In a Wednesday morning segment on WGAN Morning News with host and CEO of the Maine Policy Institute Matt Gagnon, outgoing Portland Mayor Kate Snyder spoke to the influence that the Maine Democratic Socialists of America (Maine DSA) exerts over the city’s political processes.
Gagnon asked the outgoing mayor to speak about the challenges posed by having citizen initiatives acting in parallel to the work of the Portland City Council.
“I think the national platform of the Democratic Socialists of America has really taken hold in Portland, Maine,” Snyder said. “And there are many people who are very receptive to the message and who have taken on that mantle, and who are moving that national agenda forward in our small city.”
“We see it — like you said — through citizen initiative processes and through elections,” she continued. “And so I think it’s really — it’s very real, and very powerful.”
Snyder said that the presence of the Maine DSA has made the political landscape in Portland “really interesting.”
“There’s kind of alliance with a political movement or a party in way that I hadn’t seen, you know, years ago in Portland,” she said, adding that she has tried generally to be a moderate.
Gagnon then asked Mayor Snyder if the Maine DSA has been right to criticize the inaction of the Portland City Council on certain issues for which the organization has pushed citizen initiatives.
Snyder explained that in the summer of 2020, just about six months into her term as Mayor, a number of citizen initiatives came forward related to minimum wage, rent control, and other issues “that the City Council had tackled, and had decided not to move forward.”
Maine DSA has been behind several initiatives related to rent control and minimum wage referenda.
“There was an effort to take those policy initiatives and put them on a ballot rather than have them work through the council process, or rather than live with what had worked through the council process and had failed to gain traction,” Snyder explained.
Snyder criticized the citizen initiative approach for not giving the public access to “the discussion, the debates, the potential compromise” regarding the final language which is put on the ballot.
“Voters are saying yes or no to language that’s been developed outside the public process,” she said.
The outgoing mayor said that sometimes this process “works out great,” but that big issues “require discussion that people have access to.”