On April 24th the Portland City Council will likely approve my proposal to let the voters decide how we will finance the much-needed renovations to four elementary schools. Two options will be placed on the November ballot and the passage of either will raise the $64 million needed to complete the 8-year construction project.
The first option on the ballot will raise the full $64 million through the sale of city bonds. The second option will raise $32 million in city bonds and seek $32 million in state funds. If less than $32 million in state funds are awarded, a second city bond will be sent to the voters for any remaining balance. I’ve included more information about the voting and bonding processes below.
I applaud my colleagues for joining me in getting back to doing what we do best – coming together and finding a path forward that puts the residents of Portland first. When we invest in our children and our schools, we are investing in a stronger city and a brighter future for all of us.
We are all agreed on what needs to be done, how much we need to invest, and the construction timeline to which we must adhere. Now voters will get to choose how to achieve our shared goal. My thanks to all the parents, students, and community advocates who have worked so hard to get us to this exciting point!
PS. Below is some additional information about the voting and bonding process, as well as an exciting update from state funding experts:
How the voting will work:
Voters will be asked ‘yes or no’ on each of the bond questions. Voters will not be forced to choose one option over the other – there is no vote-splitting scenario. Supporting one does not prevent you from also supporting the other. You can vote ‘yes’ on any option you love or can live with. If a majority of voters say ‘yes’ to both bonds, then the one receiving the highest number of votes will be our path forward.
Bond sales and interest costs:
Under each scenario, the school projects will be sequenced (not under construction at the same time) and the bonds will be sold when each project is ready to go. The interest rate will be set per market conditions at the time the bonds are offered for sale. The bonds are not sold all at one time at a fixed rate.
Order of construction:
The order of construction is decided by the Portland School Board. They are currently considering Presumpscot or Lyseth for the first school. If voters choose the $32 million city bond to start, there would be more than enough resources to get things rolling at the first school while giving city staff the opportunity to pursue another $32 million in state funding for whichever projects have the best shot at being funded. Right now the experts are telling us that Reiche and Longfellow have the best chance of drawing down state funds (see update from Finance Director O’Connell, below), but the $32+$32 approach gives us maximum flexibility. Whichever approach the voters choose, we’ll get all four schools completed in the 8-year timeframe.
Email excerpt from City Finance Director Brendan O’Connell to Portland City Councilors, after his latest check-in with state funding consultants:
"…wanted to pass along some additional facts from Lavallee Brensinger, the architects who performed our Facilities Assessment along with Sebago Technics and who are currently assisting with our applications for State aid. I've had several conversations with them over the past several weeks and they've repeatedly confirmed (including some details in the email below) that they believe Reiche and Longfellow will be funded in the next cycle. The words they used when I recently spoke to them was that Reiche would "shoot up" the list. They noted that although PATHS/CBHS is certainly a wild card, it does not represent our best shot at State aid (Reiche has the best chance, followed by Longfellow). Finally, they mentioned that our 2010-2011 applications were somewhat poorly done, with lots of key details and information omitted. They have noted that ALL of our applications should have a better chance of funding during the upcoming cycle as they'll be complete and thorough."
Thank you for your e-mails and comments regarding the funding of much-needed renovations to four Portland elementary schools.
There is unanimous agreement on the City Council that we need to move forward with the 8-year, $64 million renovation plan for Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot, and Reiche schools. Every councilor understands that when we invest in our kids and our schools, we are investing in a stronger city and a brighter future for everyone who lives here.
The question left to resolve is “how” we best finance the project. The City Council has thoroughly debated two paths.
One path would ask Portland voters to approve the sale of $64 million in city bonds and pay back those bonds by raising the local property tax.
The second path, the 32+32 plan, would seek voter approval to issue $32 million in city bonds while applying for $32 million in state funds. If less than $32 million in state funds are awarded, a second city bond would be sent to the voters for any remaining balance.
Each of these paths will get us to the same end: $64 million in financing to renovate four elementary schools in eight years.
For me the key considerations in making this choice include feasibility; cost to taxpayers; impacts on our ability to fund the 20-year, $320 million all-school construction plan; and the overall effects on Portland’s affordability.
I strongly favor the 32+32 plan because it assures the same outcome with the potential for lower costs and greater long term flexibility. But I also trust Portland voters. And that is why I will be voting to send both the $64 million bond and the 32+32 option to the ballot so Portland voters can decide our path forward.
The amendment to put both options in the hands of the voters will be on the agenda when the council returns to this issue on April 5th. The public hearing and council vote will likely be scheduled for the April 24th council meeting.
