BANGOR, Maine — Bangor City Councilor Charlie Longo has been watching the goings-on in Portland with much more interest lately, since Maine’s largest city went back to having an elected mayor this year for the first time in 88 years.
Now he’s calling on the City Council’s government operations committee to look into re-instituting an official, elected mayor for Bangor.
“Basically, it had been a topic that I talked about during my 2010 campaign and I felt now would be a good time to take it up,” said Longo, who sent government operations committee Chairwoman Susan Hawes an email request over the weekend to add the topic to a future committee meeting agenda.
“The successes of the Portland mayoral election made me think about it again,” he added. “I also think our current system, where the council elects the mayor, is a little outdated. I think the process should be more public and I think it would be very beneficial if the community had a voice in it.”
Hawes said the request was too late to include the matter at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled committee meeting.
“This will probably be on the next one or the one after that,” said Hawes. “It would change the structure of the city government and potentially some salary structures as well, so it will take some time to get it on there for an agenda item. We have to figure some things out, legalitywise, on what we can do.”
Until this year, Portland’s mayor — like Bangor’s — was appointed by the council. The title of “mayor” in Bangor is mostly ceremonial, although it does entitle its holder to some special privileges, powers and duties. A charter review commission recommended Portland return to a mayoral system and voters ratified it in 2010.
“I’ve heard some smatterings of conversation about it over the years, but some people seem to want to visit it again,” said Hawes.
Also in 2010, a committee of Bangor residents charged with updating the city charter looked at an elected-mayor form of government but decided it wasn’t the best thing for the Queen City.
“Ultimately, it would have to go to a public referendum vote anyway, as it involves a charter change,” said Hawes.
Longo sent copies of his email request to news media outlets and constituents and posted it on his Facebook page.
“The reason I copied that email and sent it to a lot of people outside council and the committee is because I think this kind of process needs community involvement,” he said. “People seem to like what Portland did, but I think they’re also concerned about the potential cost of doing that.”
Bangor has not had an elected mayor since Norman E. Whitney held the office in 1930-31. The city switched to a council and chairman system in 1932.