The two candidates for the District 2 seat on Portland City Council have very different backgrounds. Both argue that their particular set of experiences makes them best positioned to represent West End and Parkside on issues such as the lack of affordable housing, climate change and racial equity.
One is a longtime landlord and environmental activist with experience as a local elected official and state official, while the other is a tenant and a woman of color who struggles like many others. townspeople to stay in Portland and work to help local governments advance racial equity.
Spencer Thibodeau, who now occupies the seat, is not running for a third term. He resigned his seat on September 20 to take a position in the US Department of Energy.
To replace him, Jon Hinck, a 67-year-old lawyer and former itinerant city councilor and state representative; and Victoria Pelletier, a 33-year-old Special Projects Coordinator with the Greater Portland Council of Governments who focuses on racial equity and economic development.
A third of the nine seats on the board are up for grabs, none of the incumbents wishing to be re-elected.
The next council will need to hire a new city manager, whose important role in city administration includes implementing the city’s $ 268 million budget, overseeing approximately 1,400 city employees, and hiring. heads of department, including the chief of police, a post which will become vacant in November. 1.
The council will continue to guide the city’s response to the pandemic and its recovery, including deciding how to allocate approximately $ 38 million in federal coronavirus relief funding. Councilors will also develop a budget that could include general wage increases for city employees to keep their compensation competitive in a tight labor market, even as the city’s revenues are still recovering from the economic fallout from the pandemic.
All of this is taking place against the backdrop of the city’s revaluation, which has dramatically increased property values and tax bills on the peninsula, while they have either fallen or held up elsewhere. And the ongoing revision of the city charter could lead to a major restructuring of the municipal administration
So far, Hinck, who has been backed by Mayor Kate Snyder, has the benefit of fundraising. Until September 14, he raised $ 5,115, with everything but $ 683 remaining. Pelletier raised $ 2,980, including $ 1,625 from people who donated $ 50 or less and who had $ 1,486 on hand.
Election day is November 2, but postal voting is already underway.
Hinck said he is looking to join the board to offer his experience as a progressive leader during a period of rotation. At 67, he said, he has a lot of life experience to draw on, but is not stuck in his ways. He said he understood the urgency of addressing racial equity and social justice.
“I am always open to new approaches and new ideas, and I am not easily convinced by the status quo,” he said.
Co-founder of Greenpeace USA, Hinck believes the city should pay more attention to climate change, saying rising sea levels threaten not only Commercial Street in the Old Port, but also West and East Bayside, which includes the Kennedy social housing development. To park. He said the city needs to make plans to renovate buildings that may be in the flood zone and develop evacuation and emergency plans for sites that cannot be adapted.
The city, he said, should also prioritize the weatherization of its existing building stock so that buildings are more energy efficient. He would like to reinvigorate an energy benchmarking ordinance passed while on council, which is supposed to require large commercial building owners to report their energy use to the city.
He said the city should be more aggressive in getting cooperation from Central Maine Power, which landowners blame for not providing the information they need to report to the city.
“The City of Portland has enough leverage to tell CMP to cooperate on this,” he said, noting that the utility is being criticized for its leadership, poor customer service and controversial power corridor. “IIt’s a great time to push the CMP. We should do it.
He said city budgets shouldn’t be viewed in the abstract because every year and every budget is different. As a counselor, he would like to ensure that services are efficient and effective and that schools have the funding they need.
To increase the supply of affordable housing, he said, council needs to consider all options, including making it easier for homeowners to add units to their existing homes and reviewing and fine-tuning existing housing policies to make it easier for homeowners to add more units to their existing homes. make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do.
He does not know if he will vote in favor of the referendum on small shelters. But he said he would support the city’s plans to build a 208-bed homeless service center in Riverton since the project has been approved by the Planning Council.
Pelletier grew up in Brunswick and moved to Portland about five years ago after graduating from college. She said she had direct experience of struggling to afford to live in Portland. That understanding, along with her work on diversity, equity and inclusion at the Greater Portland Council of Governments, a regional planning agency, would benefit city council, she said.
At the board, Pelletier said she would look at every issue – especially affordable housing and education – from an equity perspective.
“I just think it’s really important to get involved and be representative of a young and poor person who lives and works in Portland, but also has general experience of working in local governments and the lively conversations. by the community, ”she said.
Pelletier said she plans to quit her job at the planning agency this fall and become a community consultant on equity issues.
To increase the supply of affordable housing, she would like to eliminate single-family zoning outside the peninsula, which she says “maintains a lot of city-wide segregation.” She said the council should review all of its housing policies to identify barriers to affordability. This includes revising the city’s short-term rental regulations to prevent affordable long-term rentals from disappearing into entire blocks of neighborhoods.
“If we have blocks and Airbnb blocks, we don’t allow the type of housing for people who actually live here,” she said.
She believes increases in school spending should be prioritized over other city spending and that city schools should hire more teachers of color.
Despite being a registered Democrat, considering herself progressive and keen to amplify marginalized voices, she said she does not identify with any political party. She believes the city should issue a mandate to wear masks for indoor public spaces, and called the council’s decision not to do so “irresponsible” as winter approaches and people will spend more than time inside. She said counselors fearing the onus of enforcement would fall on frontline workers should have invited those workers to join the conversation to find creative solutions.
Pelletier does not support the city’s plan to build a 208-bed homeless service center with a soup kitchen, a medical clinic and a day space in Riverton. She is concerned that there is not adequate transportation from the center to the city center, where there are additional services.
She supports the citizens’ referendum to limit the size of new shelters to 50 beds and believes the city’s budget should prioritize spending on programs to end homelessness.
She said the next city manager needs to make sure Portland’s growth from a big city to a city is fair.