Nick Mavodones, treasurer of Enough is Enough, said during a news conference on Wednesday, “Political activist groups are manipulating Portland’s referendum process, pushing policies so poorly designed and ill-considered they can’t pass them through our elected City Council, so instead they’ve put them on the ballot.” Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

A group urging Portland voters to reject all 14 ballot questions this November formally launched its campaign Wednesday afternoon.

“Political activist groups are manipulating Portland’s referendum process, pushing policies so poorly designed and ill-considered they can’t pass them through our elected City Council, so instead they’ve put them on the ballot,” Nick Mavodones, treasurer of the group Enough is Enough, said during a news conference outside Bruno’s Restaurant and Tavern. “We say enough is enough.”

The questions that Portland voters are expected to consider Nov. 8 include five citizen-initiated referendums, eight questions proposed by the Charter Commission and a question the City Council is initiating for a charter amendment that would incorporate gender neutral language into the city charter.

Four of the citizen-initiated referendums are being brought forward by the Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Livable Portland campaign.

The DSA also was successful in getting voters to approve a slate of referendums in 2020, including an increase to the minimum wage and the Green New Deal building code. Their latest proposals were a focal point of Wednesday’s news conference, which also included comments from community members opposed to the referendums.

“They claim they’re making Portland ‘livable’ for workers and marginalized communities, but through arrogance or ignorance, perhaps both, these activists will hurt the very people they claim to support,” Mavodones said. “The truth is these ballot measures will depress worker wages, make housing less affordable and scarcer, hurt our small businesses, fundamentally change how our local government is run and raise our property taxes.”



Alex Parisi, who owns and operates a property management company, Curate Maine, manages several Airbnb and long-term rentals and said she is worried about the DSA’s proposal to restrict short-term rentals to only those that are owner-occupied, tenant-occupied or in a two-unit building where one unit is occupied by the owner.

Alex Parisi, who manages Airbnbs and other rental properties, speaks at an Enough is Enough news conference on Wednesday in Portland. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“I work really, really hard to stay in this city that I love and if this ballot question goes through, I will have to reinvent myself,” Parisi said. She said having moderate numbers of Airbnb rentals, such as one unit in a building of 11 units, can help landlords offset costs to manage and run a building.

Parisi also said that while she is concerned with the DSA’s short-term rental proposal specifically, she is also frustrated by the referendum process and the fact there are two referendums on the ballot both addressing short-term rentals. The other proposal from a group of homeowners and rental operators seeks to limit corporate and non-local operators from registering short-term rentals in the city.

“It’s confusing,” Parisi said. “What if both of them pass?”

Joshua Chaisson, who waits tables at the Porthole Restaurant & Pub and is a spokesperson for another ballot question committee, Restaurant Industry United, said his committee is opposed to the DSA’s minimum wage proposal because along with increasing the minimum wage to $18 per hour, the proposal also eliminates the sub-minimum or tip credit wage that many service workers earn.


He said the proposal could lead to support staff losing their jobs and restaurants may move toward counter service or automated options for ordering. “Workers like myself oppose tip credit elimination because we understand the unintended consequences that come along with that, unlike folks that don’t work in our industry,” Chaisson said.

Members of the DSA pushed back on the opposition from Enough is Enough and said they believe the referendums will lead to a more equitable city. The DSA’s proposals also include restrictions on cruise ships and the number of passengers that can disembark per day and a referendum that seeks to increase protections for tenants.

“Unfortunately, as workers in this city struggle to pay for food, as renters are pushed out of their homes, as neighborhoods are turned into playgrounds for tourists, and as our planet melts, some simply want to protect the status quo as we offer solutions,” Wes Pelletier, chair of the Livable Portland campaign, said in a statement Wednesday. “The voters saw this temper tantrum for what it was in 2020, and we expect that they won’t be fooled this November either.”

Former Mayor Ethan Strimling, a member of the campaign committee, defended the citizen-initiated referendum process, which he said is more transparent than the alternative process of lobbyists trying to influence city councilors.

