Like most people do during the first couple weeks of a new year, I’ve been thinking about resolutions.
For some reason, I’m psychologically hardwired to think about bettering myself at the resetting of a unit of measuring time. I’m sure you’re having similar thoughts.
In fact, I know you are, because I asked many of you while casually strolling Portland’s streets after last week’s storm. Most of you responded as expected. You said that 2017 would be the year that you get in shape, read more books, save more money, finish school, create more art, or become more active in your community. Some of you said you plan on travelling more, which is always nice to hear, but all in all, you gave me some pretty standard resolutions. It seems that we’re all searching for the same things, really: happiness and gratification.
So while we’re all inspired to become better humans, and make 2017 a hell of a lot more bearable than 2016, let’s remember that we’re still players in a larger game. It’s easy to get caught up in our individual struggles and forget about our role in the community. Our actions affect others, and our resolutions might too. Instead of trying to win the rat-race, it’s time for us to make sure everyone has a fair start. It doesn’t seem right to make resolutions that are purely self-oriented. How can one truly promise themselves happiness, financial success, good health and actualization, when their neighbor’s struggling to secure basic needs? While we’re climbing to the top of Maslow’s pyramid, let’s not abandon the ones we left at the base. What’s that phrase that’s almost gone stale? We’re all in this together.
Considering this, I asked various local figures last week to reflect on their role within our community, and give me a New Year’s resolution for the city of Portland. May they provide the fleeting, but potentially powerful feelings of optimism and renewal, we all crave so much during these strange times.
Let 2017 be the year that we force ourselves and our community leaders to stick to our resolutions, double down on our dreams, and make sure Portland is a welcoming, vibrant and opportunity-rich city for all.
Ethan Strimling, Mayor of Portland
“My resolution for the city would be to pass a bond to rebuild our four elementary schools. We need to pass the school bond because we need real change for the 7-year-old at Lyseth, who has to attend classes in a hallway. And the 8-year-old at Presumpscot, who has to put on his snow boots to leave the trailer he calls a classroom to go the restroom. And the 6-year-old at Reiche who can’t hear her teacher over the noise. And the 9-year-old at Longfellow who sits in a chair with tennis balls on the bottoms of its legs so he doesn’t scratch the asbestos tiles on the floor.”
On housing solutions: "[We need to] increase from 30 to 90 the number of days a landlord must provide prior to evicting a tenant without cause, ban discrimination against tenants who have housing vouchers, and increase the percent of housing that must be affordable in new housing developments (increase the inclusionary housing ordinance)."
Herb Adams, politician, historian and member of the Parkside Neighborhood Association
“Portland's New Year resolutions should be to build affordable housing for an affordable city for average people. Condo developers and Trumpists can take care of themselves — and always do! For the rest of us, diversity, affordability and city greenery spell liveability, and in that, Portland can be rich.
We also need to promote, preserve, protect, and expand Portland’s city parks — open green space will get Portland through times of no money better than money will get us through times of no parks.”
Molly Adams, journalist and editorial director of Grand State
“The city of Portland should make actual resolutions about rent control that is tied to local cost of living and minimum wage. Developers of large-scale projects should resolve to care just a bit about style over cost. Newcomers and young people should think beyond the peninsula for their housing. We should all pay more attention to the homeless. And we should all resolve to keep Portland the fun, friendly, unpretentious, liberal-ass city that it is by leaving our homes and loving public space.”
Robert Marcroft, Portland-based activist and social worker
“The city is tailoring itself to high-end renter folks who have a lot of privilege. It’s pushing people and businesses out that have been here for ages. There’s a high-end apartment building that’s going in within sight of the homeless shelter. ‘Scenic view,’ it’s absurd.
For a New Year’s resolution, the city needs to think critically about development, what it means for Portland and who it impacts. These market forces are happening and the city is bending their knees to it. The city should rethink their interactions with property developers. I'd like to see the city promote development that supports the working class, the people that drive this city. Portland should be a livable space for everyone.”
Nickie Sekera, Fryeburg resident, member of Community Water Justice and local activist
“I would love to see Portland commit to increasing free drinking water accessibility in public spaces for residents and visitors. Making clean water readily available not only reduces our waste stream but also offers confidence that a humane and dignified existence, for all people, is still a priority and attainable. It makes no ecological sense for us to subscribe to the 'culture of convenience' of bottled water that is being promoted when we have the best tap water the world has to offer ... and why not offer the best of what Maine has to give.”
“A second resolution for the city of Portland would be to either dismantle the police force or demilitarize them and provide anti-racist training. If we wish to build our communities effectively, we need to take a step back and create an effective community policing system that is modeled differently. Hearing Portland's Chief emulate the language of war and war tactics in his work brings our global war culture to the streets of our own community and feel that is a bigger danger to our people than any handcuffed target.”
Drew-Christopher Joy, the Executive Director at the Southern Maine Workers' Center
"We believe that the City of Portland can and should become a model human rights city by prioritizing public health systems; expanding tenants’ rights and creating affordable housing; ensuring living wages, safe working conditions, fair scheduling, paid sick leave, respect for all of Portland’s workers, and by protecting Portland’s immigrant communities from deportations and discrimination. We know that in the years ahead at the state and national level there will be attacks on our communities and on our human rights. We hope that Portland can demonstrate that there is an alternative form of government--one that puts human needs before private profits. Of course cities can not act on their own. Cities require the actions of its residents to make change. We encourage all of Portland’s people to become active in organizing for racial and economic justice."
Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine
“Portland is Maine's leading green city. NRCM featured many of Portland's excellent sustainability initiatives in a report last year. I applaud their recent efforts to reduce the use of single use plastic bags and Styrofoam containers, and increase solar energy. For 2017, I'd love to see Portland move forward to make food composting work for everyone, and to foster more clean, efficient, energy improvements. Progress on a sustainable economy will always begin locally; that's true now more than ever.”
Kenneth Lewis, pastor at Green Memorial AME Zion Church
“I resolve and encourage Portland to resolve to be a bridge builder by seeing and making connections among people who dedicate their time and energy to work for the common good, bringing out the best in others for the benefit of others.”
Bishop Robert P. Deeley, Roman Catholic Diocese
“A worthy focus of our efforts in 2017 would be to remember the lessons learned during the recently concluded Jubilee Year of Mercy. The many corporal and spiritual works of mercy that were carried out in our diocese were transformative experiences for those who reached out to those facing need, and a renewal of hope and a connection to the merciful love of God for those who received. I am deeply grateful to God for how I have witnessed our clergy, parishioners, and community members live out this message of the mercy of the Gospel in so many ways.
Though the jubilee year is over, join me in ensuring that its message and meaning carry on in 2017 and beyond. Be merciful to those in need, welcome immigrants and others who have come to our country seeking peace and a better life, recognize injustices and work to correct them, and defend the dignity of God’s gift of life. The year has reminded us to trust more deeply in God’s love for us and to turn more often to receive His mercy.
As a new year begins, let us commit to continuing to walk through that door by bringing love and mercy into our world.”
Judy Katzel, Communications Officer at Catholic Charities
“My wish for Portland is that we continue to be an open, kind, and welcoming city for all who wish to make this home. That we embrace our similarities, honor our differences, and believe in our goodness. In 2017, I know that the kindness and generosity of our community will outpace the voices of fear and intolerance.
At Catholic Charities Maine, we often get calls asking: ‘What can I do to support the refugee community?’ The easy answer is: donate money! There is always a need to support new families with goods and services specific to their situations. The more complex answer involves personal action. If you are a business, consider hiring refugees who are here and eager to become self-sustaining. Be kind, tolerant, and patient with those who are new to our language and our culture. In the end, it will take us all working together to raise up the economy of our city and our state.”
Pious Ali, Portland City Councilor At-Large
“My resolution for the city is to create more opportunities for everyone that lives here, especially our young people. To work both in- and outside government, to find a way to keep our young people here, but also attract more. We need to keep our young people from going away.”
Dinah Minot, Executive Director of Creative Portland
“Our New Year’s resolution is to promote a culture of sharing and transparency. Collaborating closely, we will clearly define what Creative Portland can offer to the arts and culture community, and we will embrace Portland’s diversity by focusing on immigrant integration and cultural acceptance. We are excited to take a leadership role in a citywide Cultural Plan initiative, launching in mid-January with an illustrious steering committee of engaged community leaders to create a collective action plan to sustain the creative economy.”
Liz Pettengill, Director of Community Outreach at One Longfellow Square
“It would be wonderful for the city to make a resolution to find more ways to support the arts within the community, the artists that create them and the organizations that foster those artists. It’s these people and organizations that have helped Portland become so attractive nationally. It would be nice for the city to do what it can to allow the artists and the establishments that employ them to remain in the community, so they may continue to create and to help the city flourish.”
Mark Swann, Executive Director at the Preble Street Resource Center
“In the New Year, Preble Street would like to see the city of Portland resolve to affirm the city's longstanding policy of ensuring that anyone experiencing homelessness in Portland will always have a safe place and a warm roof over their head. But more than that, we want the city to resolve to get people off mats on the floor, to treat people with dignity and respect, and to work to fix the fractured and overwhelmed shelter system while we simultaneously making housing available for all. We need to commit ourselves to being a city that is ruled by compassion and kindness.”
Stephen Cotreau, Program Manager at the Portland Recovery Center
“Opiate addiction/abuse is all of our problem. It does not change because the calendar does. It has been a focus for years now. The problem just keeps getting worse and worse. More kids dying all the time, less treatment available. We need detox and residential treatment. Supportive structured housing for those on medication-assisted treatment. The acuity of the folks battling addiction now with opiates is very high, [and] outpatient treatment is a waste of money. The community is affected adversely — [whether] you want to help or not you are paying a price. Higher medical costs, higher prices at the store, loss of a viable work force, the list is long. If we as a community want it to change we have to invest in change, not just talk about it. I personally feel that these kids are worth it. In recovery they are amazing.”
Bob Fowler, Executive Director at the Milestone Foundation
“I'd say that my hope is that the Greater Portland Addiction Collaborative (GPAC) will be fully funded in 2017.”
Casey Gilbert, executive director of Portland Downtown
“I think that a good New Year's resolution for the city of Portland would be to keep shining brightly and doing what we do best: being inclusive, creative and forward-thinking. In 2017, Portland Downtown's focus will be to deliver excellent programs and services to our stakeholders and the community and to make our events the best that they can be."
Jon Morse, independent promoter and artist at Last Mercy Emissions
“I would advise that residents who are musically/artistically-inclined be mindful of the outstanding, underrated rehearsal spaces and concert venues that are so readily available in Portland (i.e. Grime Studios and Geno's Rock Club, respectively). Without them, the nightlife, music and arts scene here would surely suffer. No time like the present to give credit where credit is due — support today.”
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