Monday, July 29, 2013

Fighting City Hall

The rumors are true: I'm running for office!

On Friday, I officially launched my campaign for Portland City Council. I am running for the four-year, At-Large seat currently occupied by Jill Duson.

The factors and events that led me seek local office are numerous. In general, I believe the majority of the City Council's members are not working for the interests of Portland residents. They are, instead, working for Big Business, corporate and moneyed interests. When presented with an opportunity to actually take a meaningful stand on crucial issues that affect our city, most of the councilors punt in fear.

Portlanders routinely express frustration with the overall City Council. On issues from the arbitrary selling of Congress Square Park, to the impending importation of tar sands oil through Sebago Lake, to school funding, citizens feel the Council is not representing their interests.

To that end, here are my three principal campaign platforms:

First, I believe public space should remain public. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, Congress Square Park. I believe the plight of Portland's Occupy Maine encampment in Lincoln Park--and the group's ultimate eviction from the park--came down to the question of who owns supposedly public land in the city. The brouhaha over street artists also comes back to the question of "who owns the land"?

Portland has enough events centers, hotels, concert venues, parking garages and Starbucks. Portland city officials seem hell-bent to privatize and commercialize--in a disturbingly corporatist fashion--every last square inch of the city. Can we please keep a little bit of our beautiful city for ourselves?

Second, I want to cut Portlanders' taxes by investing more into schools, teachers and other public institutions, and less on tax cuts for the wealthy and taxpayer subsidies (often in the form of "Tax increment financing," or TIFs) for Big Business. As I pointed out in one of Guerrilla Press' most popular posts to date, corporations like Bank of America, General Electric and Proctor and Gamble are society's real welfare queens--not single mothers and immigrants.

This past spring, I voted against the Portland school budget because it called for the elimination of 36 teacher positions, including part-time Ed Techs, office positions and school administrators. The budget ultimately passed, but voters should not be put in the position of voting for a school budget that includes teacher layoffs.

Contrary to popular belief, these layoffs are not due to a lack of funding. Maine is a poor state overall, it is true. But the focus should be on where our money is spent. In 2012, for instance, the U.S. government spent $205 billion on corporate welfare. Compare that amount with the paltry $59 billion it spends annually on traditional welfare programs (food stamps, WIC, unemployment).

Finally, I believe Portland workers deserve a living wage.

While my ability as a city councilor to actually implement this policy may, in truth, prove difficult, it is still possible to mandate the city only contract with companies that pay a living wage. (None of the "jobs" promised by RockBridge Capital, for example, will pay a living wage. How do I know this? Mayor Michael Brennan admitted as much in a recent "Meet the Mayor" forum.)

At the very least, the City Council could hold an open discussion on what a living wage in Portland might look like (about $22.50 an hour according to MIT's Living Wage Calculator). Besides, if a living wage law is good enough for Washington, D.C., why not Portland, Maine?

The fact is it is becoming extremely expensive just to live in Portland. The city has a severe shortage of affordable housing--and much of what it considers "affordable" is nothing of the sort.

Consider my previous apartment in Portland, in the Avesta complex at 644 Congress Street. The single, one-bedroom (400 sq. feet) apartment cost me $795 when I first moved in. (This was with parking, which added an additional $75.) The unit above me--also a one-bedroom, with slightly more space at 410 sq. ft.--started at $900 a month.

Slowly but surely, Avesta began raising the rent by $25 every year. By the time the rent was close to $900 a month, I could no longer afford to live there. Avesta, incidentally, brags in its Mission Statement on its website of its efforts to, "promote and provide housing opportunities for...people in need." With studio apartments that start at close to $900 a month, one wonders exactly how Avesta's personnel economically define "people in need."

My point here is a living wage would go a long way toward making rents more affordable for residents.

In addition to these three platforms, I am opposed to transporting tar sands oil anywhere near the state of Maine; I would like to see more expenditures on public transportation and walkable sidewalks; and I think pot should be legal.

I have, in this blog, often attacked what I consider the betrayal of the liberal class to the middle-class, the working-poor, the destitute and the disenfranchised. I think the recent track-record of the Portland City Council (which is primarily made up of Democrats) shows the cravenness of the Democratic Party is not limited to Congress and the White House.

So, how can you help my campaign, you ask? The biggest thing readers can do right now is donate to my campaign. Since there is no clean elections system for municipal races in Maine, I need to raise a ton of money for campaign literature, signs and other materials. The fact is, I am up against some highly funded opponents. I do not have the lawyer's salary that one of the candidates for the three-year, at-large seat possesses, or the business connections of one of my opponents.

You can click the "Donate" button on the right side of the screen. Or, for those who prefer to keep the postal service in business, you can send a check made out to "Adam Marletta for Council" to:

98 Grant Street, #8
Portland, ME 04101

Any amount is greatly appreciated and helps me mount a formidable campaign. And donations are not limited to Portland or even Maine residents. A friend from Massachusetts has already mailed a donation. The maximum amount any individual can contribute is $750.

They say you can't fight city hall. But dammit, I'm going to try, anyway. If not me, right now, then who? And when?

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