From Kate Snyder, Portland, Maine <[email protected]>
Subject Tomorrow's Council Meetings_Starting at 4pm
Date July 16, 2023 11:06 PM
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July 16, 2023

Dear Portlanders,

This is a lengthy email because I want to provide as much information as possible before tomorrow's back to back City Council meetings. Both agendas are linked below.
4pm agenda here ([link removed])
5:30 agenda here ([link removed])

The Council will take action on the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget:
The city's budget process has been delayed in order to know outcomes from Augusta regarding funding for the State's General Assistance law.
Now that the Legislature has acted, we can take final action on the City of Portland's Budget.
Here's the Press Herald's coverage from last week, as we approach the budget, and possible amendments: Additional state GA funding should prevent higher tax increase in Portland budget ([link removed]) .
And here's a memo from the City Manager to the Council dated Friday, July 14th with the most recent updates to General Assistance Funding and guidance on next steps ([link removed]) .

Important Communications:
City Staff will provide Communications on:
* Frequency of Property Assessments
* April 1 Rally Update
* Encampment Crisis Response Team Update
* Closure of City Hall on August 11th

The Council will take action on whether to send several ballot questions to Voters in November.

*Please note: The City Council's action on Order 259 (Citizen Initiated ordinance changes to Ch 6, Rent Control), Order 260 (Council initiated changes to City Charter re: use of Gender Neutral Language) and Order 261 (much more below!) is to decide whether or not to send questions to the voters on Election Day.
The Council won't "decide the matter" - we will decide whether to send the matter to voters.
All three can be seen here ([link removed])

I understand there's been lots of discussion by way of advocacy emails and social media "action alerts" regarding the section of Chapter 9 that addresses the local Citizen Initiative process.
* Order 261 on tomorrow's 5:30pm Council Agenda asks the Council to consider sending amendments to the Citizen Initiative process spelled out in ordinance to Voters.

Please, if you will, read through this email - and click into links to learn as much as possible for yourself.

I will start by sharing some context:
To start - no one is trying to take away, limit, or "kill" the Citizen Initiative Process in Portland.
To me, this is an important element of democracy both at the state and local level.
In Portland, our Citizen Initiative Process is spelled out in a part of the City Code that can only be amended by voters.
Second - the last time: ARTICLE III of Chapter 9: "INITIATION AND REFERENDUM" was amended by Portland Voters was May 1991. That was 32 years ago.
Third - constituents have asked for review for some time now. Input has focused generally on these issues: our ordinance still requires the same number of signatures as was required back in 1991; we lack a requirement for a fiscal impact statement associated with proposed changes; and, the City Council has to wait five years to amend or repeal any and all changes resulting from a citizen-drafted ordinance amendment approved by voters (only another citizen initiative can make changes within the five year period).

And so - the Council has met in two recent public Council Workshops: the first on March 27th, and the second, with Public Comment, on May 22nd.
This iterative work by elected representatives to the Council has yielded a product that had its First Read on June 26th, and is on for a Second Read tomorrow.
All proposed changes can be seen here, this is what's in the Council's packet. ([link removed])

If you watch the videos of the two Workshops, I hope you'll agree that the draft revisions are reflective of the Council's work together, and represent compromise.
In the case of the # of signatures, you will see that there is no change being presented. A majority of the Council did not support a change on this matter, and so it was left as-is.
On matters of the fiscal note, there was a majority of the Council in support of sharing this info with voters. There was a majority of the Council interested in reducing the wait-time from 5 years, and requiring more than a simple majority. Whether that wait time is a year, eighteen months, two years - and whether the number of votes required is six or seven was discussed. We did our best to reflect the middle ground of the discussion.
We discussed the difference in voter turnout, June versus November, and decided to suggest that the higher turnout fall election would serve the process best.
(These are just examples of some of the work done over the course of two City Council workshops.)
Recording of March 27th Workshop ([link removed])
Recording of May 22nd Workshop ([link removed])

Some changes reflected in Order 261:
* Require that any Citizen Initiative be on a November ballot;
* Require that any Citizen-drafted amendments be reviewed by the City Clerk and Corporation Counsel.
+ If the citizen-drafted ordinance amendment does not comply with the following requirements (in quotes below) the City Clerk will notify the citizen drafters, explain the reason(s) for rejection, with possible remedies offered, and the drafters can withdraw, or resubmit with revisions to meet the requirements. (I have summarized what's not in quotes - please take a few minutes to read the full text of the proposed changes, link provided above.)
o "(1) Does not comply with the provisions of this ordinance;
o (2) Does not conform to the form prescribed by the city clerk;
o (3) Does not conform to the essential aspects of the drafting conventions for the Portland City Code, including but not limited to:
# e. Inclusion of a summary and title that do not contain language designed to promote or oppose the proposed initiative or people’s veto."
# d. Inclusion of a summary and title that clearly and objectively describe the content of the proposal and are written in words with common and everyday meaning; and
# c. Conformity to the Portland City Code numbering system; and
# b. Ordinance titles and section headnotes that objectively reflect the content of the ordinance or sections to which they apply;
# a. Correct integration with existing ordinances;
* Require a Fiscal Note:
+ "Upon acceptance of an application under section 9-36(d), the city clerk shall request from the city finance director a fiscal impact statement describing the fiscal impact of the proposed ordinance on the city budget. Said fiscal impact statement shall be printed on the petition form and the ballot. If the finance director determines that an initiative will result in a fiscal impact of more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000.00), the ordinance, if approved by the voters, will not become effective until the later of the first July 1 after the election or the effective date, if any, stated in the proposed ordinance."
* Reduce the "wait time" for City Council action to repeal or make changes to a citizen-drafted ordinance amendment adopted by voters:
+ "For the period beginning eighteen (18) months after the effective date of the ordinance and ending five (5) years after the effective date of the ordinance, the city council, after public hearing, may repeal or amend such ordinance by vote of six (6) of its members."

However the Council lands on this issue, or any issue - I have every confidence that we will work together respectfully, in the spirit of public service.
We may disagree on substance...democracy welcomes, even requires it!
But I believe in, and always welcome process, work, input and debate that results in a product we can live with - likely one that reflects compromise as we seek to represent the interests of Portland's 68,000 residents.

Thank you for reading this email, and for being engaged.

I'm looking ahead to changes - and I'm asking you to:
* Dive into the issues;
* Pay attention to the upcoming Mayor's race, Council and School Board races;
* And of course - VOTE ON NOVEMBER 7th.

Kate Snyder

PS - My July Mayor Zoom meeting will be on Wednesday, July 26th at 4pm. Come one, come all.
I'll send another email specific to this - but if you're one to mark your calendar early - here's the Zoom Link ([link removed])
*I will not be doing a Mayor Zoom in August. I'll pick it back up in September.

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Mayor Kate Snyder . 389 Congress St . Portland, ME 04101-3566 . USA
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