How the city went back in time to solve its upcoming ballot problem

This sounds like something straight out of “Quantum Leap” or “Dr. Who.”

The city of Portland is trying to rectify an embarrassing 2017 mistake by going back to 2011, for another mistake that may nullify the current one.

If you follow Portland news, you probably know that earlier this week, the city admitted that a scheduling mistake by its clerk’s office left too little time to place a pair of citizens’ initiative referendums on the November ballot.

The clerk’s office told the petitioning groups that if they turned in their signatures by Monday of this week, there would be enough time to comply with a rule that the city give voters 90 days’ notice before Election Day. But the clerk’s office didn’t factor in the time to certify the signatures, hold a City Council review or line up a public hearing. Whoops!

In searching for a way to solve this problem, city staff discovered that when the City Council sought an ordinance change in 2011 to establish the 90-day rule, the city never ratified the rule change through a citizens’ referendum, as required by the Maine Constitution, and so the old 1991 rule of 60 days’ notice is still in effect.

See? Everything’s probably OK because a five-year-old mistake makes it so that this new one isn’t really a mistake any more!

The BDN’s Jake Bleiberg has a more thorough explanation, as well as reaction from the petitioning groups, in his story here.

What we’re talking about

Former state Rep. Diane Russell from Portland is entering the increasingly crowded field of Democratic candidates for governor. Russell’s storybook rise from going from low-paid convenience store clerk to one of the country’s more prominent state-level lawmakers — including a speaking spot at the Democratic National Convention — is well-documented. She’s now the seventh Dem to announce she’ll run for governor in 2018, with Attorney General Janet Mills and former House Speaker Mark Eves among the others. Former DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew is the only Republican to formally announce her candidacy thus far.

You’re going to want to avoid driving through Woodfords Corner starting Monday. The city of Portland announced today that a $4.65 million reconstruction project is due to begin on Forest Avenue between Pleasant Avenue and Lincoln Street, and extending up Revere Street to Deering Street. Forest Avenue carries around 27,000 vehicles a day in this area, so expect traffic backups if you’re driving one of them starting Monday. Once it’s over, city and state transportation officials say drivers can expect less wait time at intersections and more free-flowing traffic.

The oil pipeline connecting South Portland to Montreal could carry 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day, if only the city would let the Portland Pipe Line Corp. reverse the flow. The pipeline has historically run from Maine to Canada, with oil coming in from tankers and being transported to refineries in Montreal. In recent years, the company has sought to reverse that direction, but South Portland blocked the flow change in 2014 with a new ordinance, which the pipeline operators have been fighting in court ever since. Opponents of the reversal worry it would open the pipeline up for the transport of controversial and toxic so-called “tar sands” oil pulled from Alberta. The latest revelation about the volume of oil possible in a reversal came in court filings this week, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The BDN’s Ryan McLaughlin and Troy R. Bennett collaborated on this multimedia profile of Westbrook’s Pat Gallant-Charette, who, at 66 years old earlier this summer, became the oldest woman to ever swim the English Channel. Gallant Charette shares how her son asked her to compete in a 2.4-mile swim challenge from Peaks Island to Portland 20 years ago in the memory of her late brother, and she didn’t think she’d be able to. Since then, she has worked her way up to swimming the 20- to 35-mile English Channel route twice.

In presumably unrelated cases, two dead bodies were found in or near southern Maine waters today. Around 8:30 a.m., Portland police said the body of a 42-year-old male was discovered in Portland Harbor. About three hours later, the U.S. Coast Guard was called to recover a body about 15 nautical miles off the coast of Kennebunkport. Portland police said they don’t believe the death in their case to be suspicious, while a brief statement from the Coast Guard was mum about identifying details or what may have caused the death.

Tweet of the day

From Jaimie Alley:

The Big Idea

The organizations receiving taxpayer money to help juveniles facing mental health crises are too often calling the cops on those young people, effectively passing the responsibility of their care off to law enforcement and corrections officials, according to a new report released this week. This creates problems not only for Maine’s youth corrections facility, which is ill-suited to treat mental health crises, but for the juveniles themselves, who are kept from the treatment they need. The BDN’s Jake Bleiberg dug into the report and has more here.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email us at or or tweet @JZBleiberg or @SethKoenig.

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