We are all agreed on what needs to be done, how much we need to invest, and the construction timeline to which we must adhere. Now it’s time to let Portland voters choose how to achieve our shared goal.
I appreciate the time you took to contact me. As always, your thoughts have informed mine. Please don’t hesitate to be back in touch on this or any other issue of interest or concern to you and your family.
3/16/2017 0 Comments
"Under the '2+2,' we do our due diligence to pursue all opportunities for funding outside of municipal bonding and property tax increases. It gives us flexibility, the potential to minimize cost, and the opportunity to save local resources that can be used to fund future infrastructure needs in our middle and high schools."
I am forever grateful for this early lesson in navigating relationships with family, friends and community.
The current debate over bonds to renovate Portland’s elementary schools is an appropriate opportunity to invoke this “stop and listen” approach.
One deep breath is all it takes to see that there is unanimous agreement on the City Council about what needs to be done and in what time frame. Nine councilors are committing to an eight-year renovation plan for Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche elementary schools.
Nine councilors understand and agree that when we invest in our kids and our schools, we are investing in a stronger city and a brighter future for Portland.
So, despite the confusing and high-intensity rhetoric, the question before us is not “if” or “why” we should renovate four schools in eight years, but “how” we achieve that shared goal.
How do we minimize the load for Portland taxpayers and maximize the buying power of local dollars?
And how do we best achieve the longer term need for achieving similar updated and high-quality learning environments in our middle and high schools?
Let’s take that deep breath as we move toward a hearing and debate next week. We have a responsibility to fully review all proposals.
The “local dollars only” proposal would ask Portland voters to approve the sale of $64 million in municipal bonds and pay back those bonds by raising the local property tax.
The price tag for this approach would be $92 million over 20 years. The “local dollars only” approach would void Portland’s eligibility to draw down state funds for any part of the costs of renovating these four schools.
The “2+2” proposal would renovate the same four schools in the same 8-year time frame (2018-2026), but it would allow for the possibility that up to $32 million in state funding could replace local bonding and reduce the subsequent increase in property taxes.
This option would request voter approval for the sale of an initial $32 million in municipal bonds. And, instead of funding the entire price tag with local bonds, the “2+2” proposal would include application for $32 million in state funding for the remaining two schools.
State funding awards will be announced by November 2018. If state funds are not secured for the full $32 million, the “2+2” approach calls for a return to the voters with a second local bond that would fund the balance needed to complete the four school renovations within the eight year time frame.
The price tag for the “2+2” approach would be the first bond for $32 million over 20 years plus interest, plus an additional $17 million to do one school or $32 million if both schools fail to survive the state process.
Under the “2+2,” we do our due diligence to pursue all opportunities for funding outside of municipal bonding and property tax increases. It gives us flexibility, the potential to minimize cost, and the opportunity to save local resources that can be used to fund future infrastructure needs in our middle and high schools.
We all want to live in an affordable city – a place where people from everywhere and every background make up a caring community – where kids can get a great education and a strong start on building successful lives. We want people living here to stay, and we want new people to join us.
Not every story has to have a bad guy. This isn’t Hollywood and it isn’t hyper-partisan Washington, D.C. We’re not filming a modern-day Western or battling the tobacco industry.
We’re Maine people who care about our kids and our communities. My hope for the next few days is that we really listen to each other.
Let’s not make this an “all or nothing” choice with “winners” and “losers” and a community left divided. Let’s focus on what’s important: safe schools for our kids and affordability for our residents.
And let’s go back to what we do best in Portland: finding collaborative and ingenious solutions to problems, helping our neighbors, and making wise use of resources to invest in our children and make our city stronger.
Link to Press Herald: http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/16/commentary-portland-taxpayers-would-gain-from-go-slow-approach-to-school-renovations-councilor-duson-says/
"This is a great opportunity to share some of Portland's best practices re: in key policy areas including city planning and policy, diversity and inclusion, public health and education. It is also a unique opportunity to listen and learn how other cities are tackling tough problems."
At-Large City Councilor Jill Duson is part of a delegation of Portland councilors attending the National League of Cities 2017 Congressional City Conference.
SUNDAY MARCH 12TH - Yesterday at the National League of Cities - Federal Advisory Committee Meetings
Councilor Duson is a member of the NLC Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Federal Advisory Committee (EENR). The EENR is responsible for leading NLC’s advocacy on sustainability-related issues such as water infrastructure and water quality, air quality, energy, climate change, solid and hazardous waste management, local food systems, and public lands. EENR members from across the country met this Sunday and prioritized issues pertaining to water infrastructure, including financing mechanisms for new and existing infrastructure, climate impacts on water and critical infrastructure to sustain resilient communities.
