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Portland Voters Pass Rent Control, Minimum Wage Referendums

Fred Bever
Maine Public file
Looking at the Portland skyline from the window of an apartment complex under construction on Congress St. in 2016.

Portland voters approved a raft of progressive ballot items Tuesday, including a boost in the minimum wage and new rent control measures.

They approved a cap on rent increases at the rate of inflation, supported a local version of the Green New Deal and barred the use of facial recognition software in the city.

By a vote of 60 percent to 39 percent, Portland residents approved a boost to $15 an hour in the minimum wage for workers within three years. If a civil emergency is declared by the city or state, minimum pay for some workers could rise to $18 an hour, as early as December.

The measures were backed by the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America. Opponents, including local developers, spent more than $600,000 to try to defeat them. Almost all were passed, but one measure to limit Airbnb-style rentals was defeated by fewer than 300 votes.

The initiative banning facial recognition technology was resoundingly approved by a vote of 65 percent to 35 percent.

The results amounted to a rebuke to the members of the Portland City Council, most of whom opposed the measures that voters approved.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.