Inside City Hall - April Update
Chris O’Neil, City Hall Liaison
The Chamber is involved in many aspects of public policy at City Hall. This newsletter keeps you abreast of what we see coming, and helps you understand what you might have missed in the papers. It also gives you connections for getting involved, or for merely sharing your opinion. Please circulate among your staff.
Via this newsletter I encourage you to also keep me informed.
Below are some City Hall goings-on that you and your staff should find informative and helpfu
Midtown Development A Step Closer
The Federated development in Bayside will be the subject of a City Council Meeting on April 22. This is a big project, with some of the buildings proposed to be tall. The developer would benefit from your voice of support for the long-awaited project. Councilors can be contacted here.
City Takes Next Steps to Ban Foam & Plastic Food Packaging
On April 8 the City’s Green Packaging Working Group met to discuss not whether, but how to ban polystyrene (Styrofoam) containers. Click here to see the proposed ban. They plan to tackle plastic bags after making their recommendation on polystyrene. We have placed several potentially affected parties on the working group, and we have cautioned the group against making Portland an outlier. We have suggested that the state or federal governments might be the appropriate jurisdictions for such a policy discussion. The City conducted a business survey to gauge the impacts of a ban. See results here. We have asserted that Portland’s archaic trash and recycling collection system is largely responsible for lots of street litter; trash bags on the curb are easily torn by animals, and Portland’s open-top recycling bins allow the wind to do its thing. Read more, submit comment, and even get involved here.
Guide to Doing Business in Portland
Read this one on your lunch hour. You might want to save it for reference.
Call to Action: Congress Square Plaza
Your voice is needed. Please take a moment and contact City Councilors. You might recall that The Eastland Hotel was bought by Rockbridge Capital for $7 million, and that as part of its $30 million renovation, Rockbridge wants to build a new ballroom that will greatly enhance Portland’s convention and meeting capacity. The Chamber welcomes such a valuable and functional improvement. To build the ballroom, they’d like to buy some land from the city on what is now the Congress Square Plaza. The Plaza is widely regarded as an underachieving parcel, whether one prefers performing real estate or scenic open space.
The Chamber thinks the City has a duty to seriously consider Rockbridge’s offer to beautify the space while also adding property to the tax rolls. For months the City has been in talks with Rockbridge, and we expect the parties to go public with an agreement at a Council meeting on April 24.
Meanwhile, as you can read in here, some activists in town oppose such a deal before it has even been brokered or unveiled. The group is organizing and gathering non-binding petition signatures. City Councilors will ultimately decide the park’s fate, and Councilors are engaged in negotiations now. We are assured that the City is likely to gain nearby open space in an eventual agreement. We also are reminded that there is ample green space in the Forest City, including the 50+ acre Deering Oaks just down the street.
But here’s the problem: the opposition group can negatively influence the thinking of Councilors, and negatively influence the outcome.
Don’t let it happen. Please add your voice of support for a reasonable outcome. Get in touch with Councilors and let them know you support their efforts to negotiate a good deal. Our numbers count. See their contact information here and do it today.
Look for Panhandling Conversation Soon
As we frequently point out, Portland is a compassionate community. The explosion of panhandling all over town has gotten the Chamber’s attention. We have increasingly heard from other organizations, individual businesses, and neighborhood organizations. People want to be compassionate, but they want something done, particularly before summer tourism season. We think these conversations will lead somewhere good. Please contact me if you’d like to be involved.
Stormwater Fees Still Being Discussed – Save This Date
For the last couple of years we have been talking about the massive fees that are headed Portland’s way to pay for upgrades to our old sewer system. In a nutshell, impervious surfaces (driveway, roof, etc) are going to cost you money. The Council is crawling toward a launch date for the fees January 1, 2014. As a follow up to the forum that we held last year, June 12 there will be a gathering to discuss the stormwater conundrum, and how we might avoid or mitigate the impact. Save June 12. Stay tuned for details.
Planning Department Offers Office Hours
This new service allows developers to discuss project plans with key staff. Read more here.
Chamber Economic Scorecard
When it comes to important economic indicators, how do you get through all the opinions to know with certainty just where Portland ranks? Check it out here:
The Chamber Scorecard. Our third annual publication about the Portland economy informs elected officials in City Hall, Augusta, and Washington. The Scorecard allows us to measure what matters, not once, but trended over time. So we can act as appropriate.
Some highlights from the Scorecard include:
Cranes in the Air
Currently in Portland there are major projects in planning/construction worth at least a quarter billion dollars. See specifics here.
Are You Bullish on Portland?
Do you like living and working in Portland? Like to talk up your town? Consider yourself a connector? Take a minute and check out this link.
If You Liked That One…
…Look at this site. The Chamber is a major sponsor of this initiative. If your business is recruiting people from away, you should know about this.
Grants Available For Portland Job Creators
That’s right. There’s no free lunch, but if you need a little gap funding to help your business create jobs, click this link on the city’s website.
Subscribe to City Planning & Urban Development Newsletter
New Director of Planning & Urban Development Jeff Levine has launched a newsletter to which you can subscribe. Check it out here.
Watch City Council Meetings on CTV or Streaming Online
You can watch City Council meetings live on CTN Channel 5 or streaming online. Click here to see how.
City Information Tool
Portland Cityline is an easy way for residents, businesses and visitors of Portland to receive periodic updates on city government activities. By simply signing up online, you can receive the latest information. Find out about traffic alerts, changes to trash and recycling pick-up schedules, public meetings, recreation activities and much more.
Know your City Councilors?
In which Council District are you located? Click here to see the map. Want to get in touch with Councilors to thank them, invite them to your business, or provide input? Find out here how to get in touch with them.
Wondering when that Planning Board or City Council meeting is? What’s on an agenda? Check out the City’s calendar.
Ask The City
The City has an online service called eContact. It allows citizens quick and easy access to information and specific information requests. Check it out Here.
Chris O’Neil is the principal of O’Neil Policy Consulting, Inc. He has represented the Portland Community Chamber at City Hall since 2006.