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Jim Barnes: Candidate for City Council Profile

Jim Barnes has served on the Portland City Council for the past twenty years. He has served as Portland’s Mayor since 2003. He is seeking another term because, “I want to be engaged in the City Government of Portland because I value what Portland means to me and my family and I want to do everything I can to maintain what Portland has become and what it is like.” Barnes said.

What I like most about Portland

When asked what he likes most about Portland, where he has lived since 1987, Barnes said, ”It’s the atmosphere that exits when I can walk downtown and be in any store and encounter people that I am appreciative of and enjoy seeing and then be on the river trail or any city street and feel safe.”


“The City Council has one employee and that is the City Manager. Our task as Council is to ensure that the policies that we have established are adhered to in the day-to-day running of the City.”

View on Civility and Solving Disagreements

“In our current political environment, on the State and National level, there appears to be a tendency to want to act things out in the public domain. At all levels of government, most people have more in common that what they disagree about. We have to start with what we agree on and build on those things to resolve our differences."

Public Safety

Barnes has “no concerns” about public safety in Portland. “My thoughts are that our Police personnel, that we have in place now, are the best since I moved here in 1987. The same goes for Fire and Ambulance as well. They are all high-level professionals”. Barnes continued, “The quality of staff who care about doing their job well…. we are blessed to have.”

Maintaining and Improving City Infrastructure

“I’m pleased with what’s been accomplished in my time on the Council. I hope we can continue to make strides like we have made in the past to improve infrastructure. Infrastructure is what determines the degree of safety and quality of life. If you can’t turn on a tap to get fresh water without worrying, then you have a problem. The city is continuously working with F&V to capture grant money offered by the state for infrastructure projects like Toan Park. But, also other planned infrastructure improvements to East Grand River Ave. and Downtown”.

1% City Income Tax

Barnes favors the 1% City income tax that is currently in place. “The fact that we have a city income tax gives Portland an advantage that few cities our size can claim. The city income tax is something that prior generations established, and it demonstrated the wisdom of that era by putting the tax burden on people who live and work in the city predicated on their income vs. the fact of whether they own property or not”.

Economic Development

“There are business decisions that are made that City Government has no control over. All we can do is be as welcoming and red-tape free as possible.” Barnes pointed out that the DDA is autonomous from the city and that it is doing its duty of making downtown Portland a place where businesses want to locate. Barnes also applauds the new Sparrow Healthcare Facility and the potential Taco Bell site as welcome additions to the Portland economic environment.

Most Pressing Issues Facing Portland in the next 3 to 5 years

“To ensure that it remains a safe and secure place to live. To do that we have to do to be sure that we have engagement from people who run and patronize businesses to make Portland a priority”.

Personal & Professional Background

Barnes grew up in Vassar where he excelled as a student and athlete. He attended West Point Military Academy for one year and then returned to Michigan where he completed a degree in Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. He has worked professionally in security and investigative positions. He has been employed for the past 31 years as an Investigator for the Bureau of the State Lottery. He has been married to his wife Denise for 35 years. He has been the Mayor of Portland since 2003.

This profile was written by Robert Lathers, Beacon Contributing Writer. It is the first of four profiles of 2019 Portland City Council candidates.

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