We know it’s exhausting to remain motivated when politics seems toxic and all-consuming, but you’ve got to get out and vote this November 7. Democracy needs you! To help you come to a decision on this year’s slate of ballot questions and city council bids, here are our endorsements.
Question 1: Do you want to allow a certain company to operate table games and/or slot machines in York County, subject to state and local approval, with part of the profits going to the specific programs described in the initiative?
Our View: No, thanks!
Although the YES campaign marketed this measure as a means to bring jobs and tax revenue to Maine’s struggling economy, we don’t see how. The gambling market is only so big in Maine and Oxford Casino already serves York County well. Gov. LePage even recognized that the measure wouldn’t necessarily fund schools or lower taxes, two promises its supporters boasted about. A closer inspection of the language underneath the ballot question suggests that it’s not much more than a self-interested ploy intentionally designed to give one person an estimated $200 million payday. That person, Shawn Scott, would be the only person eligible to apply for a license, and given his history of legal troubles — 37 lawsuits and 13 liens in 6 states — we don’t think he deserves a seat at the table.
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Question 2: Do you want Maine to expand Medicaid to provide healthcare coverage for qualified adults under age 65 with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level, which in 2017 means $16,643 for a single person and $22,412 for a family of two?
Our View: Hell yes!
A YES vote would make 70,000 people eligible for Medicaid and in turn help those that desperately need relief from absurd health care costs. This is a vote for seniors, single mothers, people with disabilities, and people that earn less than the federal poverty level to enjoy the peace of mind that so many in Canada, Europe, and corners of privileged America already do. Everyone has the right to affordable health care, and that moral imperative was one of the promises of modern civilization. Thirty-one states have already expanded Medicaid (and they didn’t see their state’s budget deficit rise).
There’s also a strong case to be made that Question 2 may ameliorate the opioid epidemic that for decades has ravaged this state. This could literally save lives. Let’s do this already.
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Question 3: Do you favor a $105,000,000 bond issue for construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities or equipment related to ports, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, transit and bicycle and pedestrian trails, to be used to match an estimated $137,000,000 in federal and other funds, and for the upgrade of municipal culverts at stream crossings?
Our View: Yes.
Maine’s transportation infrastructure needs some upgrades and we support more funding to get the jobs done (speaking of jobs, Maine needs them). Anyone who has travelled for an extended amount of time in Maine knows this; the roads are terrible! In fact, the Maine Society of Civil Engineers who found that 40 percent of the state’s roads are between fair and unacceptable conditions, and that15 percent of the bridges as structurally deficient. We got a C- on their annual infrastructure report last year, and this bond could help us score higher.
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Question 4: Constitutional Amendment: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to reduce volatility in state pension funding requirements caused by the financial markets by increasing the length of time over which experience losses are amortized from 10 years to 20 years, in line with pension industry standards?
Our View: Sure. A longer payback period makes sense, though we haven’t met anyone in town with an opinion on this issue.
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Portland Municipal Election
Question 1: Citizen’s Initiative: Do you favor the change in the City Ordinance(s) proposed by citizen petition provided below?
“Amendment to the Portland City Code: Chapter 6: Buildings and Building Regulations RE: Rent Stabilization and Protection of Tenant’s Rights.”
Our View: Yes. Let’s do it.
Of eight candidates running for council, four are in favor of this proposal and four are against. It’s tight! We think the NO ON 1 folks have run an impressively imaginative and well-funded scare campaign, arguing that landlords suddently won’t be able to evict your violent, bloodthirsty neighbor (it’s the bogeyman!) or that small businesses like home-cleaning services will suffer, ignoring that scores of Portland renters, often the same class of people, would rest easier knowing their rent isn’t about to be jacked up. We agree with those who say that this ordinance won’t fix everything. It’s no silver bullet, and will likely create a few unintended consequences we can’t presently see. But it’s a step in the right direction. Let’s try it, then focus on punishing developers who refuse to make affordable housing units in their buildings.
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Question 2: Do you favor the change in the City Ordinance(s) proposed by citizen petition as provided below?
“An Amendment to strengthen zoning protection by allowing resident participation in proposed zoning changes”
Our View: Yes.
