Portland swears in new councilors, implements several ballot initiatives

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During a City Council meeting where three new councilors were sworn in, City Manager Jon Jennings reviewed the city’s implementation plan for all or parts of five citizen initiatives approved last month by voters.

With the exception of a minimum wage increase, which the city has said will not be fully implemented until 2024, and parts of the Green New Deal, which will be delayed until 2022, Jennings said implementation has begun for the remaining initiatives.

The Green New Deal exceptions include an apprenticeship portion of the measure, and the measure’s application to projects that receive more than $50,000 in city financing, rather than the current $250,000.

Portland City Clerk Katherine Jones, top left, administers the oath of office to new City Councilors April Fournier, Mark Dion, and Andrew Zarro during the council’s remote meeting on Dec. 7. (Portland Phoenix/Colin Elis)

Jennings said the ordinances affected the affordable housing ordinance, as it relates to the approved rent control initiative. He said the city will waive late fees for landlords who are due to pay rental fees in January 2021.

Based on the city’s interpretation of the measure, the city manager said, rents cannot be increased from the rates they were from June 2020 to January 2021, unless a new tenant moves into a building, or if the current tenant agrees to an increase. Essentially, he said, the city’s interpretation is rents must hold at what they were in June.

This measure also created a Rent Board, for which the council has begun seeking applicants. Applications are due by Dec. 28, with the expectation the group will begin meeting in February 2021.

Aside from the minimum wage increase, which is the target of a lawsuit filed by the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce and several businesses, Jennings said the remaining initiatives have all gone into effect.

In an announcement last week, the city said it plans to follow “the letter” of the ordinances, known as Questions A, B, C, D, and F. Question E, which would have placed additional limits on short-term rentals, was the only question that was defeated.

Question A raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024 from the current $12 and includes a provision for a 50 percent hazard pay increase during a state of emergency that was supposed to take effect this month. That provision, which would increase the current minimum to $18 an hour, is being challenged by the chamber of commerce.

Question B adds enforcement provisions to the city’s ban on facial surveillance use by law enforcement. Question C was the Green New Deal, Question D was for rent control, and Question F eliminated the cap on the number of retail marijuana businesses the city will license. 

While the substance of the meeting was dealt with fairly quickly, most of the meeting was spent on the inauguration of three city councilors who were elected on Nov. 3: Mark Dion, April Fournier, and Andrew Zarro.