Portland councilors to get monkeypox update, review ballot questions

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Portland city staff on Aug. 8 will tell the City Council how they plan to respond to the threat of the monkeypox virus.

Mayor Kate Snyder said she assumes the plan will mirror guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which urges avoiding skin-to-skin contact with people who have monkeypox symptoms, such as a rash.

Seal of the city of portlandMaine has had two confirmed cases of the virus, which the World Health Organization has declared an emergency. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in California on Monday, Aug. 1. 

The council’s other major action, Snyder said, will be reviewing five initiatives for the November referendum ballot. 

The five initiatives, most of which originated with the Maine Chapter of the Democratic Socialists for America, include a proposal to raise the minimum wage in Portland to $18 per hour. The council can either vote to enact them or, more likely, send them to referendum. It can also place competing questions on the ballot.

Besides the minimum wage for all workers – including those earning tips – the proposed initiatives would limit the number of passengers who can disembark from cruise ships to 1,000 a day; prevent corporations and non-local owners from operating short-term rentals; prohibit evictions for the purpose of immediate conversion to short-term rentals, and increase penalties for violations of existing city regulations of short-term rentals.

“As far as the content,” Snyder said, “I would say it’s the normal stuff.”

Snyder said the council won’t decide whether to place several Charter Commission recommendations on the November ballot until a Sept. 1 meeting. The Charter Commission initiatives include a stronger, executive mayor and reduced authority for the city manager.

Because the Aug. 8 meeting is the only one the council will hold during the month, Snyder said public comment will be heard twice: when a special meeting begins at 4 p.m., and again before the start of the regular meeting about an hour later.

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