This proposal would allow a registered voter who resides within 500 feet of a proposed zone change to be able to object to that change. Then if 25 percent of the people living in that area object, the change becomes null and void. Sounds pretty democratic to us. Contributing members of society definitely deserve a say on what buildings can and can’t spring up in the blocks around their home. Portlanders need some protections from the outside interests transforming their neighborhoods; it’s only fair.
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Question 3: Shall the order entitled “Order Approving Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot, and Reiche Elementary School Renovation Projects With Total Project Costs Not To Exceed $64,260,136 And Authorizing General Obligation Bonds Therefore Subject To The Conditions Contained In This Order”, with provisions for early redemption as set forth in said Order be Approved?
Our View: YES, already!
This school bond issue has been debated for so long and we’re not really sure why. It must have something to do with how much one believes a healthy young generation depends on quality education. We believe children require not just safe and productive environments to learn in, but comfortable and encouraging ones. At this point, those schools are far from any of that; they haven’t had a major renovation in over 40 years! It seems cruel to leave two schools, entire communities of students, teachers, and parents, behind on much needed repairs. It’s time to fix all four, and property owners grumbling about the $100-a-year in tax increases it would bring can deal with it.
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Question 4: Shall the order entitled “Order Approving Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot, and Reiche Elementary School Renovation Projects With Total Project Costs Not To Exceed $31,626,000 And Authorizing General Obligation Bonds Therefore Subject To The Conditions Contained In This Order”, with provisions for early redemption as set forth in said Order be Approved?
Our View: Also, yes?
We had to think about this one quite a bit. If 50 percent of voters don’t vote YES on Question 3 then it’s dead, but if both bonds get at least 50 percent of votes, the one with the highest amount of votes wins. So should we go “all in” on Question 3 and skip Question 4? Or do we risk not fixing any of the schools out of mere principle?
We decided against the latter, and we’ll vote yes on Question 4 in the hopes that the worst case scenario means at least two schools get fixed.
City Councilor Elections
|What would be your mission as a city councilor?||Portland is changing rapidly but unaffordability is forcing many people to leave: workers, marginalized people, young families, the elderly. My mission is to make sure Portland develops equitably, in a way that benefits the many - not the few.||To be a part of accessible responsive city government that welcomes residents to impact the decisions that effect our daily lives. To listen for understanding, make balanced decisions and get things done in the best interest of the whole city. To continue the work of leveraging affordable, safe housing for low-income and working families.||I would provide the vision and action to ensure Portland grows thoughtfully. By reviving Congress Square Park after the city let it fall into neglect and tried to sell it, I proved my ability to bring diverse groups together around a shared vision.|
|Do you believe that health insurance is a product of the free market or an unalienable human right? Why?||I believe healthcare is a human right that should not be motivated by profit. In my life I have had to choose to forgo necessary prescriptions and healthcare because of the cost. That’s wrong. We should have single-payer healthcare like every other industrialized nation.||I think we must figure out how to have accessible, sustainable universal health care.||Without question, health care is a human right. Whether people can go to the doctor shouldn’t be a question of whether they have money or not.|
|How should Portland tackle its affordable housing problem?||We must build more public and private housing, but ensure that it is actually affordable. We must regulate Airbnbs more strictly, and tax second homes and vacant units. We must make a giant leap forward in our public transit. We must better utilize the empty lots that litter our downtown.||There is not a singe idea or tool that will solve the crisis. In my role as Chair of the Housing Committee, I have led city processes to leverage creation of affordable housing for low-income renters, ownership housing for working families and aging in place options for empty nesters and the elderly.||I work professionally in affordable housing and I know what it takes to get affordable housing built. The council needs to be an active partner in creating more housing for working and middle income families throughout the city.|
|How could city government help ameliorate the opioid crisis?||We need to work more closely with regional towns to fund the creation of more detox beds and treatment facilities. We should enter into a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical companies that overprescribe painkillers, much like we sued the tobacco companies.||In collaboration with ally non-profits and advocates, the city has stood up a strong and successful “Housing 1st” program. The city is focused on identifying best practice tools, implementing ideas developed locally and from away, and disciplined to evaluate and measure results to make continuous improvements to current tools and programs.||The number one thing the city could do to address the opioid crisis is to provide funding for more detox beds. People who want help have nowhere to go. We’re simply not responding to this as the crisis it is.|
