Anna Trevorrow, At-large Portland Charter Commissioner

Friday, May 29, 2009

Anna's Answers to the League of Young Voters Questionnaire

Top three priorities:

1. Move from an appointed to an elected Mayor
2. Create greater neighborhood representation by examining districts and at-large vs. district seats
3. Attain greater accountability for City Hall officials

Applicable experience:

-- Education: B.A., English, University of Southern Maine, 2006; Continuing courses, Northern New England Center for Financial Training, presen
-- Employment: Norway Savings Bank, Portland, ME, Customer Service Representative
-- Other: Maine Green Independent Party, Chair, present; MGIP Sub-Committees: Bylaws Committee Member, Legislative Recruitment Committee Member, Convention Committee Member
-- Former candidate for Portland School Committee, Fall 2008
--Worked on the "Save Our Polling Places" campaign, helping to keep 16 polls open for the historic Election of 2008.

Hope to Accomplish:

In addition to my top three priorities, I hope to engage the public, and solicit public input to create a workable Charter, with the best chance for ratification by Portland voters.

Issues w/in current structure:

-- The City Manager holds too many executive powers, with a lack of accountability to the voters.
-- At-large seats draw big money to local politics, and are less effective in representing neighborhoods.
-- School budget has a history of overspending.

1986 Report:

The report recommended 9 district Council seats that were elected at-large. This would have brought more money into the election process, and potentially deprive neighborhoods of their choices in representation.
The Commission must think about the likelihood of ratification in every recommendation we make.

Other City Charters:

I’ve been examining Charters of cities of comparable population size, that demonstrate both the strong Mayor and ceremonial Mayor structures: Westbrook, Augusta, Burlington VT, and Bangor.

Support an elected Mayor?:

I would support an elected Mayor because it increases executive accountability to Portland voters. It reallocates many of the powers currently held by the City Manager to the Mayor, creating more visibility and functionality for the office of mayor. Portland is of a size that can easily sustain a strong mayor structure, and there is strong public support behind it.

Current Antiquated parts of Charter:

The Charter contains very little language on the authority of Mayor.

-- Article VI, section 5, which outlays the duties of City Manager, will need re-visiting if we change to an elected Mayor.
-- Article I, section 2, on Powers Granted, divides fiscal responsibility into two bodies, i.e., City Council and School Committee.
-- Article II, section 1, on Voting Districts remains an ongoing challenge as highlighted, though never resolved, in the 1986 report.

Consider re-districting:

I would consider re-districting in a neighborhood-oriented manner. This would preserve democracy by maximizing representation of all neighborhoods in keeping with the city’s neighborhood make-up.

Council & School Committee:

I would thoroughly examine the relationship between School Committee and City Council, particularly where the Charter relates to budget issues. Currently the city finances are divided into two bodies, City Council and School Committee. Given the history of school budget overspending, a change in this dynamic is worth consideration.

Role in public education:

The commission should play an active role in public education. The public should know that this is an historic opportunity to amend the governing document of our city. Charter commission should make use of media, public minutes, and outreach to various organizations in Portland.

Role in public engagement:

Again the commission should play an active role. The commission should seek input, and strive to host & attend meetings of organizations throughout Portland. Particularly, I would like the commission to engage actively with neighborhood associations throughout Portland, by hosting mutual meetings, to get a feel for the wants of all Portland neighborhoods.

What Else?:

I’d like to thank the League of Young Voters for their efforts to inform and engage the Portland public on the issues and candidates surrounding City Charter Commission. Personally, I am excited for the opportunity to take part in this historic process, and to serve the public as a representative to the commission.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Elected Mayor ...

Many Portland voters have heard the rhetoric surrounding the City Charter Commission race concerning an “elected mayor.” But, what are we really talking about? And, what does it mean to be “in support of” versus “in opposition to” an elected mayor?

Many cities that have adopted a city charter operate, as Portland does, within a “council-mayor” structure of government. You have a City Council of some kind, and a Mayor in some fashion. In a (sub-category) “weak mayor,” a.k.a., “ceremonial mayor” structure, the mayor is usually a member of the City Council, and thus, the City Council embodies both the legislative and executive branches of government. Under the same structure, the mayor may either be appointed (as in our case in Portland), or elected. In either case, the mayor’s authority is largely ceremonial (cutting ribbons, and issuing keys, etc.).

On the other side of the spectrum, you have a “strong mayor” structure of government, where the mayor is separated out from the council entirely. The council, then, represents the legislative body of government, and the mayor, the executive. Typically, in this set-up, the mayor presides over more “executive” tasks, such as budget development and administrative oversight. In this form, the mayor is almost always popularly elected.

