Kevin Donoghue’s Questionnaire
Your name: Kevin Donoghue
1. Have you been to/participated in any local events? Naked Shakespeare, the Farmers Market, Pride, City Council Meetings, Art Walks, Take Back the Night, or others?
I’ve been a member of the City Council and several of its attendant subcommittees for over five years and serve on the boards of directors for METRO and Casco Bay Lines. Additionally, I attend a rotating schedule of meetings of neighborhood associations. My daughter and I regularly attend both First Fridays and Saturday Farmers’ Markets.
2. What organizations do you belong to?
MPBN, Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Portland Trails, Portland Museum of Art, Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine, the MHNO.
3. In a few sentences, summarize your vision for Portland.
For Portland to prosper it must protect and develop its assets and invest in its future. Our assets include our beautiful harbor and working waterfront and our urban fabric, which already yields so much value for us. Our harbor and port must be protected as they are the assets defining us for the ages and absent which we would not exist at all. Our urban fabric avails the opportunity for a dynamic economy and efficient services as well as a feel that has been cultivated and developed by our residents, old and new. Developing our urban fabric means growing in a way that maximizes this advantage, increasing our population by promoting residential growth that is supported by transit, yet, more importantly, by mixing uses and pedestrian and bicycle networks that work. We must develop this fabric with great care so as to exploit our competitive advantage if we are ever to enjoy the services we desire and pay for changing community needs. Finally, as the youngest city councilor, we need to engage the youth to build their city.
Running the Race
4. How do you feel about private vs publicly funded elections? How are you funding your own campaign? Would you support a clean elections system for municipal candidates?
I’m funding my campaign from donations from residents of the City of Portland. Municipal clean elections is worth consideration, but have not found campaign contributions so corrosive here. I’d prefer we have a lower cap, return to $250.
5. Would you support Ranked Choice Voting for all municipal races in Portland?
6. What role do immigrants play in shaping Portland, and, conversely, what role do you think the city can play in improving their opportunities?
Immigrants have historically contributed to our committees significantly and they continue to do so, doing the jobs that need to be done and exemplifying the kind of entrepreneurship that keeps our neighborhood business districts vital like Wash Ave. This all relates to how we approach economic development and target CDBG funds. We should redouble our efforts to make English language learning widely available and conversely facilitate the learning of all languages, using immigrants as a resource. Furthermore, immigrants make up a large share of the school system and the quality of education my child is able to enjoy depends on large part on the success of others. This all relates to adequately funding Adult Ed as well as our K-12 education system. Finally, I support the right of legal residents to vote in local elections. That is voice.
7. Do you think City Hall is doing a good job of engaging the refugee population of Portland? What would you as a city councilor do to reach out to that community?
City Councilors are not well supported by city staff in engaging refugee populations. I have worked with some Somalis on jetport taxi policy issues and on zoning issues and am eager to meet more recent arrivals from D.R. Congo, Rwanda and Berundi, whom I occasionally speak with at playgrounds, using my poor French to break ice. Should I continue to serve on the City Council, I will press the new city manager to better provide for staff support in bridging communication gaps with City Councilors. That said, I am always glad to return a call or a letter from any and all constituents.
8. Do you think there are sufficient social services provided to Portland residents who are homeless or living in poverty? What would you do as city councilor to improve access or availability of those services?
I believe Portland is pulling its weight here and indeed carries it for much of Maine. Where we can improve here is to adopt policies that decrease homelessness, primarily by financing housing with supportive services. Certainly, homelessness is on the rise, which is forcing us to make some strategic decisions about how to provide for shelter. I support Mayor Brennan in his fight to secure more equitable support from the State and have been very supportive of the Housing First model such as Florence House.
