13 Questions

This is No Way to Run a City

This November, Portland voters will have to vote on 13 different referendum questions on their ballots – an unprecedented number. When voters go to the polls, they’ll be handed a stack of over 100 pages of material to explain the different questions. This is clearly no way to run a city, and this effort to exploit the ballot question loophole has already caused major problems for our city.

Below is a list of the ballot questions, with a brief summary of what’s in them. For a copy of the full questions, visit the City of Portland’s information page by clicking here.

Ballot Questions Supported by the Democratic Socialists of America 

Eliminating the Tipped Credit for Portland’s Hard-Working Servers and Drivers 

Disguised as an increase to the minimum wage, this measure will hurt workers who rely on tips for greater earning power. The Democratic Socialists of America are attempting to trick voters by using the term sub-minimum wage rather than the widely known term tip credit. But the truth is that no workers in Portland or the State of Maine make a “sub-minimum wage.” No such thing actually exists.

What’s in the ballot question: 

  • Portland will have the highest minimum wage in the country, besting Seattle which set its wage at $17.27/hour. The ballot question raises the minimum wage to $18/hr on January 1, 2025 and imposes hazard pay, leading to an unprecedented $27/hr minimum wage during declared states of emergency. 
  • Decreases worker pay by eliminating the tip credit by January 1, 2025. All tipped employees who previously earned a higher wage through customer tips  would instead be paid $18/hr. Servers overwhelmingly know they make more money through tipping and are organizing to oppose this change.
  • Threatens vital ride share and delivery services by expanding the definition of covered employees and employers to include taxi drivers, rideshare drivers, and delivery services with popular services such as Uber, DoorDash, Lyft and Instacart.
  • Expands Portland government by establishing a municipal Director of Fair Labor Practices and a municipal Department of Labor to enforce all labor laws, ordinances, and policies in Portland. This is duplicative of existing Federal and State Agencies already empowered to do this work and will result in higher property taxes for Portland residents already struggling to make ends meet.  

Short-Term Rental  

The Democratic Socialists of America’s proposal is flawed and removes the public, city officials, and interested parties from addressing any concerns and developing sound policy. In the proposed policy Portland’s short-term rentals will be restricted to those that are owner-occupied, tenant-occupied, or located in two-unit buildings occupied by the owner. The policy fails to consider units that are separate dwellings on the same property, commonly known as accessory dwelling units, that help owners defer rising taxes and costs from inflation. 

What’s in the ballot question: 

  • Restricts short-term rentals like Airbnbs in Portland to only those that are owner-occupied, tenant-occupied, or is a unit of an owner-occupied duplex. Seasonal homes, like those on Peak’s Island, are subject to the new proposal. 
  • Increases the fees for all Short-Term Rental. 
  • Reduces the cap on non-owner-occupied short-term rentals from 400 to 170 including duplexes & ADUs where the primary unit is owner-occupied. The new rule sets unreasonable standards on existing short-term rentals, directly hitting property owners who are following the current rules. 
  • Increases penalties for non-compliance. 

Rent Control 

The record is clear, rent control does more harm than good. The recent rent control measures drove up costs, and the new measure will certainly impact investment in rental units and availability. Conversions from rentals to condos and high-end housing will reduce the available housing stock for affordable units. 

What’s in the ballot question: 

  • Increases notice for rent increases and lease termination from 75 to 90 days. 
  • Reduces the allowable increase for cost of living from 100% of CPI annually to 70% of CPI annually. Rent control will deepen the challenge with housing as owners examine the restricted income to cover costs. That means more condos, higher-end housing, and fewer rental units. 
  • Prohibits all application fees for rentals, including background checks and credit checks. 
  • Removes the allowable annual increase due to an increase in property taxes. 
  • Restricts the use of a 5% increase when tenant turnover occurs to only situations in which the previous tenancy was terminated voluntarily by the previous tenant. 
  • Increases the condo conversion fee from the current nominal amount to $25,000.  

Cruise Ship Passenger Limits 

The Democratic Socialists of America have been pushing this question across the country to restrict cruise ship visits, which would lead to a 95% decrease in the number of cruise ship passengers in Portland. This would be a lethal blow to our working waterfront, putting people out of work and driving up taxes on all Portlanders. As the city council works to find solutions to environmental impacts, this proposal stops that process and the citizen input by placing another five-year policy in place without consideration of the impacts. As a result, this would end good paying jobs on the waterfront for union and non-union workers including longshoremen, pilots, and suppliers of goods and services. 

The city budget took a hit of $2 million from the loss of cruise ship revenue during the pandemic. Sending a message to the industry that the harbor is closed, will push that cost back on the shoulders of Portland residents and property owners.   A study conducted by the Maine Office of Tourism and Cruise Maine found that cruise ship passengers had an overall economic impact of approximately $33 million, directly supporting about 400 jobs and bringing in roughly $1.7 million in tax revenue-not including docking fees. 

What’s in the ballot question: 

  • Requires cruise ships to obtain a permit from the city that limits them to 1,000 persons disembarking from the ship within one day. 


One Competing Referendum for Short-Term Rental

What’s in the ballot question: 

  • Retains the 400-unit cap on non-owner-occupied short-term rentals. 
  • Limits registration for non-owner-occupied short-term rentals to residents who live 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. 
  • Allows units that have been registered as of June 1, 2022, to be grandfathered. 


