In a historic moment in Portland’s history, leaders of the People First Portland (PFP) coalition claimed a solid victory in four of the five referenda on yesterday’s ballot at a press conference this afternoon on the steps of city hall. No city officials attended the press conference, although Mayor Kate issued a statement before the press conference was over.
Portland’s anti-tenant, pro-poverty wages, and failure to stand up to developers who they cater to policies was turned upside down and inside out with a resounding victory at the polls yesterday. “We have acted where city council has refused to budge. And, in doing so, we have shown that the people have the power to stand up and create law that puts our interests first, “said Kate Sykes, an organizer of the referenda at the press conference who also finished second in a city council race for District 5 in Portland.
“We can say that the days of performative public testimony and one-way communication with a council that rules above and against the working class are over. The people are speaking loud and clear. We are speaking as one and we will not be silenced,” Sykes said.
Voters passed referenda approving a higher minimum wage for all workers and hazard pay for essential workers, a ban on facial surveillance, a local Green New Deal to reduce our carbon footprint and renter protections to prevent price gouging and give adequate time to relocate rather than the 30-day notice that currently exists.
Not only was the PFP agenda massively outfunded, but it was opposed by Mayor Kate of Portland and most of the city council who issued a two-page Declaration of Opposition to Questions A-E. (Councilor Pious Ali did not sign on to the Declaration of Opposition, but has been silent on his position).
Not surprising, the editorial page of the “Republican Press Herald,” the city’s mouthpiece, an advocate of the status quo and a champion of the real estate industry whose advertising revenue keeps it from going bust, joined in the denunciation of Questions A-E: Because the subjects were “too complicated” to be addressed by referenda. Well, what have the city of Portland and the Republican Press Herald done to simplify the issues? It’s not complicated if you are given only 30 days to find a new apartment when the vacancy rate is negligible. Mhn.com has been there and done that. Given 30 days to relocate so the new building owner could renovate for a much higher rent on Munjoy Hill. Not complicated, Mr. Quiche. Not complicated at all.
Em Burnett, also of PFP, added a number of steps the city must immediately address to implement, including: Notify all businesses that starting December 3rd all essential workers must be paid no less than $18. an hour and that the wage for all minimum age workers will increase to $13. an hour on January 1, 2022; Prepare to create the Rental Board and appoint members so tenants and landlords have a fully functioning board by early 2021; Notify all landlords that rents must revert back to the level they were on June 1st, that they must now accept tenants with Section 8 Vouchers, and that all at-will tenants must receive 90 days notice prior to eviction; Reach out to the Maine Department of Labor and the Apprenticeship Board to develop language for all Portland vendors who receive $50,000 or more to ensure compliance with Prevailing Wages, safety and training requirements as mandated by the Green New Deal; Notify the Planning Board that all new housing projects must meet the 25% inclusionary zoning requirement and improved affordability standards; Ensure that the Portland Police Department and all city staff, are fully aware of the new consequences of violating the city’s facial surveillance ban.
“Although some in the regressive press call it a “progressive” agenda, that is a mischaracterization of the citizen initiative referenda that passed impressively. It is really a common sense agenda. It only seems progressive to some because city council policies have been so regressive toward tenants and the workforce in the recent past. In other cities across the nation, these measures are simply good policy. It is time for city hall to embrace the 21st century rather than fight it by living in the last century.” said mhn.com in a press release to myself.
“We have come to expect Donald Trump’s administration to threaten the will of the people, but here in Portland we hope we have a far higher standard of democracy,” said Sykes.
Mayor Kate of Portland wasted no time in issuing a press release announcing city staff will begin “analyzing the impact of the citizen initiative referendum questions and will have more information to share once the analysis is complete and will share its findings with the public so businesses and residents are aware of the implications.” Her press release arrived just after the PFP press conference began.
For more background information, please visit posts dated October 27, 2020 and October 21, 2020 herein.