2016-08-26 / Front Page

South Portland council moves for charter change

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — With what was arguably the least fanfare of any action associated with Ocean Street parking over the past four years, the South Portland City Council voted to initiate a charter change.

At its Aug. 1 meeting, the council voted 5-2, with Mayor Tom Blake and Councilor Linda Cohen opposed, to reject a petition that sought to allow angled parking throughout the city, clearing the way for a return of that particular configuration to a block of Ocean Street, between Legion Square and D Street.

When petitioners began their effort in May, City Clerk Emily Carrington gave them until July 15 to submit signatures, leaving time for all subsequent action needed to get the question on the November ballot. She later extended that to July 18 when the petitioners said they could not get one form in on time. Then, after rejecting the petition — due, in part, to the absence of a circulator’s signature on one form — Carrington moved on advice of City Attorney Sally Daggett to give the petitioners what Councilor Claude Morgan would later call “another bite at the apple.”

Instead, the council overruled that effort, declaring the petition dead with no hope of a do-over before November.

The proposed charter change does not set a deadline for when a petition must be submitted to make the general election ballot. Instead, for the first time, it sets a timeframe by which petitioners must complete their signature drive. If adopted by voters, the change would formalize the look of petition forms and give circulators 45 days from the point at which they take out papers in order to complete their drive.

The amendment also would change the number of names needed on a valid petition from 5 percent of registered voters at the time the petition drive is launched to 5 percent of registered voters at the time of the most recent gubernatorial election. In most municipalities, that requirement is set at a percentage of those who actually voted in the election.

Per the charter, at least 30 percent of the number of voters who cast ballot in the most recent gubernatorial election must weigh-in in order for any amendment to go through, regardless of the outcome of the vote. However, given the presidential election also on the Nov. 8 ballot, that appears an easy threshold to cross.

Councilors made almost not comment on the proposed charter change at Monday’s meeting. Instead they limited themselves to setting a Sept. 7 public hearing on the changes. That hearing will be part of the regular council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at city hall.

However, Morgan did address one bit of controversy from the long debate over the issue at the Aug. 1 meeting, as did former councilor Rosemarie De Angeles. Both took Carrington to task for trying to work with the petitioners and both apologized Monday for seemingly harsh words.

“You are doing a great job. It is a delight to work with you and I am sorry,” Morgan said.

Return to top