On Sept. 16, the Portland City Council decided to overrule the will of the 8,500 voters who signed the citizen-initiated charter amendment petition to establish a municipal public funding program. The council chose instead to follow the ill-informed opinion of the city’s corporation counsel and voted to postpone the matter indefinitely.

Now Councilors Belinda Ray and Justin Costa are offering to propose an alternative amendment. Don’t be fooled! Their amendment would only establish a shell of a public funding program that – unlike the citizen-initiated amendment – would not require the City Council to fund it. Quite simply, a public funding program without guaranteed sufficient funding is not a public funding program at all.

Remember that only three members of the City Council (and three school board members) are up for re-election each year. If the council can choose whether or not to fund the program sufficiently each year, the funding process would be at risk of becoming a political weapon. A majority of councilors who wish to see a colleague unseated could fund the program fully when that councilor is up for re-election, allowing a well-funded challenger to run a strong campaign. Similarly, the council could insufficiently fund the program in other years to help ensure other colleagues are better protected from well-funded challengers.

The Portland City Council must learn to take the will of the voters seriously. A watered-down version of the citizens’ charter amendment is an insult to everyone who signed the people’s petition. It is simply unacceptable.

Carlo Macomber


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