By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,270)
Two Finance Committee members sounded more like Governor Paul LePage than Portland politicians when they supported a reduced proposal for a minimum wage increase proposed by Mayor Michael Brennan, The recommendation for a reduced minimum rate of $8.75 per hour and not attached to the CPI was proposed by Committee member Jill Duson, the only person of color, the only woman on the City Council and a patron of local Portland restaurants. Supporting Duson was Councilor Nick Mavadones. Councilor Jon Hinck voted against the motion and supported the Mayor’s wage increase proposal. Ed Suslovic is in Russia. The recommendation goes on to the full City Council for its consideration – probably by June of 2015.
The vote followed a four-hour meeting in which those testifying in favor of the Mayor’s proposal far outweighed those who didn’t. Bill Lee suggested the Finance Committee consider what it would be like if Social Security, like minimum wage, were not indexed. Hill resident, Meaghan LaSala, and a student at USM, said it’s more expensive to live here than elsewhere in the State in her support of a livable minimum wage for the city of Portland. Eliza Townsend, Executive Director, Maine Women’s Lobby, urged the Committee to support Mayor Brennan’s proposed increase. She cited that his proposal has languished in the Finance Committee for 4 months without action. “The minimum wage is squarely a women’s issue…..more than six in ten minimum wage workers in Maine are women….they are adults whose wages support themselves and their families,” said Townsend.
Steve DiMillo, of DiMillo’s Seafood Restaurant, told the Committee he believed that the minimum wage issue should be addressed at the State level. Finance Committee Chair Nick Mavadones agreed with DiMillo. “I think Augusta needs to take this on,” he said. Mayor Brennan pointed out, however, that Portland’s economy is very different from the rest of the state. “Our economy is thriving. If we really want to have everyone remain in the city, we need a minimum wage. The minimum wage is not a wage that people can live on.” Mavadones defended his Committee’s slowness in addressing the minimum wage issue when he said it simply is not a priority issue.
Tom McMillan, a Green, who is spear heading a campaign to pass an ordinance raising the minimum wage in Portland to $15. an hour said following the hearing: The vote and amendments on minimum wage are an embarrassment to the City of Portland. Portland expects more from the City. People are itching for a real increase. This wage increase isn’t even close.”