on Portland Question 4 — Allowing immigrant voting
WHAT IT IS This provision would allow Portland residents over the age of 18 who immigrated to the US legally but are not yet US citizens to vote in Portland municipal elections — for city council, school board, and local referenda. They would not be allowed to seek or hold elected office.
WHAT WE SAY While we agree with this issue's supporters that the country needs immigration reform that allows undocumented immigrants to move out from the shadows, we disagree that expanding voting to non-citizens addresses that important topic. Voting rights have changed over the course of American history, and immigrants who wish to participate fully in American democracy should feel welcome and supported in seeking citizenship.
VOTE NO to keep the franchise the exclusive province of US citizens.