District 1 City Council Candidate Sean Kerwin’s Questionnaire
- What’s most at stake in this election?
Keeping Portland a thriving and diverse community, which requires 2 elements: that the city is financially accessible to those who wish to live here, and that we preserve the elements that make us desire to live here in the first place.
2. Portland is growing and changing quickly. What are the potential negative outcomes from that growth that the city council should work to avoid? What should the council do to guide growth in a positive direction?
Change can be frightening, but it also offers great opportunity. The council must take the lead in ensuring that the change and development we see is of high quality, contributes to the existing urban fabric, and is a net positive to the city as a whole. The flip side of that coin is that when such opportunities are presented, the city council must be effective in moving them forward.
3. People without wealth are finding it more and more difficult to get by in Portland and live comfortably. What should the city council do to ensure that Portland continues to be a livable city for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds?
The demand for market rate housing accessible to our workforce is far outstripping the supply. While we need to ensure that the developments that we are permitting are of high quality, and appropriate for our vision of the city, we must bring more housing units online. If we fail to do that our housing prices will continue to climb.
4. What are two†of your favorite local businesses?
It depends what my needs are; we have many great local businesses in the First District. I’ll choose Rising Tide as one, since I’m a big fan of all our local brewers and their name conveys the theme of the rising tide that floats all boats, which is a great model for small businesses.
And Coffee By Design: great product, and they were an early anchor of the local business culture that exists in Portland today.
5. What should the city council do to sustain a local economy that supports the growth and creation of businesses like the ones you mentioned in the last question?
Most business owners are looking for reasonable lease terms, a transportation/parking infrastructure that provides their staff and customers with convenient access to them, and a location that is engaging and welcoming.
6. How often do you use forms of transportation other than driving (bicycles, bus, train, uber etc.)?
As a carpenter with many tools, my work life requires a truck. But one of the joys of living in the First District is the ability to walk or bike anywhere in town, which is exactly how I get about the Peninsula most often in my personal life. I also greatly enjoy the ease and comfort of our bus and train access to Boston, and the convenience of the Jetport so close by. My wife has walked and biked to work downtown for the past 8 years.
7. Does our local/regional public transportation system need any improvements or changes?
There is always room for improvement, but I think we do fairly well. My retired parents are constant users of the Portland Metro system, and through them I have many thoughts about details that can be tweaked to make routes more convenient, and as we grow ridership I would like to see frequency expand. However, I think the Metro is doing well for a city of our size and is an asset to the city.
8. Which grocery store(s) do you shop at most?
Hannaford, Whole Foods, the fish markets, and Micucci’s
9. What should the city council do to support the local food economy?
I support the Mayor’s initiative to create a food policy council. Through that forum there is a conduit for communication amongst those in the local food economy and communication of needs and opportunities with the city. I support a local procurement preference policy at all city institutions; and would look to support ways we can incentivize private entities to do the same.
Portland’s weekly farmers market, and its community gardens are a big asset and I will see they continue to receive the cities support.
10. Which local arts or entertainment institution do you visit most often?
So many great arts opportunities in Portland, but my most frequent visits are probably to Portland Stage Company, Blue (nightclub), and the State Theater.
11. What can the city council do to strengthen the local arts community?
One of Portland’s strongest assets is its thriving arts scene and we must ensure it continues. Organizations and programs created in partnership with the city, such as Creative Portland and First Friday, have been very successful. I will see they continue to receive support from the city, and I will be looking for future such opportunities for partnership.
Keeping the arts community strong in our city also requires addressing the cost of rent both for housing and studio space. This is one of many reasons why the focus I would bring to rent prices as described above is very important.
12. Would you have voted to continue General Assistance for asylumseekers earlier this year (following cuts to state funding)? What do you think the city should have done to deal with that crisis?
I would have voted for it, but only as a stopgap measure. We need to continue to push on the federal level to end the limitations on asylum seekers working while they are waiting for their application to be processed, on the state level to gain access to the regional support for an issue that should not rightly be borne by Portland taxpayers alone, and to find private partners to bridge the gap. Meanwhile, we must reach out to the immigrant community to identify leaders from within to help identify the best solutions.
13. Are you voting for or against a $15 minimum wage?
I will be voting against it. I strongly supported the council when they moved to a $10.10 minimum, a bold move that has only been made by twenty or so municipalities around the country. However, my conversations with both local business owners and economists have convinced me that there are very real concerns associated with moving to $15 minimum when no one else around us is. I am in support of a statewide effort to move to $12 and I think a more regional approach is appropriate for this kind of legislation in the first place.