MONDAY MARCH 13TH - Today at the National league of Cities - Workshops Attended
Energy and Climate Policy: What’s Next?
With the new Administration comes uncertainty and change to federal climate and energy policy, potentially affecting the Clean Power Plan and the U.N. Climate Agreement. As cities continue to take action on improving energy efficiency, using renewable energy, and building community resilience to future extreme weather events, we seek a federal partner to support these efforts. The session focused on shifting federal policy re: climate and energy; progress at the local level toward city’s sustainability and climate goals absent new federal action, and how to resist state or federal preemption of local action.
Immigration Reform: Rising Above the Rhetoric
Cities have always been and always will be home to immigrants, a population that contributes to the city's economic vitality. It’s important for city leaders to rise above the rhetoric of “sanctuary cities” and understand the relationship between the federal government and the city regarding immigration. In this session we heard about the Administration's plans for immigration reform and the potential impacts of regulatory actions on cities, including actions that might prevent cities from receiving federal funding. The focus was on how fellow local leaders are navigating the challenges, and what some communities are doing to integrate immigrants.
TUESDAY, MARCH 14TH – Tomorrow at the National league of Cities – Jill Will Attend
The Affordable Care Act: Preparing for Change
Amend or repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ?considering the potential impact on your city? healthcare costs increases and other economic impacts? Learn about the plans for changes to the ACA, including regulatory actions that may alter rules of the game. How to plan and advocate in response to ACA changes.
Tackling the Crisis Together: Town Hall on Opioid Action
Cities across the country are increasingly affected by the opioid crisis. A deep dive on the opioid epidemic to better understand local capacity, learn of resources available to communities, and hear about federal funding opportunities. A "Town Hall" style session identifying and sharing best and promising practices across the nation.
WEDNESDAY & THURSADY – Hill Day Visits with members of Congress representing Portland.
Portland City Councilors will be meet with Maine's Congressional Delegation, including Sen. Collins, Sen. King, and Rep. Pingree.
"This is a great opportunity to share some of Portland's best practices re: in key policy areas including city planning and policy, diversity and inclusion, public health and education. It is also a unique opportunity to listen and learn how other cities are tackling tough problems." - Jill
Portland activists have repeatedly demonstrated the ability to organize and implement peaceful disruptive protests. The Portland Police have repeatedly worked with organizers in advance to tailor their response to assure the safety of demonstration participants and the public.
Portland activists have repeatedly demonstrated the ability to organize and implement peaceful disruptive protests. The Portland Police have repeatedly worked with organizers in advance to tailor their response to assure the safety of demonstration participants and the public.
If provocateurs from whatever viewpoint show up, bent on violence and act out, the Police Department response has been professional, focused on specific behavior and proportional.
It is important to talk back and be part of setting community standards re: threats to and disregard for the dignity and rights of our extended community family; to courageously stand for love in the very face of hate.
When you stand and publically say this hate talk does not reflect our community; what this black mother feels is the hope and assurance that some one and or many will act to protect my strong black man-son, my young grandsons, my gay brother, my latina daughter, my HIV survivor sister, my neighbor who immigrated to Portland, built a business, is creating jobs and making a future for his kids and mine. That is a message worth sending every time hate raises its ugly head.
Yes, engage on the state and national level, but not at the expense of being fundamentally and unrelentingly responsible for our community family and what happens in our presence.
[City of Portland - Code of Ordinances, Sec. 2-21, Prohibition on Immigrant Status Checks]
The rumor that the Portland City Council is considering changing or weakening the ordinance protecting the privacy of all residents from inquiry regarding immigration status is wrong.
We live in uncertain times; with a new administration in place and moving fast with unprecedented executive orders. It is understandable that our community, especially our immigrant, refugee, and Muslim neighbors, are anxious and fearful of what the future may hold.
But one thing is certain: the City of Portland values the diversity and inclusion of all, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion, and Portland has a number of policies in place which reflect that.
Portland Will Not Inquire About Immigration Status.
Under Section 2-21 of the Portland City Code, no police officer or employee may inquire as to the immigration status of any person, meaning that the City does not proactively collect and compile information related to a person’s immigration status. The limited exception is for cases where there is a reasonable suspicion that an individual is committing or has committed a felony or had been previously deported and is again present.
