The City Clerk of Portland is seeking seven (7) members for its new Rent Board. Applications should be submitted by December 28, 2020 to be considered by the City. Members of the new Board must be residents of Portland and cannot be officers or employers of the city or any of its agencies or departments.
The successful candidates will be chosen from among the following:
At-large – two seats may be filled from anywhere in the city, and one seat will be selected from each of the five districts in Portland. That’s it? – uh oh! There are no mechanisms in place to guarantee balanced representation on the Board.
Among, but not all of its responsibilities, are: To hear, review and approve or deny landlord applications for rent increases in greater than those allowed by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance; To hear, review and approve or deny landlord applications in Base Rent due to the renovations or reconfiguration of existing Covered Units, as provided for in Section 6-234; And to hear, review and grant or deny appeals from tenants regarding allocations violations of Maine Statutes regarding the habitability of residential units. There are several other responsibilities not detailed herein.
Additional information is available on the city’s website or by calling 207-874-8677. Interested applicants should send a resume and cover letter to Appointments Committee Chair, c/o city clerk, 389 Congress Street, Portland, Maine 04101 or to email@example.com. Applicants will be contacted for interviews. Reminder: Applications need to be submitted by December 28, 2020.
City Councilor Pious Ali is Appointments Committee Chair for the city. Councilor Ali has been a disappointment because of his failure to speak out on behalf of Portland workers. The city council gets final approval of the make-up of the Rent Board as it does all other boards.
The Rent Board is being created because of a tenant protection ordinance that Portland voters passed decisively on November 3, 2020, referred to as Question D on the ballot. The initiative was sponsored by the People First Portland campaign and a coalition of non-profits that included other ordinances to help keep workers in Portland. With a national reputation for high rents that do not align with the incomes of Portland workers, the Portland City Council has done nothing to reverse that reputation. Specifically, Councilor Jill Duson, long-time chair of the Anti-renters Housing Committee never proposed nor supported any city ordinance that would have eased the gentrification of Portland renters. She is not running for re-election and her at-large seat was replaced by Councilor to be April Fournier.
The above information begs the question: what’s to prevent the city from “packing” this Rent Board with landlords or their representatives? The composition of the seven member Board was poorly designed by someone.