Rebuild our neighborhood schools

Four of Portland’s elementary school buildings (Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot, and Reiche) are in a state of shameful disrepair. Closets are used as classrooms. Kids go to class in dilapidated trailers and are forced to walk through snow to get to the bathroom. Noise and extreme heat and cold routinely interrupt learning. Many classrooms don’t even have sprinklers in the case of fire.

Recent polling has found that Portland people support the $70 million bond needed to rebuild Portland’s crumbling elementary schools by a whopping 68-23 margin, and yet the Portland City Council has been ignoring the problem for two decades.

Affordable housing

Portland has seen a 40 percent increase in average rents over the last 5 years, while the wages of renters have declined. And contrary to what some argue, it’s not just supply and demand. There are 34,000 units of housing in the city and 66,000 people. That’s fewer than two people per unit. The problem is that we’re getting a flood of housing for the very wealthy and a severe shortage of housing that working and middle class people in Portland can afford.

We need to make sure that the people of the city, not just wealthy developers, benefit from the housing boom. Portlanders support limits on rent increases and no-fault evictions, enforcement of safety violations, and an end to the widespread discrimination against Section 8 renters. But so far the city council is offering renters little more than a pamphlet listing their flimsy legal rights.

Stand against racism

Diversity is our greatest strength, but with the governor and the president scapegoating immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, Black Lives Matter, and anyone else who doesn’t look like them, it’s never been more important for Portland to embrace and stand with ALL our friends and neighbors.

Protecting our most vulnerable

Portland’s homeless population spiked to record levels during the Great Recession, and yet ten shelters have closed in the last six years, while the city has cut emergency shelter services. The city has targeted the India Street Health Clinic for shutdown while some push for “residency restrictions” on services for people struggling with mental illness, druug addictions, and homelessness.

No more corporate handouts

At the very same time that City Hall tells Portland voters that we can’t afford to fix our crumbling public schools or maintain services at the India Street Health Clinic, the city council and city manager are handing out tax breaks and sweetheart deals for developers and profitable corporations.

For instance, the developers of The Forefront at Thompson’s Point asked for and received a $31 million tax break in 2011 with promises including 558,000 feet of office space, a concert hall, and a sports arena–promises that were quickly broken after the tax breaks were approved.

And Thompson’s Point is not an isolated example. The below market sales of the Thames Street lot adjacent to the Portland Company development and Congress Square Park (later reversed by voters on the ballot) are just two more recent examples of favorable deals for corporations at the expense of Portland people.

Most Portland voters think that private businesses should not be given tax breaks unless they agree to hire people from Portland and pay a livable wage. If city property is to be sold to private developers, it should be sold at the full value with no sweetheart deals. And if a developer fails to keep their promises, tax breaks should be repaid to the city.

Solar energy now

Solar is booming around the country, saving consumers money while cutting pollution. But Portland is being left behind. A recent Environment Maine study found that Portland ranks 55th out of 57 cities studied for total installed solar. And it’s not because New England isn’t sunny enough. Burlington has 13 times more per capita solar than Portland. Boston has 6 times more. Manchester has 3 times more.

Meanwhile, global warming already is on track to flood much of Bayside in the coming decades. With so much at stake, we should be leading the transition to 100% clean energy, not lagging behind.