Portland City Council reexamines process allowing citizens to get initiatives on the ballot
PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - Portland City Council members spent hours discussing the referendum process during a workshop on Monday night.
At this time, citizens are able to get an initiative on the ballot if they obtain 1,500 verified signatures from city residents.
Supporters call the referendum process the closest thing to direct democracy in modern American government, but opponents worry that it’s led to an unsustainable increase in ordinance changes.
In Portland, five citizen initiatives were on the ballot last November and now locals will vote on another citizen initiative that would amend city rent control ordinances during an election in June.
Now, the city council is reevaluating the process, considering changes that would make it more difficult to get a referendum on the ballot, including raising the signature threshold from 1,500 residents (3% of the city’s registered voters) to 10% of the city’s registered voters, putting it in line with the state referendum process.
“I think 1,500 is way too low, but then again, I think 3,300 is too high,” said city councilor Regina Phillips. “We don’t have to go with the state standard.”
The council is also considering changes that would allow the city council to amend passed resolutions without waiting the mandatory five years.
Any changes to the referendum process would have to go to residents for a vote. For now, the city council is planning to schedule another workshop with opportunities for public comment.
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