|Would you support a proposed bond to rebuild Portland’s four schools or two schools and why?||I support the bond for four schools because these four schools have been waiting for repairs for 20 years, and this is the most reliable way to commit to their future. Looking to the state for funding will lead to further delays and more young families choosing to live elsewhere.||Both questions would have Portland do four schools in eight years, the difference is in how we pay for it. Question 4 is the sensible and fiscally responsible approach to achieving these four projects in the agreed upon eight years.||I support the bond for all 4 schools. Our kids are going to schools that use closets, hallways, and trailers for classrooms and have mold, asbestos, and fire hazards. Councilor Duson is one of those who stood by and allowed these schools to fall into such awful shape in the first place.|
|Our View||Brunelle would make an excellent, compassionate public servant. His acknowledgement of the complexities of gentrification and the opioid crisis, along with his progressive visions for addressing them, earn him our vote. We like the honest nature of his campaign, and trust that he’d push for similar accountability in City Hall.||Duson has done a very good job in the city council these past 16 years, but it’s time for new energy. She has a knack for finding middle ground on complex issues, though we don’t appreciate that she voted for shutting down the India Street clinic last year. We need voices pushing for more of those services, or at least not to privatize them.||We agree with LaCasse on a lot of issues — housing, the environment, tax relief — but not this year. She’s more than capable, but we think her delayed decision to vote NO on rent stabilization was a political move to separate herself from Brunelle, and we’re kinda meh on the dirty campaign strategies. We’d prefer more transparency.|
Phoenix endorsement: Joey Brunelle
|What would be your mission as a city councilor?||To be the voice for average people and help make sure Portland has room for the middle and working class amidst all the development and growth we are experiencing.||My mission as a city councilor would be twofold: 1) To listen to all perspectives in our community and come to balanced and thoughtful decisions and 2) to ensure that Portland remains a vibrant, safe and affordable place for all of us.|| Editors’ Note: Mr. Dorais could not be reached for comment at time of publication, so the following responses come by way of his campaign page and public comments.
Dorais supports an economic system that works for everyone. He says a purely capitalist model leaves everyone but the wealthy worse off.
|Do you believe that health insurance is a product of the free market or an unalienable human right? Why?||Life is an inalienable human right enshrined in our Declaration of Independence. Health insurance is vital for a healthy life and being able to afford lifesaving treatments, especially for those with preexisting conditions. That said, I do believe health insurance is a human right.||I do not believe health insurance is a human right, but I do believe that access to health care and healthy food is a human right.||Dorais has been reported to support a Bernie Sanders-style Medicare For All approach of single-payer health care.|
|How should Portland tackle its affordable housing problem?||There is no silver bullet, but establishing an affordable/workforce housing TIF district along the Forest Ave corridor up to Morrill’s corner; allowing homeowners to build in-law apartments that they could rent out; and encouraging cooperative housing are among my solutions.||The solution needs to be multi-faceted. Going forward, we need to rewrite the rest of our outdated Zoning Code to ensure that housing for both lower income and middle class residents is built in a smart and responsible way. But we also need to keep a lid on property taxes because they are making Portland unaffordable for homeowners.||Dorais proposed an ambitious property tax plan that would redistribute income from wealthy homeowners to lower- and middle-class renters. He supports the rent-stablization effort, callling it “moderate” and that it wouldn’t contribute to a housing shortage, and is the only candidate to support changes to the zoning code in Question 2.|
|How could city government help ameliorate the opioid crisis?||We must partner with regional organizations, other towns and cities, and our state delegation to solve this crisis. It’s all hands on deck to provide the caring and compassionate services that family members, friends, and neighbors need to help them with their opioid misuse.||The city should be an active part of the larger response to substance use disorder including seeking funding to ensure access to medication-assisted treatment. Specifically, I would take an active role in trying to get a program like the MidCoast Hospital Addiction Recovery Center program going in Portland.||At a candidate meeting at Preble Street hosted by Homeless Voices for Justice, Dorais spoke compassionately about addiction and we have little doubt, given his other advocacy, that he’d be an ally in this fight, likely pushing for more assistance at the state level.|