Where does the City Manager fit in? The “ceremonial mayor” system of government tends to go hand in hand with a “strong” city manager. The city manager retains prime responsibility for setting budgets and overseeing departments and reports directly to the whole council. But, when you shift those responsibilities to the mayor in “strong mayor” fashion, the city manager’s role naturally becomes more like an assistant to the mayor.

It is important to note that while charter revision does not change the socio-political make-up of the city, revising our governing structure can make it simpler or more difficult for competing interests to advance their causes. So, it is important to me that such a significant charter commission recommendation as a strong, elected mayor, be offset with checks and balances.

I favor an elected mayor, and lean toward a “strong-mayor” structure for Portland because it would allow for executive accountability to Portland voters by shifting executive authorities to an elected position. It is a more democratic process. However, I am leery of the potential for an overly powerful executive to emerge. Thus, I would like to investigate measures that would limit executive power, such as regulating mayoral campaign financing so that a private interest could not “buy” the position. I would examine term length, term limits, and recall procedures for the office of mayor to increase mayoral accountability to the public. And I would under no circumstances favor granting veto power to the mayor.

In my conversations with Portlanders throughout my campaign, I believe a strong majority favor an elected mayor. At the same time, implementing the right mechanisms for checks and balances addresses the concerns I have heard in opposition to a strong mayor. In the end, whether or not an elected mayor will empower the Portland electorate will depend on the details and execution. That is what the Charter Commission will spend a great deal of time researching and debating. Hopefully, the right balance can be struck. Nonetheless, I believe the general structure of an elected mayor with a strong set of checks on executive authority fits the socio-political dynamic of Portland today.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Letters to the PPH in support of Anna

Anna Trevorrow overlooked in Charter Commission article

March 30, 2009

In Tom Bell's article on Charter Commission candidates ("So far, 23 show an interest in city Charter Commission," March 20), he mentions "some of the potential candidates are well-known."

I'd like the Press Herald to be an objective reporting source, and not decide who is a well-known individual and who is not. One of the candidates for the at-large seat is Anna Trevorrow, who is the chair of the Maine Green Independent Party, and is quite well-known in activist circles.

I'm curious if she didn't make the cut as "well-known" because she is young, or because she is a Green Independent?

I've known Anna Trevorrow to be an intelligent and passionate crusader for Portlanders who may not have a voice representing them. Anna is well-versed in the issues that are encompassed in the city charter. One example is her belief in granting voting rights to immigrants in Portland.

I hope that the Press Herald's continued coverage of the Charter Commission race will be less subjective than your initial introduction to the potential candidates.

Liz McMahon


I am writing in response to your article, "So far 23 show an interest in city Charter Commission."

I found the article to be biased, paying particular attention to a select group of candidates, while giving no background at all for most of the candidates. I am concerned that such selective reporting tends to influence your readership in an unbalanced way.

Particularly, I am concerned not to have seen better mention of at-large candidate Anna Trevorrow. Anna and I have been co-workers since 2007, and work very closely on a daily basis.

Thus, I have a first-hand knowledge of her strong work ethic, her sound judgment and her high level of professionalism. I also know how committed and impassioned she becomes in her work outside the office, such as chairing the Green Independent Party and working to help the community of Portland.

I would encourage the Portland Press Herald to take better care in balancing its reporting. And I would encourage the citizens of Portland to join me in supporting "Anna Trevorrow for a Better Tomorrow!"

Dana Tait


The Portland Daily Sun interviews Anna

Voice: The politics of growing greens
Anna Trevorrow, Maine Green Party Chair

Maine's Green Party ranks have grown in recent years to more than 31,000, yet in the 2008 Presidential Elections, Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney received just 2,800 of those votes. Independent Ralph Nader, the Green party's former standard bearer in 2000, received about 10,000 votes.

For Anna Trevorrow, a Portland resident chosen earlier this year to lead the state's Greens, these figures illustrate both challenge and an opportunity.

In an interview earlier this month, Trevorrow, herself an unsuccessful candidate for school committee this past fall, said she has realistic goals for the party. She said the party must work at the local level to continue drawing new members. During next fall's city elections, she explained, the party is focused not only on defending its existing seats but possibly adding members both locally and in cities and towns across the state.

In the longer term, Trevorrow said she would like to see more party members support their candidates at the state and national levels. To achieve this, she said the party must overcome perceptions that a vote for a Green candidate is a "vote for a Republican."

