A group calling itself People First Portland said Monday that it has filed initial paperwork at Portland City Hall to place five local referendums on the November ballot, among them seeking to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, limit rent increases to inflation and restrict short term rentals.

The group, described as a coalition of the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America and their allies, is also seeking to ban the use of facial recognition technology and to require greater environmental sustainability and other measures to combat climate change.

The group said in a release it is pursuing the measures at the ballot box because of “years of corporate welfare and working-class austerity” in Maine’s largest city.

“This is a huge lift, but after three years of capacity-building at the grassroots level we are well prepared to bring a strong coalition together to take these issues to the ballot for the voters of Portland to decide,” Kate Sykes, former DSA Steering Committee member and volunteer for People First Portland, said in a statement.

Jon Torsch, a spokesperson for the group, did not respond to an email asking for a list of allies involved in the effort and whether the group had formed a political action committee.

Many of the measures are similar to proposals that have been previously considered and rejected by either the City Council or residents. For example, voters in 2015 rejected increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and rejected limits on rent increases in 2017.

People First Portland wants to increase the wage over three years, and besides limiting most rent increases to prohibit landlords from turning away tenants who use housing vouchers, and creating a landlord-tenant board to review rent increases above inflation.

Councilors have resisted calls to further restrict short-term rentals, including increasing registration fees, and repeatedly delayed voting on a proposal to ban facial recognition technology by city staff. The technology can compare digital images to a known database to get people’s identities, prompting constitutional concerns over police surveillance.

The group is also proposing a “Green New Deal for Portland” to ensure all building projects receiving $50,000 or more in public funds are built using up-to-date environmental standards, with solar-ready or living roofs. It would also require additional worker pay and training; increase the numbers of affordable units built in developments of 10 units or more and the affordability of those units; and ask the council to annually monitor use of fossil fuel infrastructure in the city and come up with plans to reduce this infrastructure to meet emissions targets.

The group said it filed affidavits with City Hall on Friday. But the city’s elections clerk had not received them as of Monday morning.

The questions must be reviewed by city staff before the group can begin collecting signatures to put the measures on the ballot.

The group says it needs to collect at 1,500 signatures by July 1 for each question for it to appear on the ballot.


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