Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A few other races to note: Down the ballot

Published in the Portland Phoenix

You can get your fill of reading about the presidential, congressional, state-legislative, city-council, and school-committee races a few pages farther on, but there are a few other questions Portlanders will have to vote on this Tuesday.

First up is the question of whether the city should elect a charter commission to consider OVERHAULING THE CITY’S CHARTER. The major issue under discussion is whether the position of mayor should be elected directly by the people — rather than chosen by councilors from among themselves as it is now. But the charter commission could change other provisions of the city’s basic government structure as well, if the commission’s members decided to. Among the possible ideas is one floated by Tina Smith, who is running for the at-large city-council seat, that could allow legal immigrants and refugees who live in Portland but are not US citizens to vote or otherwise participate in local government. If the charter commission is approved, candidates for the commission would stand for election next year.

In the meantime, there are some CLERICAL CHANGES TO THE CITY CHARTER also up for approval. In sum, they bring the charter into compliance with state laws governing how election wardens and ward clerks should be selected, and also change deadlines for nominating petitions to give the city clerk’s office more time to certify that signatures on the petitions belong to registered voters.

In regional business, voters will choose one Portland representative on the PORTLAND WATER DISTRICT Board of Trustees between former trustee James Willey and former Portland school-committee member Ben Meiklejohn. It is a five-year term.

In the first of three county races, incumbent REGISTER OF PROBATE Republican Teri McRae is seeking re-election to a four-year term, and is being challenged by former county register of deeds Democrat John O’Brien. The job involves recording and preserving life records — such as wills, name changes, and adoption records.

In a race for a four-year seat on the CUMBERLAND COUNTY COMMISSION, the three-member board that oversees county government, attorney and former Portland city councilor James Cloutier, a Democrat, faces independent Jonathan Berry, a Falmouth resident who runs a solo law practice from an office in Portland.

And for a COUNTY CHARTER COMMISSION, to study and recommend changes to the way county government is run, there are no declared candidates to represent Portland, so the election will be by write-in only.