Portland City Council again postpones budget vote, enacts Uber rules

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PORTLAND — A vote on the fiscal year 2016 budget was postponed to June 24 as councilors decided to see how the state biennial budget will affect city finances.

In the course of two meetings spanning nearly eight hours, councilors also approved a temporary working agreement with Uber, the transportation network service that has operated unregulated in the city since October 2014.

By a 6-3 vote, with Councilors Jill Duson, Nick Mavodones and Ed Suslovic opposed, the council postponed voting on the proposed $221 million municipal budget.

Unlike a May 18 Council meeting, where a postponement was announced four hours before a vote and Mayor Michael Brennan objected to taking public comment, Monday’s action came after an hour-long hearing.

Many of the comments centered on restoring funding for staffing the overflow homeless shelter at the Preble Street Resource Center and vouchers for homeless families staying at area motels.

Councilors were urged to continue providing General Assistance vouchers for asylum seekers and others who cannot document their legal status, although those vouchers would not be reimbursed by the state Department of Health and Human Services because of a policy established almost a year ago.

“We don’t throw anyone under the bus. Stand firm, do not do (Gov. Paul) LePage’s dirty work for him,” Sherman Street resident Wendy Chapkis said.

Uber rules

The agreement with San Francisco-based Uber, which provides rides using a smartphone app, extends to Oct. 30. It defines driver insurance requirements, background check procedures, and how the company will alert customers that “surge pricing” is in effect.

The temporary agreement also allows Portland International Jetport management to determine its own rules for Uber, and requires drivers to operate four-door vehicles not more than 10 years old.

Council David Marshall, chairman of the Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee, said the agreement does not mean the committee will not seek a more comprehensive ordinance for ride-share services.

“It was important to have some kind of agreement going forward,” he said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.