With a surprisingly large turnout of 1,426 people, or 18.6 percent of eligible voters, residents voted 626-534 to approve the controversial proposal that was generated by the charter revision commission to change the method for approving the budget.
However, by a vote of 643-491, residents rejected a second question, which would have limited the power to freeze certain departmental budgets to only the first selectman. That power instead will remain with the selectmen.
Voters did the right thing both times. See my previous post on this subject for more information. Allowing an "automatic" budget to take effect after four referendums, while still not perfect, is a decent solution to a festering problem.
The second question is a little more problematic. In most cases, I'm in favor of a useful single executive in municipalities: if not a town manager, then a strong mayor. But in this case, the continued mismanagement of Portland's government by the squabbling selectmen will nudge the town ever-closer to adopting the council/manager form of government they need.
This may well be a sign of impending doom for the Democrat-controlled board of selectmen. There is a good possibility that the discontent expressed here may well translate into a Republican victory in November.
18% is a "surprisingly large" turnout? Ouch.
Source: Mill, Jeff. "Charter Change OK'd". Middletown Press 2 February 2005.