Portland City Council Scorecard Finds Few Consistent Progressives
Portland, Maine—Contrary to Portland’s reputation as a bastion of liberalism, an analysis of 19 key roll call votes from Portland’s 2016 City Council session finds wide ideological splits and few consistent progressives.
“If Portland got to pick the president, we would have elected President Bernie in a landslide,” said Progressive Portland Steering Committee member Steven Biel. “So why do we have a city council that consistently votes for landlords over renters and handouts for wealthy developers?”
Progressive Portland’s scorecard found that the average city councilor voted on the progressive side of issues just 57 percent of the time. Only two members of the council voted progressive more than 75 percent of the time.
Mayor Ethan Strimling, who voted progressive 83 percent of the time, earned the highest score on the council.
Ed Suslovic, who voted progressive just 37 percent of the time and lost reelection to Councilor Brian Batson, had the lowest score on the council.
The scores for the rest of the council, in order from most to least progressive, were: Jon Hinck (78%), Spencer Thibodeau (67%), Justin Costa (56%), Jill Duson (56%), Belinda Ray (47%), David Brenerman (44%), and Nick Mavodones (42%).
“This is information the voters need to know, but the city doesn’t exactly make it easy to find,” said Steering Committee member Pat Washburn. “Often, the newspapers don’t report who voted for what either.”
Major issues considered during the 2016 City Council session included:
• India Street Health Clinic: After City Manager Jon Jennings proposed shutting down the India Street Health Clinic, the city council voted to restore funding for the needle exchange, HIV/STD testing and treatment services, and Free Clinic, but close the HIV Positive Health Care Clinic.
• Housing: Three votes were scored on issues affecting the housing crisis—leeway for no-fault evictions, banning discrimination against holders of Section 8 housing vouchers, and rezoning the Elks Lodge property for offices. Each time, the progressive position was defeated.
• Global warming: The city council voted to create a major solar development and to encourage energy efficiency by requiring reporting of energy usage. However, the council defeated a measure to incentivize green buildings.
• Tax breaks and sweetheart deals for corporations: Four times the council voted on whether to provide tax breaks and other benefits for corporations: reducing a fee increase for developers, exempting grandfathered developers from a fee increase, the no-strings-attached ImmuCell TIF, and the below-market Thames St. sale. All four times the progressive position was defeated.
• LGBT rights: The city council voted unanimously to remove transgender restrictions from the city health plan and to ban non-essential state-funded travel to states that discriminate against LGBT people.
Other votes included in the scorecard included raising the tobacco age to 21, fast-tracking a moratorium on marijuana retailers, protecting Ft. Sumner Park, and creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity for new Mainers and people of color.
Progressive Portland plans to follow up the release of the scorecard with a citywide mailing to educate voters on their councilors’ voting records.
To view the full scorecard and vote descriptions, click here: https://progressiveportland.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Scorecard_final2.pdf.