On November 8, 2022, Portland voters will consider 13 ballot questions, consisting of five proposed Citizen’s Initiative questions and eight proposed Portland Charter Commission questions. These 13 questions, an unusually large amount for any one election, would significantly threaten Portland’s long-term viability. Specifically, four of the five Citizen’s Initiative questions, which are sponsored by the Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, would drive rents up, make it harder to live in Portland, force restaurants to hire fewer workers, and cost taxpayers millions of dollars. They are:
Question B – An Act to Reduce the Number of Short-Term Rentals in Portland: This proposal would restrict short-term rentals, such as Airbnbs, in Portland to only those that are owner-occupied, tenant-occupied, or is one unit of an owner-occupied duplex. Further, it would reduce the cap on non-owner-occupied short-term rentals from 400 to approximately 170. Additionally, it would increase the fees for all short-term rentals.
Question C – An Act to Protect Tenants in Portland: This proposal would reduce the allowable increase for cost of living to 70% of CPI annually. Further, this proposal would remove the allowable annual increase due to an increase in property taxes. Additionally, this proposal would increase notice for rent increase and lease terminations from 75 days to 90 days.
Question D – An Act to Eliminate Sub-Minimum Wage, Increase Minimum Wages and Strengthen Protections for Workers: This proposal would raise the minimum wage to $18 per hour on January 1, 2025, while expanding the definition of covered employees/employers to include tax drivers, rideshare drivers, and delivery services. Further, this proposal would impact hazard pay at $27 per hour during declared states of emergency. Additionally, this proposal would eliminate the tip credit by January 1, 2025, so all employees previously eligible for tips would instead be paid $18 per hour.
Question E – An Act to Restrict Cruise Ships in Order to Reduce Congestion and Pollution: This proposal would require cruise ships to obtain a permit from the city that limit the number of passengers who may disembark to no more than 1,000 people on a given day, in aggregate.
A competing referendum question, Question A – An Act to Regulate Short-Term Rentals in Portland and Prohibit Corporate and Absentee Operation of Short-Term Rental Properties, would retain the 400-unit cap on non-owner-occupied short-term rentals, but would limit registration for non-owner-occupied short-term rentals to only local residents (those residing within 20 miles of Portland), single-member LLCs owned by local residents, or units where a local resident has been designated to be available 24 hours per day to respond to complaints about a unit.
Voters will also face eight questions proposed by the Portland Charter Commission’s Amendments to the Portland City Charter. They are:
Question 1 – Preamble and Land Acknowledgement: This amendment would revise the existing preamble and insert an acknowledgement that Portland sits on unceded Wabanaki land.
Question 2 – Governance: This amendment would establish an executive mayor, allow the council to remove or censure the mayor, change from a city manager to a chief administrator, increase the number of city council seats from nine (9) to twelve (12), and make several other changes to governance.
Question 3 – Clean Elections: This amendment would create a municipal clean elections program.
Question 4 – Proportional Ranked-Choice Voting: This amendment would authorize the city to use a proportional ranked-choice voting method for elections in which more than one person is to be elected for a single office.
Question 5 – School Budget Autonomy: This amendment would change the school budget adoption process by transferring school budget adoption authority from the city council to the school board.
Question 6 – Peaks Island Council: This amendment would maintain the ordinance establishing the Peaks Island Council as an elected advisory body to the city council.
Question 7 – Civilian Police Review Board: This amendment would replace the Police Citizen Review Subcommittee with a civilian police review board consisting of nine (9) or more members.
Question 8 – Ethics Commission and Code of Ethics: This amendment would require the City Council to form an independent Ethics Commission and adopt a Code of Ethics recommended by the Ethics Commission.
Election day is next week. We encourage you to vote and make your voice heard, as these questions could affect Portland for years to come. Absentee voting is currently underway. Maine citizens who are registered to vote may use the Maine Absentee Ballot Request service to request an absentee ballot for the November 8, 2022 General Election. Absentee ballots must be received no later than 8:00 p.m. EDT on Election Day.