The rift between the mayor and city manager actually cost you money

Good evening from the BDN Portland outpost off Deering Oaks park. Tonight, Portland taxpayers are left holding the bag because of a fight between the mayor and city manager; a photo collective gentrified out of Portland is coming back; and there’s talk about getting rid of the graffiti wall on the East End.

What we’re talking about

Portlanders foot hefty legal bill from squabble between mayor and city manager — Portland taxpayers have been saddled with more than $21,000 in legal fees from the ongoing power struggle between the mayor and city manager, Randy Billings of the Portland Press Herald reported today.

Mayor Ethan Strimling has been working to expand his purview and influence since taking office in December 2015. He is the second mayor to serve since Portlanders voted in 2010 to amend the charter and elect a mayor, rather than allow city councilors to appoint one from among their ranks as it was done previously.

Here are the big takeaways:

—  Last year, Mayor Ethan Strimling was dissatisfied with city attorney Danielle West-Chuhta’s interpretation of the city charter as giving the city manager sole authority over the daily operations of the city and city staff, Randy reported. So the City Council privately approved spending more than $21,000 to hire lawyer Peter DeTroy to interpret the mayor’s and manager’s roles.

The powers and duties of both offices are set out in straightforward language in the charter. And DeTroy’s findings echoed West-Chuhta’s, stating explicitly that neither the mayor nor any council member may command city staff.

— Beyond the hefty bill for taxpayers, the feud between Strimling and Jennings has affected the workings of City Hall. Strimling appears to have been cut out of regular meetings with city staff, the Press Herald reported, citing the mayor’s calendar. But he also reportedly continued to seek meetings and ask for reports from city employees even after receiving the third-party legal opinion.

In May, Strimling reportedly canceled a previously scheduled meeting with a city sanitation worker after Jennings informed him that worker had filed a grievance against the city. Jennings sought to file an official complaint that the mayor was violating the Charter as recently as July, according to the report.Jake Bleiberg

Read Randy’s full report here.

The Bakery Photo Collective returns to Portland seven years after leaving for cheaper digs in Westbrook — In an era where artists all over the city are struggling hard to find affordable rents, the collective — one of the first to flee gentrification back in 2009 — is returning to the art scene that spawned it. — Troy R. Bennett

The Motherhouse development can go ahead, court rules — Maine’s top court said the city was within its rights to approve a developer’s plan to build more than 200 units of senior housing on the site of a former convent. A group of Portland residents had sued the city claiming that the city council did not follow proper procedure in approving the Stevens Avenue development and pervasively lost its case in a lower court. Jake Bleiberg

What will happen to Portland’s graffiti wall? — In September, an artist painted Gov. Paul Lepage dressed in hood and robes of a Ku Klux Klan leader on a city-sanctioned graffiti wall on the Eastern Promenade. Now one Portlander is lobbying the Portland Water District to get rid of the wall, which he told the Press Herald is a “failed experiment” and promoting graffiti elsewhere in the city.

The wall has been open for graffiti for 15 years. The Water District will discuss its fate during its 6:30 pm, Monday meeting at 225 Douglass St.Jake Bleiberg

Live ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ jazz — A Company of Girls, a girls-only theater company based in Portland, will be performing a live re-enactment of the world’s saddest holiday cartoon special. A live jazz trio rounds out the sentimental mood at Mayo Street arts tonight and Friday. Kathleen Pierce

Tweet of the day

From Keely Flaherty:

Screenshot 2016-12-08 16.09.52


The Big Idea

Fifty-seven homicides in 35 days — Photojournalist Daniel Berehulak documents Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous crackdown people who use and sell drugs in the country. “‘There is a new way of dying in the Philippines,’ said Redentor C. Ulsano, the police superintendent in the Tondo district. He smiled and held his wrists together in front of him, pretending to be handcuffed,” Berehulak reports.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.