The city ordinance language was crafted by advocates, immigration law experts and Portland city attorneys during similarly threatening times. Passed in 2003, the ordinance was developed in response to federal raids targeting undocumented immigrants in our Latino community. Our city stood against discrimination then and we stand against discrimination now.
Our immigrant, refugee, and asylee friends and neighbors are active and peace-loving members of this community. They contribute to our high energy business, food, arts, and cultural sectors. They play essential roles in the economic strength of our small but vibrant city, the region, and the state.
The Portland ordinance language is so much clearer than a proclamation adopting an undefined label made up by those who would target and expel our neighbors. The Portland Ordinance goes beyond resolutions, to specific and measurable city policy that protects the right of privacy of all Portland residents without regard to citizenship status.
The Portland ordinance is strong and clear and if and when it comes to it, the Portland ordinance is legally defensible. I am confident that the Council will stand by this ordinance and continue to stand with all Portland families.
12/21/2016 0 Comments
Read Excerpt from Press Herald:
The City Council’s Housing Committee has delayed recommending regulations on short-term rentals to the full council until it has clarified issues raised at its meeting Wednesday.
Committee Chairwoman Jill Duson said at the beginning of the meeting that she would consider sending the council three options for regulating rentals such as those provided through the Airbnb website.
But after two hours of deliberation and testimony from the public, Duson conceded the committee had more work to do.
“I think at this point we would be sending a muddle,” Duson said.
Read More at: http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/14/housing-committee-delays-recommending-short-term-rental-rules-to-portland-council/
From the Forecaster:
PORTLAND — The show will go on at the Maine State Pier in 2017, city councilors decided Monday.
The final City Council meeting of 2016 took four hours. Councilors also approved changes to the city’s General Assistance and minimum wage ordinances to conform with state laws, and to create a city office to help connect immigrants and employers.
And they showed their appreciation for City Manager Jon Jennings by giving him a 12 percent salary increase.
By a unanimous vote, councilors authorized Waterfront Concerts to begin scheduling 2017 concerts at the Maine State Pier, off Commercial Street next to the Casco Bay Lines terminal.
The vote does not prevent the city from limiting the number of shows or enforcing new noise regulations, but allows promoters to move ahead with scheduling.
“This is not a waterfront concert series, this is a waterfront assault,” Peaks Island resident Arthur Fink said as he asked the council to reject the authorization order.
Councilor Belinda Ray agreed with Fink that the concerts were too noisy and, in some cases, too frequent.
“If I lived in a place where those concerts were audible, it would have been intolerable for me,” Ray said.
Waterfront Concerts hosted 28 shows last summer, up from five in 2014, and Jennings said he will hold a workshop to discuss the noise and possible abatement methods in February.
Jennings also noted the future of pier concerts may be limited, since the Economic Development Committee next year will be considering ways the pier can be redeveloped.
The changes to the city General Assistance ordinance were made to comply with the 2015 state law regarding aid given to immigrants who are “lawfully present” or seeking asylum in the country.
General Assistance vouchers for food, housing, medicine and other necessities are reimbursed by the state, but the city has also funded vouchers for people now ineligible by state standards without seeking reimbursement from the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Councilors were urged by Susan Roche of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project and Joby Thoyalil of Maine Equal Justice Partners to pass an ordinance to protect the city’s policy to distribute vouchers for those deemed ineligible by the state.
But city Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta said the separate ordinance could create a conflict with the state DHHS that would result in reimbursements being withheld.
Jennings said the city has set aside $250,000 in municipal funds to provide aid to anyone left ineligible by state rules, with about $80,000 spent for 90 people so far this year. He said he would seek more funding this year if needed, and would add funding in the fiscal year 2018 budget.
Councilor Pious Ali proposed postponing the vote to Feb. 6 in order to allow more outreach to those affected by the changes, but the motion failed.
West-Chuhta said amending the ordinance was critical because of the possibility the state would withhold reimbursements for noncompliance.
“Acting on it today is important from my perspective,” she said.
The new Office of Economic Opportunity will be staffed by a director and two coordinators and mostly underwritten by grants. Council support was unanimous for the resolution to make sure immigrant job-seekers and employers connect. Council David Brenerman moved to amend the name to include that the office would be serving “serving immigrants, people of color and other underserved populations.”
Mayor Ethan Strimling supported adding the tag line, while Ray and Councilor Jill Duson worried it would be too limiting in terms of future outreach by the office. Ray and Councilor Spencer Thibodeau opposed the motion to add the tag line.
