While most of the country rejected socialist economic policies and the progressive Democrat candidates espousing them on Election Day, Portland voters fully embraced government control of the economy and will soon feel its devastating effects.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

With Portland’s approval of rent control and a $15 minimum wage by 2024 – as well as a whopping $18 minimum wage during periods of declared emergencies, which we’re in now, thanks to Gov. Janet Mills’ unceasing declaration of a state of emergency during coronavirus – the communities surrounding Portland will soon reap a whirlwind of economic benefit as Portland commerce flees the city.

Portland’s loss will be Greater Portland’s gain. The only question is how fast the exodus will occur.

Early adopters will benefit. Wise and nimble business owners will move while the moving is good, perhaps before December, when the $18 wage could commence. On the other hand, hesitant business owners afraid of losing their customer and employee base, or unable to find commercial space in Greater Portland, will hemorrhage cash and might go out of business altogether.

The naivety of Portland voters is amazing. We’ve seen it in the past, but the Nov. 3 referendums took it to another level.

Voters not only hiked the minimum wage, which will inflate the cost of goods and services, they imposed rent control measures that peg increases to no higher than the rate of inflation. They also imposed Green New Deal-type environmental mandates on publicly funded housing units.

If Portland were a distant island, such economic policies might work, since competition wouldn’t exist. But Portland isn’t an island; it’s surrounded by free-market-embracing communities ready and willing to absorb the businesses and employees needing to flee the city.

Do you think owners of coffee shops, salons, grocery stores, bike shops or any other type of business that employs minimum wage workers will continue to do business in Portland if they needlessly have to pay a high wage? Of course not. They’ll choose to base their operations in a less costly, nearby municipality.

As a result of Portland’s vote, residents, town planners and governing bodies of the inner circle of communities surrounding Portland should start planning now for the coming exodus.

Westbrook, Cape Elizabeth, South Portland, Scarborough and Falmouth are best positioned to reap the benefits. The outer ring of communities surrounding Portland – including Cumberland, Gorham, Windham, Buxton and Gray – should also anticipate a boom in business growth and population.

The exodus will be good and bad. Property owners in outlying communities will no doubt experience increased property values, but it’ll bring traffic and urban sprawl like we’ve never seen, which is ironic since the Portland voters who call themselves liberal and green-minded will only have themselves to blame for sparking the sprawl that will expand the region’s carbon footprint like nothing else could.

So who’s turning Portlanders against the free market? That would be People First Portland, an amalgam of Democrat-led social justice organizations and unions that was established to advocate for the referendums.

Their name says it all: People first, businesses last.

But just as many socialist regimes around the world call themselves People’s Republics, the people eventually lose in the long run from government price-setting. People First Portland’s anti-business stances do nothing but hurt workers.

Portland’s mayor and City Council tried to warn the electorate not to fall for the group’s fairy tale economic policies, especially during an already challenging economic time due to the virus. But, predictably, Portlanders took no heed and will pay the price.

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