Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Jason Singer email@example.com
Assistant City Editor / Online
PORTLAND - His wavy brown hair is gone. He's no longer the de facto leader of the Maine Green Independent Party. But five years after John Eder lost his state House seat amid controversy, he soldiers on, fighting for middle-class workers.
PARTY AFFILIATION: Green Independent
ADDRESS: 101 Gray St.
PERSONAL: Married to Suzanne Kahn Eder
EDUCATION: Some college
OCCUPATION: Works with alcoholics and drug addicts at group homes
POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Maine state representative, 2002-2006. Cumberland County Charter Commission, 2008; chairman, Portland Green Independent Committee, 2010
WEBSITE: Facebook, John Eder for Mayor; www.johneder.org
• Build 1,000 units of affordable housing in Bayside
• Push health care reforms to lower costs for small businesses
• Invest in an electrical grid that will capture local, alternative-energy generation to lower costs and increase sustainability
• Push a regional electricity plan, so Portland and surrounding communities can share costs
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
JOHN EDER will answer questions from Press Herald readers during an hour-long live chat with the candidate at 3 p.m. today. Go to www.pressherald.com to participate.
Editor's note: This is the third of 15 daily profiles of Portland's mayoral candidates, paired with online chats.
For a recent interview in the Bayside neighborhood with a Portland Press Herald reporter, Eder showed up wearing a construction hat. The message? The city needs to push for affordable housing on the peninsula for artists, laborers and other working-class residents, who are being pushed out of the downtown by high rents.
"We're on the verge of the creative economy toppling the artists and workers who helped make Portland become what it is," he said. "We can't lose those people."
Affordable housing would be a centerpiece of Eder's mayoral agenda. If elected Nov. 8, he promises to start construction of 1,000 affordable units in Bayside by the end of his term.
He would accomplish that, he said, by pushing the City Council to advertise a tax break for developers who will build simple, sustainable and reasonably priced housing.
In return for such a tax break, the City Council should demand living wages for construction workers, he said.
"We give tax breaks to the things we value in this city," Eder said. "So why haven't we given a tax break to help the working people?"
Eder, now 42, began his political career in 2002, when he became the first Green Independent to win a House seat in Maine. He won a seat again in 2004, despite being redistricted away from his base.
In the 2006 election, however, his political career took an unexpected turn. A few weeks before Election Day, the National Organization for Women made calls on Eder's behalf, endorsing him and implying that his Democratic opponent, Jon Hinck, was soft on women's rights.
But the robocalls never said they were funded by Eder -- in violation of a new state law -- and Hinck later said he was a strong women's-rights advocate. Eder was fined $100, and with a backlash from the calls, he lost his seat by about 90 votes.
He said he's learned his lesson.
"I had never done negative campaigning before, and I won't ever do anything close to it again," he said. "What the calls should have said, and what I will say in the future is, 'Vote for John Eder because you like my ideas.' That's it."
Regardless of all that has changed in recent years, Eder still has plenty of ideas.
In addition to tax breaks to promote affordable housing, he would like to push living-wage jobs in all development contracts involving the city.
He also would like the schools and the Metro bus system to combine some of their resources, and have high school students use the bus system to get to school. That would foster sustainable habits in the city's youths, he said, and give Metro the money and riders it needs to make much-needed improvements.
High-quality public transportation systems, he said, attract young people and families. That would help broaden the city's tax base by increasing population, and would help enhance Portland's "sustainable" image.
Eder also would like to lower health care costs through two initiatives:
n By organizing small businesses into co-ops that can take advantage of the federal Affordable Health Care Act exchange coming online in 2014.
n By better marketing the state's Dirigo Health medical coverage, which he said has "underutilized" money-saving programs that can aid businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Those programs include health care for part-time workers.
"If we want to build a real sustainable city, we need to start tackling these big issues," Eder said. "We can't be afraid to talk about them and we can't keep passing responsibility to the next generation. The cavalry isn't coming."
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