City workers earning more than $30 a month in tips will have their base wages increased to $5 per hour from $3.75 as councilors approved the increase to conform with the state wage minimum referendum passed by voters Nov. 8.
On Jan. 1, the city minimum wage will increase to $10.68 per hour as well. Employers must pay the hourly wage to tipped employees when their gratuities fall below the minimum wage.
Jennings gets a raiseCouncilors unanimously supported an $18,000 raise for Jennings, retroactive to July 1. The total includes a 2 percent cost-of-living increase, 5 percent for merit pay, and a 5 percent market adjustment. Jennings was hired July 13, 2015, at a salary of $148,000.
“In the time he has been here, I think he has done an incredible job. I think he has done exactly what we wanted when we hired him,” Councilor Nick Mavodones Jr. said.
David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2016
Following months of work, Chairs offer proposals to assist low-to-moderate income tenants
PORTLAND, Maine -- The Chairs of the Portland City Council’s Housing Committee, Councilor Jill Duson (Chair) and Councilor David Brenerman (Vice-Chair), will present a set of proposals to address housing insecurity issues to the full Committee at its Wednesday night meeting (9/28 5:30 PM in Council Chambers). It is expected that the Committee will vote on recommendations to forward to the full City Council for possible adoption.
“Our goal is to present an approach to addressing the issues that we’re experiencing here in Portland, keeping in mind the long term effect these decisions will have on the housing market,” said Committee Chair Jill Duson.
Committee Vice-Chair David Brenerman added, “we want to help the bargaining position of tenants in a very tight housing market while keeping in mind that the market is affected by economic cycles. We don’t want to over correct and tip the balance so drastically that it affects the quality and availability of housing for low-to-moderate renters in our community."
The Committee began focusing on policy associated with housing insecurity after a series of public hearings and issues forums, reviewing best practices research, and receiving input from city staff and corporation counsel. The policy themes included rent control/rent increase limitations, increases to notification minimums for rent increases and non-renewal of leases, voucher discrimination, tenant/landlord mediation/ombudsman, tenant relocation payments, and restrictions on unit turn over in large buildings.
To that end, the Committee Chair and Vice Chair have assembled a proposed package containing policy items aimed at mitigating concerns related to housing insecurity. The package includes:
The Chairs noted that of all the protections the City can provide tenants, education of rights and responsibilities is an important component, referring to two of the proposed items above (2 and 3).
The Chair and Vice Chair also propose that the Committee take time to further study the implications and feasibility of instituting a Tenant Relocation Assistance Fund for households earning below 50% of Area Median Income (AMI) that are asked to relocate due to substantial rehabilitation or renovations to their unit. Outstanding questions that would need to be considered would include possible funding amounts/sources, definitions that trigger “substantial renovation”, income thresholds, enforcement, and payment amounts.
The Chairs added that because Portland’s housing stock is old, it’s important to encourage landlords to upgrade units so that low and moderate income people are not forced to live in substandard housing in order to find an affordable rent.
“We’d like to recognize and thank the many community organizations and members of the public who spent time working with us throughout this process. It is our hope that the public, especially those who have been following the process, will have a chance to review the proposed package and come to the meeting on Wednesday night to weigh in one more time,” said Committee Chair Duson.
Vice-Chair Brenerman added, “In developing our package, we considered all of the proposals that came before us, many of which had conflicting views from the public. Some of them were not included after we learned that they were already covered by or would conflict with existing state law, would have questionable legal basis, or because the City attorney advised that the Council could not implement them with its Home Rule authority."
"This is just one piece of a complex puzzle, and the first package we are putting forward. We have a number of ideas to research in terms of increasing the amount of housing and potential changes to the housing fund,” said Councilor Duson. We have not lost sight of these issues, and we anticipate teeing them up within the next three to four months.”
"Historic preservation, retail and commercial uses, housing and jobs, as envisioned, this project will anchor the eastern waterfront and have a major impact at the local, regional and state level. It will take a strong public private partnership to make this vision a reality. Let's all roll up our sleeves !" — Jill Duson, At-Large Portland City Councilor & Chair of the Housing Committee
As reported by the Press Herald:
"A March 2015 economic analysis commissioned by the developer estimated that the project would add $85 million to the city’s tax base, generating an additional $1.7 million in annual tax revenue. It also estimated that direct and indirect construction-related spending would top $215 million, including 1,400 new jobs with wages totaling nearly $68 million. However, that analysis was based on a comparable area in the existing Old Port, rather than a specific redevelopment plan."