“More importantly, in 2020 we passed four referendums and those referendums have had a valuable impact on our community in restricting rent increases, raising wages, making sure cops are not surveilling people without their permission and building more housing,” Strimling said. “So the consequences of the 2020 referendums have been very positive, and I expect the same for the referendums in 2022.”



Some of the questions being considered this year are less controversial than others. The charter commission’s eight questions include a complex proposal that would dramatically alter the structure of leadership and invest more power in the city’s mayor, but there are also much more straight-forward questions like a proposal to codify the Peaks Island Council in the charter.

Most of the discussion at Wednesday’s news conference focused on the proposals from DSA, and when asked about the 10 other questions voters will face, Mavodones said it would be possible to “go through each proposal and perhaps find something you like or don’t like,” though the Enough is Enough committee is encouraging people to vote against all of them.

“My biggest issue is, trying to govern the city through referendum I think is a bad idea,” said Mavodones, a former city councilor who also was appointed mayor four times prior to the city’s change to a popularly elected mayor. “One thing I know is there are a lot of unintended consequences with everything that comes before an elected body, no matter how simple it seems. At least when you have elected people working on those issues they can meet, they can have process, they can negotiate. … With stuff like this, you can’t do that.”

According to city code, the council cannot amend an ordinance approved by referendum vote for five years, though it can propose changes through an additional referendum.

But the chair of the charter commission also pointed out Wednesday that according to the charter revision process outlined in state law, charter revisions must go through a charter commission and then be sent to voters via referendum in order to be enacted.

“It’s worrying and disappointing that a group would oppose every single question put forward by a charter commission that was created with a 70 percent landslide vote by voters and where even the most controversial proposal was supported by a super majority of the charter commission,” Charter Commission Chair Michael Kebede said.


“There is no other way to do charter reform in Maine,” he said. “This is the way charter reform happens. So is former Councilor Mavodones saying there’s something illegitimate about the charter because it was adopted through referendum?”

Matt Marks, a spokesperson for the Enough is Enough campaign, said later Wednesday that the committee understands that the charter revision process necessitates sending questions to voters for approval, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that voters will have so many proposals before them that could interact in unforeseen ways.

He said the campaign is mostly focused on the charter commission’s governance proposal and school board budget autonomy proposal and is not as concerned with the other six questions.

“What’s unfortunate is when you have a big item like governance and have a lot of things on the ballot happening, you can’t have a substantial debate because there are so many things on the ballot and these are dramatic changes,” Marks said.

Chris Korzen, one of the authors of the non-DSA short-term rental proposal, defended the referendum Wednesday but said he agrees that it’s too easy to get citizen-initiated questions on the ballot. “Fifteen-hundred (signatures) is a drop in the bucket,” Korzen said. “It’s very easy to get those signatures and that’s a pretty low bar.”

Mayor Kate Snyder said in a text message late Wednesday she wasn’t available to talk about the Enough is Enough campaign and the council-initiated question.



Enough is Enough is one of six ballot question committees that have formed ahead of the November election with plans to spend money to influence referendum questions. Committees must register with the city if they spend more than $5,000.

The other committees that have formed include a group supporting the charter commission’s clean elections proposal, two groups that have taken competing positions on a minimum wage proposal and elimination of the sub-minimum or tip credit wage and the DSA’s Livable Portland campaign.

Most of the groups have yet to report raising or spending any money on their campaigns, though Enough is Enough has reported just over $30,000 in unpaid debts and obligations so far, which is more than any other group, according to initial campaign finance reports.

About $25,000 of those expenses are for services provided by Cornerstone Government Affairs, a consulting firm specializing in government relations and public affairs.

Five groups registered with the city this summer while a sixth group, Protect Portland’s Future, filed its registration Wednesday and is opposed to the charter commission’s proposals. An email to Protect Portland’s Future seeking more information about the committee was not returned Wednesday.

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