Nine Charter Commission Ballot Questions

The Democratic Socialists of America are attempting to completely rewrite the way Portland government works. Their model is bad for Portland, and will create more problems than it solves. This is no way to run a city.

Governance Model

The governance proposal represents a major shift in the management of the city by disempowering the council in order to empower a strong boss mayor who would insert politics into the everyday management of the city’s programs and services. This proposal would eliminate the city manager, which is a form of government used by 75% of cities of a similar size to Portland.

Beyond politicizing City Hall, this question would add tremendous costs to the taxpayers by increasing the Mayor’s salary to two times the median household income in Portland, doubling the salary for city councilors and school board members, and expanding the size of the City Council.

What’s in the ballot question: 

  • Creates a “strong mayor” form of government, that puts the mayor in charge as the chief executive of the city. The Mayor would be in charge of nominating and removing all city staff, including the chief administrator, vetoing all policy and budget decisions of the City Council, and creating a communications policy between staff and the city council to be approved by the city council. Underneath the mayor would be a chief administrative officer who would be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city at the direction of the mayor. 
  • Increases the Mayor’s compensation to two times the median household income in Portland and ties the City Council and School Board compensation to 10% of the Mayor’s salary per elected official. 
  • Creates three new city council districts for a total of twelve city councilors including three at-large and nine by districts. 
  • Requires the City Council to elect their own chair and vice chair. 
  • Allows for the City Council to censure or remove a mayor for cause with a 3/4ths vote. 
  • Creates a joint capital improvement plan process between the city and the school department. 
  • Makes new rules around vacancies on the city council and school board. 
  • Creates a joint budget advisory committee between the city and school department to offer prospective, yet non-binding, budget guidance to both bodies in advance of budget development annually. 
  • Directs the city council to create a participatory budgeting process whereby a portion of the municipal budget and/or the capital improvement budget are voted on by citizen assemblies. 

    School Budget Autonomy Proposal 

    This Charter modification changes the current school budget adoption process by transferring school budget adoption authority from the city council to the school board. Handing over control of the budget process to the School Board while the city grapples with tax increases and inflation creates financial uncertainty. In this proposed process, the city council’s authority to approve the school budget before heading to voters is removed. Legal experts advised the Charter Commission this could be challenged in court as an “illegal budget.” 

    What’s in the ballot question: 

    • Removes the requirement that the school board submits their budget to the city council for review and approval before sending it to voters. 

    Clean Elections 

    The city council will provide an independent allocation from the city’s budget each year to sustain the Clean Election Fund and the city council. The proposed clean elections rules prohibit corporate contributions, allow for union contributions, and sets new standards for city elections.

    What’s in the ballot question: 

    • Creates a municipal clean elections program. 
    • Limits the amount of funds a participating candidate may raise; 
    • Limited to candidates who meet certain requirements, such as demonstrated public support and participation in a city-sponsored forum or voter education event; and 
    • Requires that all unused funds be returned to the Clean Election Fund.  

    Proportional Ranked Choice Voting
    This Charter modification authorizes the city to use a proportional ranked-choice voting method for elections in which more than one person is to be elected to a single office and directs the city council to enact an ordinance to establish the proportional ranked-choice voting method

    What’s in the ballot question: 

    • Modifies ranked choice voting as it relates to races with multiple seats up for election. 

    Peaks Island Council 

    This Charter modification requires the city council to maintain the ordinance it has enacted establishing the Peaks Island Council as an elected advisory body to the city council.

    What’s in the ballot question: 

    • Codifies the Peaks Island Council in the Charter, with no changes to how it currently reads in the ordinance. 

    Police Review Board
    This Charter modification replaces the current Police Citizens Review Subcommittee, established by the current city ordinance, with a civilian police review board consisting of nine or more members, with powers, duties, funding, and staffing.

    What’s in the ballot question: 

    • Codifies in the Charter a citizen’s police oversight body, with minor changes to the current review board; 
    • Receive complaints directly from civilians for referral to Portland Police Department Police Command and/or Internal Affairs for investigation;  
    • Review the Department’s Command and Internal Affairs investigation reports for due process issues, including issues of fairness, thoroughness, and objectivity, and may issue its own reports on those investigation reports; and  
    • Be funded, as needed by the city council, to provide for part-time or full-time staff, including a community liaison and a police liaison. Appeals of the civilian police review board reports may be taken to the city council. 

    Ethics Code & Commission 

    Even though the City Council already has an Ethics Code and Ethics Committee, this modification requires the City Council to form an independent Ethics Commission and to adopt a Code of Ethics recommended by the Ethics Commission. 

    What’s in the ballot question: 

    • Codifies a code of ethics for elected and appointed officials in the Charter, including a municipal ethics commission. This currently exists in the ordinance. 

    Gender Equity
    The Council passed a measure to revise the Charter to include gender-neutral language. 

    What’s in the ballot question: 

    • Modifies the Charter language to reflect gender equity. 

    Land Acknowledgement
    Creates a charter preamble acknowledging that the city is on land never ceded by the Wabanaki tribes.

    What’s in the ballot question: 

    • Re-words the preamble and inserts an acknowledgment, that Portland sits on “unceded Wabanaki territory”.