Cops and Social Services
9. How could city police improve public safety and their community relations?
I am very pleased with the Portland Police, especially its creation of Senior Lead Officers assigned to various districts and the city and the continued commitment to civilian community policing positions. (I fought to create a new one in E Bayside). Also, the Police Explorers and youth programs are excellent long-term initiatives.
a) How would you assess police relationships with new immigrant populations? Would you do anything to improve those relations? Recruitment of officers from and familiar with these populations is very important, yet is challenging. The Police Explorers youth program is a promising pathway to support future recruits as many participants are from new immigrant populations. Chief Sauschuck is committed to being welcoming to all. As with many city staff, police officers might be supported in more language learning and culture exchange.
b) There is a lot of public intoxication during the day, especially around Congress St. that impacts businesses and people who are trying to enjoy outdoor spaces. With a growing number of homeless people who do not have a place to go during the day time, what would you do to address this problem? What is the role of policing and social services? I supported the introduction of the HOME Team, which does provide some outreach and prevents what would become emergency calls. It is a challenging situation given lack of access to rehabilitative services and a shortage of supportive housing options.
10. What policies can our city adopt to better serve at-risk youth?
I believe the Police Department and Recreation Department could be afforded more resources for programming, but another challenge is making contact with the parents, so that they are engaged and supportive of activities made available to at-risk youth. Finally, I am glad to have supported expansion of the teen shelter against opposition.
Development, Infrastructure and Planning
11. What kind of economic development is best for Portland’s economy?
Housing and transit are our best investments, because they enable the critical mass that is our comparative advantage. Both housing and transit stimulate economic growth. We should continue to support small business development using loans and CDBG funds and we should be wary to spreading ourselves to thin in terms of commercial development such that we’re cannibalizing our existing downtown. Our economic development staff did well to help in the recruitment of Trader Joe’s and Reny’s to meet the demands of local residents. Finally, we need to development clear policies about what we’re willing to support with TIFs and with public expenditure for new infrastructure. Clearly, downtown represents our edge.
12. How do you feel about our current transportation system (public and private)?
I believe we’ve made excellent progress in improving the walking and biking systems and am confident that we will continue to so. METRO remains stagnant in terms of enhancing service and is challenged by a governing system that undervalues Portland. However, we have adopted a regional pass and have extended night service on the #1. Private transportation, in the form of taxis, needs some much higher quality standards such that service is improved and the fleets are smaller so drivers can earn more cash.
13. How would you improve the supply of affordable housing in Portland?
I have led the relaxation of residential zoning to allow for more housing development and fought for the adoption of incentives for affordable housing before I was elected. We need to be judicious in spending and targeting the limited funds we get from HUD and we need to develop policies that use TIFs to encourage more affordable housing. Finally, we have land. There are a few city parking lots that could become housing.
14. How can Portland better manage parking as the city’s population grows?
The city’s population has grown modestly and I support a more robust rate of growth that relies less and less on private parking. I have developed policies that have cut the requirements for parking and have created incentives for relying less on new parking. Public investments should be less in developing new parking and more in alternatives. Of all of the services that require public subsidy, car parking is a low budget priority.
15. Do you support piping tar sands from Canada into Portland?
16. Do you support the sale of public spaces to private entities? For example, the Westin Group wants to buy Congress Square Park and build a ballroom in its place. Is that the best use for that space?
I support the improvement of public spaces and I am not ideologically opposed to entertaining public-private partnerships. The specific proposal that has been in the public to develop the entirety of Congress Square does not improve Congress Square and as such I don’t support that proposal. It remains to be seen if any proposal will. 17. When it comes to further land development in Portland, what regulations do you want to include to increase the sustainable development of our city? For example, Toronto has a bylaw to require green roofs on new buildings larger than a certain area. I enthusiastically support the development of the stormwater utility fee which creates the necessary incentives for people to choose greenroofs and other mitigating actions. I also support promotion of development patterns that facilitate alternative transport.
18. There has been a years-long discussion about redesigning Franklin Street to make it less like a freeway and more like an urban boulevard that accommodates the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users as well as those driving automobiles. Do you support that vision for Franklin Street and other major arterials such as Spring Street? What are your own recommendations for improving the urban fabric of Portland?
I led the charge against the Peninsula Traffic Plan and against its planned widening of Franklin, led the creation of the subsequent Peninsula Transit Plan and enabled and participated in the Franklin Street Study as the chair of the Transportation Committee. There is not yet a complete set of recommendations but I am very supportive of their direction and believe a similar effort is in order for Spring. I am green urbanist at heart, believing that we need to plan and steer our development patterns for sustainable growth.