Portland’s Median Ordinance, Planned Parenthood Buffer Zone // A conversation with Trish McAllister

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The city of Portland is defending itself on two prominent legal fronts and a third court challenge may be on the way. Trish McAllister is the city’s neighborhood prosecutor, an attorney position she explains in this week’s edition of the Ink & Pine podcast. Portland has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, representing three residents, for a recently enacted ordinance that prohibits standing in the city’s median strips. The ordinance has been criticized as an infringement on the constitutional free speech rights of panhandlers and political activists, who have in recent years used the medians to hold signs seeking help or advocating a message in high-visibility areas. Next month, the City Council will decide whether to enact a 39-foot buffer zone around the Planned Parenthood office on Congress Street, a move intended to move regular anti-abortion protesters from the organization entrances. The protesters have vowed to challenge that in court if it passes, again citing free speech concerns. McAllister worked with the city on both ordinances and will help craft Portland’s legal defense in both cases. (A third lawsuit has been filed against the city by opponents of its recent sale of Congress Square Park to private developers, but McAllister is not playing a lead role in that case.) McAllister joins Maine Digital Press President Dan Bodoff, Dylan Martin of The Forecaster and Seth Koenig of the Bangor Daily News to discuss Portland’s positions.