Maine DSA withdraws support for Portland cruise ship referendum

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The Maine Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) are no longer supporting a referendum question they worked to place on Portland’s ballot for the upcoming November general election.

The Maine DSA announced on September 1 that they had reached a compromise proposal  with the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council (MSBCTC) and would no longer support Question E. 

Question E asks Portland voters whether they want to approve a change to the city’s ordinances that would cap the number of cruise ship passengers who could disembark at 1,000 per day. The ordinance would go into effect in 2025.

The question is part of the Maine DSA’s Campaign for a Livable Portland, which also includes ballot questions that would regulate short-term rentals and interactions between tenants and landlords.

The Maine DSA and its partners hope the compromise, titled “An Act to Reduce Cruise Ship Emissions and Expand Good Paying Jobs on the Working Waterfront,” will be considered by the Portland City Council.

According to the DSA, the proposal “addresses the shared goal of reducing carbon pollution from large cruise ships while expanding high-road job opportunities on the working waterfront.”

It would require Portland to install shoreside power stations by 2028 and be in full time use for all cruise ships by 2029. The proposal would also require those power stations to be built by workers paid by a “community-facing Project Labor Agreement,” and requires “all future shoreside work to ensure the ships and passenger dock sately will be performed by City Licensed Stevedoring Terminal Operators.”

Beginning January 1, 2024, the proposal would also require a shoreline electrical power surcharge of at least $2.50 be charged to all passengers disembarking from cruise ships. Proceeds from the surcharge could only be used for the construction and operation of shoreline power systems and related projects.

The proposal would also require the city to establish the Portland Ocean Terminal and Cruise Ship Task force by July 1, 2023 to study “the environmental, economic and workforce impacts of the cruise ship industry on Portland, and to make policy recommendations to the City Council.”

Chair of Maine DSA’s Campaign for a Livable Portland, Wes Pelletier, said the compromise “meets two of DSA’s highest priorities: confronting climate change and expanding well-paying jobs for workers.”

“In many ways, it is even better than what voters sent to the ballot this fall, and we hope the [Portland City] council’s Sustainability &Transportation committee takes it up immediately. As they do, we’ll shift our resources and energy toward the passage of the compromise instead of referendum question E. We’re proud to stand with the ILA and MSBCTC in this historic moment,” Pelletier continued.

Portland City Councilor Andrew Zarro (District 4), who chairs the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, said he plans to incorporate the plan into the city’s One Climate Future Plan and hopes to hold a public hearing on the proposal this fall.

“I also appreciate that all parties involved seem to agree that this is a far better approach than the one that will be on the ballot in November, which, for the sake of seizing this opportunity to advance good policy together, I believe should be rejected,” Zarro said.

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