PORTLAND, Maine — Michael Brennan this week streamlined the City Council’s subcommittee system, cutting the number of breakaway panels from nine to six, as his first exertion of mayoral authority since taking office last month.
Brennan, Portland’s first popularly elected mayor since 1923 after a high-profile fall campaign, has been forced to reduce his workload in recent weeks after abruptly being diagnosed with a tumor on his small intestine. He had surgery to remove the growth on Christmas weekend and returned to work part time his week. Brennan has said his prognosis for full recovery is “excellent.”
He appeared in good spirits at Wednesday night’s council meeting, thanking supporters for calls and letters of well wishes before taking a lower profile role and handing gavel duties for the night to Nicholas Mavodones, city councilor and mayor pro tem.
The physical stress of recovering from surgery didn’t prevent Brennan from making his first noticeable changes to city governance, though.
The mayor, using authority granted in the charter, consolidated several council subcommittees and doled out panel assignments to his fellow councilors. Committees on public safety and health and human services were combined, as were the transportation and sustainability committees, and the housing and community development committees.
The committees on nominations, finance and legislative affairs were left intact.
While cutting the number of committees, Brennan increased the number of councilors serving on each from three to four.
The streamlining moves were lauded as steps in the right direction by those who spoke Wednesday night.
“What I like about it is it’s merging a couple of committees that work on the same things,” said Portland resident Steven Scharf. “Housing and community development are in the same realm.”
Councilor Kevin Donoghue said he hopes the changes will help keep from splintering the attention of city staff, which more subpanels previously competed for.
Under Brennan’s appointments, Councilor John Anton will serve as chairman and Jill Duson will serve as vice chairman of the Finance Committee, with John Coyne and Mavodones also on board.
On the new Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee, David Marshall will be the chairman with Donoghue the vice chairman and councilors Anton and Cheryl Leeman rounding out the panel.
Mavodones and Leeman were named the chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Housing and Community Development Committee, joined on that board by Donoghue and Ed Suslovic.
On the Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee, Suslovic was appointed chairman and Coyne vice chairman, with Marshall and Duson filling the other seats.
Brennan will head up the Legislative Committee — as a former lawmaker himself, the new mayor testified against proposed MaineCare cuts last month in Augusta — with Duson in the vice chairman role. Other councilors on the committee will be Suslovic, Marshall and Mavodones.
The Nominating Committee will be led by Leeman, as chairwoman, and Coyne as vice chairman, joined by Donoghue and Anton.