Here’s how Portland plans to change the city over the next decade

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight: The city released an early draft of its comprehensive plan; the appointment of Steve Bannon to a top White House post has some Jews worried; and what Obama really thinks about Trump. Happy weekend.

What we’re talking about

Portland is looking to boost development and economic growth in key neighborhoods, and make it easier for residents to use public transportation, according to an early draft of the city’s next comprehensive plan released today.

The wide-ranging document will guide how Maine’s largest city and economic hub grows over the next decade. The draft lays out a series of goals for the city on pressing issues including the economy, the environment, housing and transportation.

The plan will be completed in the coming weeks as the planning board and then the City Council hold hearings on the draft, a city spokeswoman said Friday. The broad strategies set out in the document hint at how city leaders think Portland should change in coming years.

Here are a few of the most interesting elements:

  • Re-evaluate zoning — Even as Portland faces a housing crunch that puts pressure on low- and middle-income residents, the zoning code has largely kept the city on the short side, even in the downtown core. But recently developers have eyed erecting taller residential buildings that would only be possible with changes in city zoning. City leaders and urban planners suggest that vertical growth would strengthen the city’s tax base through increased population density and the draft plan states that Portland will “evaluate whether current zoning allows for new development” with an eye toward historic use.
  • Concentrate growth — Urban policy experts recently suggested that to achieve sustainable growth Portland must develop more dense, walkable neighborhoods. In the comprehensive plan, Portland aims to “emphasize areas determined to be suitable for future growth” and “evaluate zoning and the condition of existing infrastructure in target areas — downtown, in identified neighborhood centers, and along transit corridors.”
  • Invest in schools — If Portland wants to grow its economy, population and tax base, it needs to be attractive to professionals, many of whom have kids. The plan calls to “invest in schools as a means of attracting, developing, and retaining an educated workforce.” The debate over how and how much to spend on Portland’s schools recently resurfaced in school board and City Council debates about a proposal to borrow $70 million to renovate four aging elementary schools. The same debate has been going on for decades.
  • Link up public transit — The plan calls for closer ties among Portland’s modes of public transit, including the METRO buses, the train in and out the the city, and Casco Bay ferries.
  • Prepare for climate changes — As the Earth warms and sea levels rise, Portland is likely to see more frequent and severe flooding. The city plans to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get “discounts on flood insurance and certain emergency financial assistance” and ready vulnerable areas such as the waterfront and Bayside.
  • Boost shipping capacity — The draft comprehensive plan aims at the “development of the Western Waterfront as a 21st century logistics hub” and to improve freight handling at the Maine State Pier.

Portlanders who want to comment on the comprehensive plan can email portlandsplan@portlandmaine.gov or call the city Planning Department at 874-8719. — Jake Bleiberg

In other news

In top Trump adviser, Maine Jews see a reason to worry — Jake reports:

Klan members, white nationalists and neo-Nazis believe they have gained an ally in the White House with President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Stephen Bannon to a top White House position.

Some Maine Jews are worried they might be right.

“Overwhelmingly, the sense of the Jewish community is that the rhetoric of Donald Trump’s campaign and his choice for leadership raise concerns for the Jewish community not only for our own well-being but for the well-being of other minority communities in our country,” Rabbi Jared Saks of South Portland’s Congregation Bet Ha’am said.

South Portland dermatologist convicted of tax evasion and distributing drugsDr. Joel A. Sabean was found guilty Friday of five counts of tax evasion, 52 counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances and one count of health care fraud.

Donald Trump’s team says he ‘never advocated’ for Muslim database. Here’s exactly what he’s said. — It’s kind of complicated, actually. The Washington Post reports:

Trump has not stated clearly exactly what he favors, and he has even disputed reports that he supported the broader version of the Muslim database. His campaign released a statement late Thursday stating, “President-elect Trump has never advocated for any registry or system that tracks individuals based on their religion, and to imply otherwise is completely false.”

But he has also pointedly declined to rule it out and has at times talked about implementing just such a system.

The Big Idea

Obama reckons with a Trump presidency — The New Yorker’s David Remnick has profiled President Barack Obama a few times now. His pieces are always worth reading.

Throughout the campaign, he had told his audiences that if Trump — “uniquely unqualified” and “temperamentally unfit” to be Commander-in-Chief — were to win, eight years of accomplishment would go out the window. I asked him if he still believed that.

“Now that the election is over, no, I don’t believe it,” he said with a sharp, dark laugh. “Not because I was over-hyping it. I think that the possibility of everything being out the window exists. But, as a practical matter, what I’ve been saying to people, including my own staff, is that the federal government is an aircraft carrier, it’s not a speedboat. And, if you need any evidence of that, think about how hard we worked over the last eight years with a very clear progressive agenda, with a majority in the House and in the Senate, and we accomplished as much domestically as any President since Lyndon Johnson in those first two years. But it was really hard.” Obama said that he had accomplished “seventy or seventy-five per cent” of what he set out to do, and “maybe fifteen per cent of that gets rolled back, twenty per cent, but there’s still a lot of stuff that sticks.”

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

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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the editor of BDN Portland. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.