PORTLAND ME — Mayor Michael Brennan announced earlier today that the City of Portland will be dressing up as a “Progressive City” for Halloween. The ambitious costume involves the participation of hundreds of people, and includes a number of features, which the Mayor Brennan laid out in detail at a press conference today at Portland City Hall.
“Instead of trying to hide homeless people from public view by banning panhandlers on public medians, for 24 hours this Halloween, Portland will solve homelessness by declaring housing a human right, using eminent domain to seize abandoned properties, bring them up to code, and convert them into public housing.”
“But,” the mayor pointed out, “only for the 24 hours of October 31st. It’s just a costume, these aren’t policies the current city government would actually implement.”
Another key feature of Portland’s “Progressive City” Halloween costume includes a raise in the minimum wage to $22/hr, to keep pace with inflation, cost of living increases, and increased worker productivity.
“It’s become clear,” Brennan said, “that it’s impossible for regular folks who grew up here to continue to survive here. Rents in Portland have increased 17% in the last year. People have to juggle two and three part time jobs just to barely make ends meet. That’s why the minimum wage will be raised to $22/hr on October 31st. But only for those 24 hours. Then we go back to business as usual.”
Those who’ve lived in Portland for the past few decades have seen the face of Portland change drastically. It’s been the case for the last century that real estate developers can just do as they please thanks to our economic system of Capitalism, the private property laws that enforce that system, and the ability to hold sway over the city council using campaign donations. But Mayor Brennan says that this will not be so this Halloween.
“Starting October 31st, and then ending on Nov 1st, any major real estate developments will need to be approved through a democratic process in which those most directly affected will have the chance to vote on whether or not they want a project to go through. The votes of course are just part of the costume, and any decisions made will be nullified on Nov 1st when we go back to business as usual,” Brennan said.
The Mayor was particularly excited about the part of the “Progressive City” costume that included Housing Cooperatives.
“All the landlords in Portland have agreed to take part in this next part of the costume; it’s really ambitious.” Mayor Brennan said. “For 24 hours this October 31st, they will be giving full ownership of their properties over to the tenants who inhabit them, and allow them, for the entire day of October 31st, to make decisions about how the surplus funds generated from their rent are spent,” Brennan said.
The Mayor speculated, “Maybe they’ll spend those funds on improvements to the building, like fixing leaky roofing, or converting the building to run on renewable energy. Maybe they’ll pay the surplus funds back to themselves as a dividend. It will be up to the people who live in that building to decide how to manage their building, and they’ll do so democratically.”
Some of the less ambitious parts of the “Progressive City” costume include a full reversal of the cuts recently made by the council to GA funding, the creation of buffered bike lanes, municipal composting, free publicly funded wifi, and increased funding for public transportation.
By contrast, one feature of the ‘Progressive City’ costume that Portland will be wearing this Halloween that some critics have decried as being “too on the nose” or “a bit much” is a policy around income tax. On October 31st, Portland will institute a local option income tax on the top 10% of income earners, including corporations, and use the revenue generated to create both a single payer healthcare system, and provide a basic minimum income, effectively abolishing poverty. But only for 24 hours this Halloween.
“After Halloween is over,” Brennan added, “we’re definitely going back to just letting the Chamber of Commerce run everything.”
Mayor Brennan’s announcement is seen by many as being most ambitious Halloween Costume the city has undertaken since it dressed up as a vibrant arts and music scene back in the late 90’s.