|Would you support a proposed bond to rebuild Portland’s four schools or two schools and why?||I support Yes on Question 3 and No on Question 4. As someone who went to Reiche, Riverton, and Jack, I believe strongly that every child deserves to be in good schools and get a good education. Interest rates for bonds are low; let’s take advantage of that before they go up.||I support bonding for all four schools, while continuing to actively pursue state funding for other school infrastructure needs. Bonding for the elementary schools locally while pursuing state funding for our high schools ensures quality schools while leveraging state funding.||Dorais supports funding for all four schools and believes that education is “the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.”|
|Our View||As a wickedly smart, law degree-holding, LGBTQ son of first-generation immigrants, Marpheen Chann would be uniquely capable of voicing the concerns of underserved communities. Sure, there are experience concerns with someone this young (he’s 26), but his experience representing young and bold movements at USM goes far.||While Cook has valuable leadership experience as a small business owner and a lobbyist for several Augusta nonprofits, we don’t agree with her on rent control or zoning changes. We need somebody on the council more focused on slowing the mechanisms behind gentrification, and we think the other candidates are more progressive.||We’re really into what Craig Dorais has to say. We love his enthusiasm attempting an ambitiously redistributive tax plan, and like his confidence that the rent proposal a step toward stemming the tide of gentrification and working toward an equitable city. We just think Marpheen might be able to work with the existing council a bit better.|
Phoenix endorsement: Marpheen Chann-Berry
|What would be your mission as a city councilor?||My mission is to help make Portland one of the best, most welcoming, most livable cities in the country.||To represent the interests of individual District 4 residents with attention to the common good. I would create an environment for better communication between City Hall and citizens, because; we must plan for the future as a community while preserving and enhancing the things we love best about our neighborhoods.|
|Do you believe that health insurance is a product of the free market or an unalienable human right? Why?||I believe healthcare is a right and basic physical security should be readily available in a democracy.||It’s time for healthcare to be considered an inalienable right of our citizens. Millions of Americans now find health insurance inaccessible and unaffordable, both legacies of ‘healthcare as a business’ model. It is time to legislate a universal system for a healthier, stronger and more just nation.|
|How should Portland tackle its affordable housing problem?||The only real, lasting solution to our housing needs is to add more housing stock, particularly at middle and low-income levels. There’s nothing that will do more to stabilize prices and make it more difficult for someone to market unsafe housing. Portland has a responsibility to address gentrification and the major way we do that is through housing policy, the reform of our zoning ordinances and enactment of policies like inclusionary zoning.||The city must include regional partners and consider a variety of public revenue streams that include creative mortgage financing like Habitat for Humanity’s model. We must consider funding by private and philanthropic sources and create a comprehensive affordable housing plan for our city.|
|How could city government help ameliorate the opioid crisis?||First, we must acknowledge that there’s a huge amount at stake with our Medicaid expansion vote at the state level. If that passes, there will be way more resources coming into the city and its hospitals. Regardless though, the city’s most important role is as a coordinator of other service providers, helping to understand and strengthen communication between service providers, law enforcement (who understands addiction is not a problem they can solve) and others.||The horrifying statistics show that drug overdoses are killing Mainers on average of more than one person a day. A problem this immense must be addressed at all levels of government. The city must lobby state and federal legislators for revenue and programs to help our most vulnerable residents.|
|Would you support a proposed bond to rebuild Portland’s four schools or two schools and why?||I don’t just support the four school proposal, I’ve driven it. I was the Finance Chair of the School Board when we brought forward the initial proposal several years ago.||Schools are an important community symbol! I support the renewal of the four school buildings because they are in dire need of repairs and upgrades. And the city must create a regular, sustainable maintenance plan for all city schools going forward.|
|Our View||Justin Costa has served three capable years on the council, and it kinda feels like he’s just getting going. His deliberate, intensely thoughtful style can be cryptic and hard to read sometimes, but he’s extremely knowledgeable about the city and its many constituencies, he shows up, and he gets things done. We’re fans of Kim, but let’s keep rolling with Costa.||While this is an incredibly tough choice for District Four, we’re going with a slight nod toward Justin Costa here. We like Rich’s background with restorative justice and think she’s incredibly warm, well-intentioned and intelligent, and we think she’s got a voice that’s able to reach members of the Back Cove constituency. (And it’s vitally important that we elect women to government positions at all levels.) We just wish she lived in a different district.|
Phoenix endorsement: Justin Costa