After the recent election, the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce’s director of advocacy tweeted: “A stunning repudiation of extremism … It’s abundantly clear: the signature policies of @DSA_Maine and @mayorstrim have no home in Portland.”

Although I am always honored to have the policies I support attacked by what I consider the Portland arm of the Republican Party, this is remarkable spin coming from a group that tried to defeat 11 initiatives pushed by progressives and was only able to stop four – despite its spending more than 10 times what our side spent on campaigning. The Chamber claimed that what Portland won this past November was a “mandate for moderation.” If that was “moderate” change, count me a centrist.

Here is just some of what the people of Portland won this year: 

• The strongest rent control and tenant protections on the Eastern Seaboard, providing renters a semblance of stability in this decades-long housing crisis.

• The first municipal clean elections program in Maine, allowing candidates for all local offices to run with public money, instead of donations from the Chamber and its allies.

• Meaningful civilian oversight of our police department so citizens can report abuses and have them investigated with consequence.


• An independent ethics panel to ensure our leaders are operating on the up and up, and to give the public confidence that backroom deals are not occurring. 

In any election year, passing one of the above reforms would be considered remarkable. Passing them together, on the heels of 2020’s $15 minimum wage with hazard pay, facial surveillance ban, rent control and Green New Deal, is a win for working people the likes of which most cities in America haven’t seen for decades.

That said, we did lose a few that would have materially helped workers, added much-needed housing and made our government more democratic. But that is what always happens in struggles for social justice. You fight to take a few steps forward, knowing that winning 12 of 17 would be more than you ever imagined.

While Mayor Kate Snyder has sadly been on the wrong side of all 12 initiatives that passed, I do hope that the mayor and the new City Council, when it gets sworn in Monday, take seriously the need to act boldly going forward. 

To quote the editorial board of this paper from just before the election: “(Portland) is experiencing sharp growing pains; it has been getting harder and harder for working-class people to live in for some time. City leaders need to be thinking of those people – lower-income, younger, or newly arrived – more than they are. The mile-long ballot now facing citizens is a direct result of failure to arrest that trend … Our city’s elected and unelected officials have to take blame for allowing us to get to this point, and – whatever the outcome on Nov. 8 – they must begin taking urgent steps to reverse it.



As the Press Herald made clear, our elected leaders have work to do if they want to protect the affordability of the city we all love. A first step would be to robustly enforce and fund what was passed by the people. The city told the public that the seven questions which passed would cost just under a million dollars to implement. That money should be allocated by Jan. 1, 2023, and all staffing in place by the end of March.

After that, the mayor and council should use the initiatives that didn’t pass as a good opportunity to bring the city together and build compromises. Proponents and opponents actually agreed on many provisions. 

Many who opposed Question D said they would support an $18 minimum and might support the elimination of the subminimum if it were extended over more years. Opponents to Question B said they mostly opposed the inclusion of non-winterized island properties in the short-term rental ban. And, right now, the Portland City Council has a compromise in front of it built by opposing sides that would dramatically reduce the pollution cruise ships spew while protecting waterfront jobs.

Passing these compromises, or something similar, would show everyone that the city is willing to take the urgent steps the Press Herald and so many others are calling for. 

Or, if they continue to ignore our struggles, the next ballot may once again need to be “mile-long.”

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