What Portland Neighborhoods Need

Why many of Portland’s neighborhood leaders are supporting Joey Brunelle for City Council.

(This letter was written by Zack Barowitz, Co-President of the Libbytown Neighborhood Association. It was signed by eight other current and former presidents and board members of neighborhood organizations from across the city — from Stroudwater to Munjoy Hill.)

A neighborhood organization is not a place for people who can’t deal with frustration. Issues, personalities, and concerns are myriad — and often in opposition. Success, if there is any, comes slowly and with great effort. The work is time consuming, unpaid, and often thankless. And yet, we love our communities and the work that we do. We love learning about the city process and love the issues that we fight for. For better or worse, this has made us keenly aware of neighborhood needs.

Portland neighborhoods need accountability. Budgets are the execution of policy. The amount allotted to any given line item is the strongest indication of where the city’s priorities lie. Joey Brunelle loves and understands budgets — he and a team painstakingly converted the city’s publicly available budget PDF into digital format. But, city policy is not just numbers on a spreadsheet. That is why Joey attends nearly every Council, committee, and policy meeting, and tries to educate others about how budgeting works.

Portland neighborhoods need affordability. If you pay rent or own property in Portland you probably pay a lot. City government has failed to really address the housing crisis in that it has not shown the will to make the bold but necessary moves — like using vacant city land to build affordable housing or better leveraging deed restrictions — to really address the crisis. Addressing property taxes is critical for lowering housing costs for all Portlanders because higher taxes leads to higher rents. Joey studies the approaches that have worked other places (some not far away) and will be ready on day one to introduce them.

Portland neighborhoods need communication. After all, communication is the basis of community. But it is also about having a transparent process where information is available to everyone and everyone feels they can participate. Joey Brunelle is an organizer and communications specialist and he will bring transparency within our city government into the 21st century.

Portland neighborhoods need compassion. When Joey’s friends saw that they were about to lose their health care at the India Street Clinic, Joey rose as a strong voice in the fight to keep the free clinic open. Working with few resources, the clinic eventually closed. But had the issue arisen today we’d like his odds a lot better. Whether the issue is opioid addiction or fighting for paid sick leave, Joey will be a strong but compassionate voice.

Portland neighborhoods need equity. Since the 1950s Greater Portland has sprawled while Portland’s population has remained stagnant. In order to reverse this trend and keep Portland diverse and livable, Portland will have to increase housing density, not necessarily by going up, but by reconfiguring land-use ordinances, greatly improving and expanding public transportation and infrastructure to encourage livable neighborhoods. To ensure that the population remains diverse in age, socio-economic status, and education, the city needs to encourage the creation of a variety of well-paying, fulfilling jobs and the educational opportunities to prepare for those jobs; facilitate the provision of safe, efficient and affordable housing for all incomes levels; all the while exercising responsible, informed and careful budgeting.

Portland neighborhoods need diversity. If elected, Joey will be the first openly gay City councilor in a decade. He knows that our strength as a city is dependent on new arrivals, tolerance, and diversity. But without support, Portland’s greatest source for entrepreneurship and cultural richness is being squandered. Diversity on its own means little until it can be leveraged for social justice, racial equity, cultural richness, and equitable economic development.

Portland neighborhoods need leaders who are knowledgeable, principled, and civil. Joey is a delegate to the Maine Democratic Party Platform Committee and a card carrying policy wonk. He understands the workings of city hall and will coordinate with our Augusta delegation to improve our State house representation. But beyond that, Joey is dignified, thick skinned, and genuinely friendly. He is even-tempered and will not be reduced to petty squabbling.

Portland neighborhoods need Joey Brunelle.

Signed,

Nikki Anderson, Co-President, Libbytown Neighborhood Association
Zack Barowitz, Co-President, Libbytown Neighborhood Association
Rosanne Graef, Fmr. President, West End Neighborhood Association
Ian Jacob, Fmr. President, West End Neighborhood Association
Bill Linnell, Fmr. President, Stroudwater Village Association
Andy Zarro, Fmr. President, Back Cove Neighborhood Association
Markos Miller, Fmr. President, Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization
Mary Anne Mitchell, Peaks Island Resident
David Silk, Stroudwater Resident