Down But Not Out? Fair Housing Advocates Rally in Portland
PORTLAND, Maine - Fair-housing advocates delivered 1,000 more signatures than were required, but the Portland City Clerk's Office says the rent-stabilization referendum they're requesting cannot appear on the November ballot.
The clerk's office calls it an "honest mistake," saying it only discovered this week that there wouldn't be enough time for the City Council to hold public hearings prior to the vote. Jack O'Brien, an organizer for Fair Rent Portland, said his group has worked with the clerk's office from the very start and was told to get the signatures in by Monday, which they did.
"That citizens of Portland understand that this should certainly be on the November ballot," he said, "and there is nothing preventing the City Council from ensuring that that's so."
He said the next steps are rallies at noon and 5 p.m. today at Portland City Hall. Supporters of another initiative, known as "Give Neighborhoods a Voice," also were told that signatures had to be turned in by Monday, but this week the clerk's office told them their measure also will not appear on the November ballot.
A big reason for today's rally, O'Brien said, is to point out that city officials are turning the intent of the rules for scheduling public ballot initiatives on their head.
"These scheduling dates were put in place to protect referenda from shady, poor scheduling for referenda. And to turn around and use them in order to thwart a people's initiative is in clear violation of the spirit under which these were written."
O'Brien said his group is exploring legal action to force the city to put the measure on the ballot. It would put a cap on rent increases by big landlords.