Portland rent referendum opponents gain big bucks

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PORTLAND — Opponents of the Fair Rent referendum question on the Nov. 7 ballot are putting their money into the fight.

Say No to Rent Control, the political action committee formed to oppose Question 1, has raised $172,000 in cash and in-kind contributions in a month.

By contrast, the Fair Rent Portland PAC reported raising less than $3,300 and spending $1,950.

The quarterly finance reports were filed Oct. 5 at City Hall.

The sum of contributions to political action and ballot question committees was approaching $250,000 for the period from July 1-Sept. 30.

The reports were filed by representatives of Progressive Portland, Protect Our Neighborhood Schools, Fair Rent Portland, Say No to Rent Control, OnePortland and Better Schools Better Deal.

Individual candidates are not required to file finance reports until Oct. 27, the date the next reports are due from PACs and ballot question committees.

Spending has not yet picked up: the cumulative total from the reports was almost $73,000, including unpaid debts of $16,000 and $4,950 by OnePortland and Protect Our Neighborhood Schools, respectively.

Progressive Portland and Protect Our Neighborhood Schools advocate passage of the $64 million referendum to rebuild Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche elementary schools. Progressive Portland filed as a ballot question committee, since the bond is not its sole area of advocacy.

Better Schools Better Deal, whose formation was announced Oct. 5, advocates the $32 million bond that would fund repairing only Lyseth and Presumpscot while the Maine Department of Education revises its funding list for school projects.

Fair Rent Portland and Say No to Rent Control are on opposite sides of the referendum seeking a seven-year measure to cap rental increases to corresponding increases in inflation, measured by the local U.S. Department of Labor Consumer Price Index, and to local property taxes.

OnePortland was formed to oppose the Give Neighborhoods A Voice referendum, which seeks to amend zoning rules to allow 25 percent of registered voters living within 500 feet of a proposed zoning change to block the change by filing written objections with the city.

OnePortland reported raising almost $30,000, while spending $20. Of its $16,000 in debt, $10,500 is owed to attorneys at Bernstein Shur for consulting work.

Supporters of the zoning question had not filed any PAC spending forms as of Oct. 6.

With $146,000 in cash and more than $26,000 in in-kind services, including polling, Say No to Rent Control raised five times more than any other PAC. Its expenditures were almost $40,000 in the period, with all the contributions and spending beginning Aug. 29.

Local and out-of-state realty and property management companies comprise the majority of donors, with $15,000 given by both SPAR and Spring Street West, which are a part of Port Property Management.

Other local landlords contributing to the PAC include the owners of Princeton apartments, with $24,000 split between four companies, and David J. Vickery, who contributed $2,500 split between four companies he owns.

Say No to Rent Control also listed $24,500 as an in-kind contribution for polling from the National Association of Realtors.

The largest single donation to Fair Rent Portland was $691, from Jack O’Brien, the attorney who helped draft the referendum question.

The bulk of funding contributed to Protect Our Neighborhood Schools comes from a July 17 contribution of $20,000 from Progressive Portland. Progressive Portland Steering Committee member Pat Washburn said Oct. 6 the group’s members called passing the $64 million bond its top priority in a poll in January. The contribution required Progressive Portland to register as a ballot question committee because it exceeded $5,000.

Overall, Protect Our Neighborhood Schools has raised 11 times more than Better Schools Better Deal, which listed $300 in contributions in its initial filing.

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

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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.