The Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce is leading the effort to defeat local Question 1 by coordinating the NO campaign and contributing substantial financial and staff resources to the effort. We are also a major contributor to the No on Question 2 campaign. Our members have been key participants in both efforts.
Let's look at the two local Questions on Portland's November 3rd ballot to see why we are so engaged.
Portland Question 1 proposes a $15/hour minimum wage for all work done in the City (keep reading out-of-towners!). The impacts will be felt by small indie businesses, by non-profits and charities, and by legacy employers. City workers are exempted, by the way – don’t ask me why.
Fewer jobs (especially youth and part time), reduced operations, and in some cases closed doors are what folks tell us will happen if Question 1 passes. Don’t believe me – just ask your favorite small local business owner. 67% of Portland Buy Local members surveyed said they opposed $15/hour, and it wasn’t because they didn’t support living wages. It’s because small business can’t afford the price tag that $15/hour imposes.
Portland Question 2 proposes a new layer of land use regulation intended to preserve the City’s scenic views. While the ballot question is aimed at a single development (58 Fore Street), and was written by a few folks who’s views might be blocked by that development, the new regulations would apply to the entire City. And that’s where it gets really ugly.
What is scenic? Can’t say – wait until a citizen task force is appointed. They’ll pick out a few places, but any group of 20 folks can petition to get their scenic views on the list. Want to know if your property is affected? Sorry, can’t tell you yet. Spend the money to propose your deck, or fence, or new housing project, or new economic opportunity (like the much-needed cold storage facility on the waterfront) and then the new task force will decide. Good luck.
One more thing. Both of these ordinances cannot be amended by the City Council for 5 years. That’s right – your representative government in Portland is locked out for 5 years, even if either ordinance results in something really unfortunate happening. Talk about rolling the dice!
Direct democracy is messy, but it’s a big part of our political culture and it’s not going away anytime soon. Instead of complaining, we have three things we all have to do:
· Vote, and make sure everyone you know in Portland votes too
· Educate yourself, and everyone you know, about the issues and what’s at stake
· Support broader consensus in the community, even when compromise is needed, so our representative system can produce results that withstand the direct democracy challenges launched by special interests
If we all do these things we can do more than just win an election. We can help shape a healthier, more prosperous future for everyone in our community. On November 4th, the day after the election in Portland, we’ll see how well we’re doing.