The left is having a much-needed identity crisis in this country. Establishment Democrats are finally being challenged by candidates who see neoliberalism for what it is: a political Ponzi scheme that benefits international corporations over taxpayers. In Portland, this tension is already playing out in the City Council race. Candidates Joey Brunelle and Bree Lacasse both identify as progressive Democrats, but there are differences.

Brunelle, a GLBTQ+ activist, advocate for the India Street clinic and charter member of the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America, aims to bring a Bernie Sanders-style viewpoint to City Hall.

His goals include increasing transparency in council proceedings and giving neighborhoods more say in the budgeting process. Brunelle is not accepting donations from political action committees, companies or real estate developers, leaving him free from corporate influence.

Lacasse, a self-described investor with ties to real estate development, wants to “transform society at the intersection of mission and profit,” according to her biography on the jacket of “Uninvested,” a book she co-authored. Backed by moneyed interests, her campaign boasts a paid staff.

In 2013, Lacasse helped raise funds to keep Congress Square Park from being sold, turning it into a community gathering space. But for which community? And at what cost to the most vulnerable people in our city? When the homeless, mentally ill and people with substance abuse issues are run out of public parks, they’re pushed into the margins, making their struggles less visible, but far from over.

Portland is rapidly gentrifying beyond the means of the poor and middle-class people who live and work here. For too long, we’ve left their fate in the hands of donor-class Democrats, who falsely equate the aesthetics of prosperity with prosperity itself. We need a new voice on the council, one to advocate for all Portland residents, not just a few.

Kathryn Sykes