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Portland Mayor, Several Councilors Register Opposition To City Referendums

The mayor of Portland, along with several city councilors, have come out against the five referendum that appear on the city’s November ballot.

If passed, the questions would introduce rent control, increase the minimum wage, ban facial recognition technology, implement strict environmental standards for building projects that receive city money and restrict short-term rentals. Mayor Kate Snyder says these are important issues, but they need to be dealt with in a deliberative way, with expert input rather than by a simple yes-or-no vote.

“First and foremost there’s an across-the-board recognition that these issues are too big to have this be the process and have it be thorough,” she says. “I think there will be unanticipated negative consequences to employees who may be currently employed but may find themselves unemployed as a result of the minimum wage increase.”

But Bre Kidman, a volunteer with Portland People First, the progressive coalition that developed the questions, says that’s fearmongering and that the referendum questions represent the wishes of a wide swath of Portland residents whose interests aren’t being represented by the city council.

“These initiatives were developed in coalition with a number of organizations and people in Portland, they required the consent of 11,000 Portlanders to get on the ballot,” Kidman says. “The idea that this is some isolated fringe group making policy for the whole city is just inaccurate.”

Opponents claim the questions will have unexpected consequences including putting small businesses under financial strain due to higher wages and the economic uncertainty of the pandemic. They also say approval could slow new construction of affordable housing.

Snyder is joined in her opposition, by Councilors Jill Duson, Belinda Ray, Spencer Thibideau, Tae Chong, Justin Costa, Kim Cook and Nick Mavodones.