“I am not looking to pass anything tonight. I want staff to investigate the bonus point system,” said Councilor Nick Mavadones, chair of the Finance Committee earlier this evening. His disappointing but not surprising stall came at the end of a discussion by the Committee following the testimony of numerous supporters of the “Responsible Contracting” ordinance. Billed as an opportunity for public comment and then a vote on the ordinance by the city spokesperson, Mavadones unplugged the plug on those plans.
Conservatives Mavadones and Councilor Justin Costa would rather vote “NO” in front of an empty council chamber than in front of a packed chamber. That stall left about fifty (50) or more leaders in the trades wondering – WHAT? This is ‘how democracy works’ in Portland?
The most egregious part of the ordinance for conservatives Mavadones and Councilor Justin Costa concerned a required apprenticeship with a registered training program. Costa expressed concern there had been a legal challenge to the apprenticeship requirement. City staff was asked to do MORE, MORE and MORE research on the matter.
Numerous speakers spoke on the value of the apprenticeshop program. “Apprentice- ship programs are great for people who don’t want to or can’t afford to go to college,” said Don Nazaroff of Local 17 Sheet Metal Workers. “Working class people are growing more insecure all the time. We can’t overestimate how important apprenticeships are and how the program has changed peoples’ lives,” testified Matt Schlobohm, Executive Director of the Maine AFL-CIO. “This is a solution in search of a problem is not true,” said Jason Shedlock, a Union President, who formerly worked for the Mayor and was referring to a comment by the Committee Chair. “When you put safety in place, there was a fatal accident on Munjoy Hill several weeks ago because of a lack of safety equipment.” John M. Leavitt, Regional Business Manager, for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, said of the court challenge, that the challenge in Massachusetts was because of the way in which it was written, to adhere to state law incorrectly. Leavitt also said: “There is nothing more expensive than an untrained workforce.”
Grant Provost, one of the last to testify, said: “It so far has been an excellent portrayal of just why Maine is ranked 6th in the top 10 lowest paying states for construction jobs in the country. …Portland has become the prime example for this trend, with the cost of living skyrocketing in the past decade while wages stay low. Is it really a surprise that there is a shortage of skilled trades people willing to work here in Portland?
“We have been talking about this for years now. Let’s move it forward NOW,” John Napolitan, business manager, for UA Local 716 told the Committee. A former resident of Munjoy HIll, he said he can no longer afford to live on the Hill.
The City Doesn’t Care: Particularly Jill Duson, who chairs the Housing Committee. She is part of the conservative wing of the Portland city council and was present at the Committee meeting. The trio are among the most conservative members of the city council.
The Mayor said: “It’s disappointing that at the last minute, we are down to a scoring system. That’s where we started.”
For more background information, please see the previous post herein.