On Monday, a referendum petition is being submitted at Portland City Hall. A second petition is coming on its heels. If certified, both petitions will be on the citywide ballot in November. One referendum would make an absolute hash of Portland’s burgeoning housing market. The other is a terribly written, unenforceable, unconstitutional, unnecessary and unabashed end run around an exhaustive and inclusive development review process.

Many of us in politics like to hit the “pause” button during August. But it is time to press “play,” because these two abominations could pass.

Maine people lately are growing weary of politics by referendum. This year the Legislature handled no fewer than a dozen bills seeking to restrain the citizen-initiated referendum process. Moreover, bad law enacted by referendum is increasingly moving legislators to break their tradition of “respecting the will of the voters.”

Several recent referendum campaigns have been widely criticized for dubious signature-gathering practices. Walking into the supermarket and glancing at a clipboard in the hand of an aggressive signature gatherer, one might easily perceive both these Portland petitions as good and necessary policy. Some issues are better suited for referendum than others. Remember how simple it was when the question was “casinos yes” or “casinos no”?

The right of citizens to petition our government is sacrosanct, and a necessary backstop. But it can be misused and overused, particularly in Portland. My colleagues in the signature-gathering industry love the Forest City because it is so easy to get signatures here. Lots of fair-minded folks here sign any petition because we want to hear the debate.

Nuanced policy issues such as land-use zoning and mercurial housing markets belong in the deliberative legislative realm. Increasingly, these referendum debates are propelled by fake news and huge money. Portlanders need to understand and reject the proposed questions because they are so uncompromising.

Sometimes even a bad referendum can serve as a lever to effectuate a good policy change. Three recent Portland ballot questions are cases in point: Congress Square, view rights and a $15 local minimum wage.

I worked against the Congress Square referendum, but I noted shortly before the election that the outcome was going to be positive regardless of the vote tally. Why? Because the folks who advocated for protecting Congress Square Plaza had coalesced into such an effective force for sustainable improvement. The once-dead space is alive and well today because of it.

In 2015, I worked against the view rights ordinance, and I give credit to the development group that was the sole target of that referendum. They worked tirelessly with their detractors – and it cost them a lot of time and money – to amend the project plans sufficient to thwart the sentiment that might have otherwise produced a “yes” vote.

I also worked against the Portland-alone minimum wage of $15 per hour. In the months before that 2015 referendum, I gave it a 50-50 chance of passage. Then, just weeks before the election, the Portland City Council stopped it dead in its tracks by passing its own version of a minimum wage at $10.10.

Unlike the Congress Square situation, today’s snob-zoning referendum is a blunt instrument that contains no leverage elements allowing it to result in a positive outcome.

Unlike the viewshed issue, there is no opportunity in the neighborhood veto referendum for bargaining between developer and opposition, hence no hope for a positive compromise. The ballot question’s unconscionable retroactivity clause, which has one project (ironically, a housing development) in its cross hairs, ensures that no good can come of this.

Unlike the minimum-wage debate, where the City Council swooped in to save the day, the neighborhood veto referendum has no potential middle ground that would salvage a happy ending.

As for the well-intended rent control referendum, Portland has already responded and continues to respond heroically. We have adopted several policies that are working. The market has responded with about 1,000 housing units that have been produced or have begun development since we all declared a housing crisis. This proposed rent control referendum arrives years too late, and it goes miles too far.

Please do your own research, but start right here with a healthy dose of skepticism: After studying the language of both questions – for reasons of both policy and process – I am certain that it is time for Portlanders to push back at referendum misuse. We can begin by resoundingly defeating both questions.