By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,294)
In a surprise move last night, City Committee Chair and Councilor Ed Suslovic did not ask for a vote on whether or not to recommend to the full City Council that a city overflow shelter be closed down effective June 30. That failure to vote followed testimony by almost 50 advocates to keep the shelter open. Rather than entertain a vote last night, Suslovic said views and opinions could be heard during the upcoming budget debate.This despite an objection voiced by councilor David Brenerman to the lack of a vote, a member of the Public Safety and Health and Human Services Committee as well.
Acting City Manager Michael Sauschuck recited the history behind the city’s efforts to find the funds to keep the city’s overflow shelter open and fund the family shelter. The loss of the state’s financial support is because of Governor Paul LePage’s concocted justification for withholding of General Assistance funds and shelter funds to the city of Portland. It is viewed by many as part of LePage’s personal War on the Poor.
Councilor Jill Duson asked the staff who was present to come up with a plan on where does the city go from here. Mayor Michael Brennan told Chair Suslovic that there are too many variables remaining to decide to close down the overflow and family shelters at this time. The Mayor said a lawsuit against the LePage administration is pending, that State Senator Justin Alfond has introduced a bill for emergency funding for shelters and that non-profits have not had an opportunity consider how they might become involved. Although neither Mayor Brennan nor Councilor Jon Hinck are members of the Committee, both attended the meeting in City Council chambers.
“There are variables at play which could reduce the spending gap and put us on sound financial practices. I don’t believe that a budget will be passed without funds for the overflow shelter,” Mayor Brennan told Suslovic.