By a 2 – 0 vote, the Anti-housing Housing Committee, chaired by Councilor Jill Duson, voted against the Rental Housing Advisory Committee’s inaugural attempt at presenting proposals to the Committee for its consideration. The long-winded Cook and anti-renter Duson voted against pursuing the RHAC’s recommendation to ban application fees for Portlanders applying for apartments. Councilor Pious Ali was the dissenting vote on the Committee.
The long-winded Cook said she would rather see the issue taken up in the Maine state legislature, where she is a lobbyist, rather than locally. Cook, called the most conservative member of the city council by the Republican Press Herald, said the issue will no doubt come up in an upcoming State session and that is where it belongs rather than at the city level.
South Portland State Rep. Chris Kessler, introduced such a measure in the Legislature and it failed Berger told Cook. That information came when she asked why the proposal was not forwarded to the State legislature rather than to the city of Portland. (That is not the RHAC’s mandate, Councilor Cook). Nice try, though.
Duson searched frantically for a way out to dismiss the proposal presented by Aaron Berger, co-chair of the RHAC and a tenant representative. Duson finally settled on “there was no solid alternative plan to the ban on application fees” – which she does not support anyway. What? Did I hear that correctly? Is that a new criteria for dismissal created for the occasion, councilor?
Aaron Berger gave a rambling presentation of his proposal which was at times hard to follow. However, he said that Lucky Hollander had informed him that New Mainers are having financial problems with the rental process because of application fees charged by landlords in this “hot” market. New Mainers are often short of cash and multiple requests from landlords for fees for criminal background checks is a financial burden to many. Duson responded to Berger that he had failed to prove there was a “pattern” of this issue being a problem in the material presented to the Anti-Housing Housing Committee. No mercy by the Anti-housing Housing Committee chair for its just created Advisory Committee whose training wheels are still spinning.
In a bizarre twist of process, chair Duson invited landlord co-chair, Roger Sweeney, an opportunity to counter the majority presentation of Aaron Berger. He opposed the proposed ban and had nothing to add to the discussion he said. So, Sweeney read from a letter from another RHAC landlord member that Duson asked him not to read because it had already been entered into the record. Presumably Duson was looking to him for something she could hang her “no” vote on from him. She didn’t find it from him. (When mhn.com whispered aloud that adding to the presentation of Berger an opposing. minority RHAC landlord voice was “bizarre”, Duson turned on this blogger, stating: “You are out of order!” – with impressive authority to boot. It’s time some one was out of order there).
Although the presentation by Berger was to have been the first item on the agenda, the Committee put it off for about 40 minutes – waiting for the entrance of the Grand Dam Cook – who was delayed due to a busy schedule. As mhn.com left city hall around 7:30 pm, after being there since 5:30 for the meeting start, Duson and Cook were jabbering back and forth whether or not they wanted to let their negative votes stand as recorded. The two realized this outright rejection would not make them look good in the community’s view. “We weren’t planning on taking any action tonight,” said Duson. “We were going to extend this discussion over two meetings.” No matter, how they try to walk back this vote, the vote to dismiss the proposal stands.
Mayor Kate Snyder attended the meeting but offered no comment other than: “I learned a lot.” Does Portland need a Mayor who is learning on the job rather than one who is “up to speed” on housing issues?
Or is she just a figurehead with a permanent learning curve?
note: This proposal was ready for presentation to the Anti-housing Housing Committee months ago. The RHAC plan had been to present it to the Committee last month. However, anti-renter chair Duson decided that the agenda was already full of administrative topics and this proposal would have to be put off until the February meeting. Just another example of how important renter’s issues are to the Anti-housing Housing Committee.