But in the meantime there are also more urgent concerns for party officials. In order to retain ballot status, Trevorrow said the Green party candidate must receive at least 5 percent in the 2010 gubernatorial race -- something that will test the party's organizational and grassroots efforts over the next 20 months.

Portland Daily Sun: In your opinion how did the party do in the 2008 elections?

Anna Trevorrow: It wasn't very successful. I think we got about 1 percent of the vote statewide.

PDS: What do you think about Greens that defect and vote for a candidate like Barack Obama?

AT: I would like to see people become more excited about our presidential candidates. That is one of the hardest things about the presidential race. People are willing to vote for a Green Party member running in a local race but that's a factor of, 'If I vote for a Green, I'm voting for a Republican.' I feel like that's a false logic but it's a very persuasive thing to our members.

PDS: How do you go about growing the party during a non-election year?

AT: I think it's about reaching out and building local committees. That's something we would really like to focus on going forward, reaching out to areas where we already have a decent membership base and trying to get people excited about forming committees and becoming active in their municipality.

PDS: What is the realistic expectation of a candidate for statewide office?

AT: We definitely have to get 5 percent. That's very basic and I think that's achievable. I think a lot of people question us, saying 'Why are you [running], you are just going to lose anyway?' and I think people accuse us of thinking we are going to everything when that's not realistic. We're not that naive; for us, success is to grow the Green movement.

PDS: What are some of the themes of the Green movement?

AT: Ecological wisdom -- and under that would be sustainability and environmentalism, nonviolence, peace, ending the war, ending all wars, equal rights.

PDS: Those issues seem like they could appeal to a wide percentage of the electorate. What do you find when you meet someone who might be sympathetic to the cause but is reluctant to align with the Green movement?

AT: It depends on the circumstance how willing people are to come around to idea of voting for a Green candidate. There are a lot of things rhetorically that Democrats present ... and those are the arguments people throw at you, so it's just about countering those and making sure you're always speaking what you believe.

PDS: We heard this a lot in 2000 and less since, but do you believe there really is no difference between the two major political parties?

AT: More or less I do. They're both in the pockets of big corporations and corporate power and they are not going to confront the person that's giving them money. There are some marginal differences but they are just not very significant.

PDS: You mentioned that the party is in a rebuilding mode locally and nationally. Is there a high water mark for the party?

AT: Here in Portland in the heyday (of the early 2000s) so to speak, we had four members on the school committee and we had John Eder in the state house and so we had more elected officials in that time. People were more willing to take that risk and I think we have gone through a more reactionary period.

A couple election cycles ago, the Democratic party had signs out saying 'Greens cause chaos' and listed the names of our candidates. Even when I was running this past election cycle, I still had people saying 'Greens cause chaos' so it's very powerful when you get to a point where are starting to affect change and forces-that-be kind of come down and suppress.

PDS: What is the relationship like between Green Party and the Democratic party?

AT: We work together where we need to.

PDS: Is there any tension between Greens and Democrats in the city?

AT: We're less willing to talk negatively about our opponent. We don't hate them.

PDS: How many Green Party members currently sit on city council or the school committee?

AT: We have had some success in Portland. We have [District 2 city councilor], Dave Marshall, [District 1 city councilor] Kevin Donoghue and [At-large city councilor] John Anton. We also have [District 1 school committee member] Rebecca Minnock.

PDS: What was your experience like running for school committee as a Green candidate?

AT: I look back on it fondly. We [all Green candidates] felt like we were really controlling the debate and I think that even when our candidates don't win, we serve that purpose at the very least; we keep the debate to the left.

PDS: How do you feel your message was received during the campaign?

AT: I felt like we had a pretty good reception. A lot of people would come up to me after the debate and say 'I'm really glad you're doing this' and 'If you don't win this time, I hope you run again.' When you hear them say that you know they might not vote for you, but you know they appreciate that you're there and you're doing this and your serving this purpose.

PDS: Is it disheartening to know that your candidates for national and statewide office are at best a long shot?

AT: It's disheartening when don't get as much as much of a percentage as you wanted. But you have to get behind your candidate no matter what, you have to get it into head that you're going to win. That's the only way you can do it.

PDS: How did you get involved in the Green movement?

AT: My parents were both very steadfast Democrats but they were very progressive in their values and their approach to politics and education. I registered as green since, well, since I registered to vote. The Green Party just embraced everything I embraced for values.

("Voice" is the Daily Sun personal interview series. To suggest a subject, email us at