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Farewell Councilors, Ocean Ave Rezoning, and Six Hours of Order 68 – City Council Review 11/20/2023

Monday’s City Council meeting was one of the longest in recent memory, extending into the early hours of Tuesday over a controversial encampment measure. 845 pages of public comment about the order were submitted electronically ahead of the meeting, and 90 members of the public commented on the order in council chambers.

Also on the agenda for Monday was an order rezoning 900 Ocean Avenue, another topic that has prompted debate at city council meetings in recent months.

Starting just after 5:00 p.m., Mayor Snyder called the meeting to order. All councilors were present in chambers. The crowded room was abuzz as Snyder explained how the evening would proceed. She encouraged members of the public to use the several overflow rooms which had been made available for the evening’s crowds, and to make space for others once they had said their piece. The mayor also explained that, in a change to the agenda, the council would take up Order 68 – the order concerning encampments – as the last piece of business. The room was brimming with tension in anticipation of the final order.

General Public Comment

Snyder then opened the 5:00 public comment period for comments regarding items not on the agenda. Bill Higgins spoke first, advocating for bringing Winter Walk to Maine. Winter Walk, Higgins explained, is an annual walk to raise awareness around homelessness and fundraise for organizations working on this issue.

George Rheault commented as well, asking for clarity on a particular loan the city took out. Rheault conveyed that when he asked Finance Director Brendan O’Connell about the loan, O’Connell said that the city had paid it off. Rheault asked where the money to pay off the loan came from.

One commenter tried to address Order 68, but Snyder asked him to wait until the item came up on the agenda.

Next, a number of former city councilors came up to the podium to thank outgoing councilors and staff for their work. This meeting marked the final meeting for Mayor Snyder, Councilor Zarro, and Director of Health and Human Services Kristin Dow. It was also Councilor Dion’s last meeting as a councilor before assuming the office of mayor.

The former councilors – including Nick Mavodones, Belinda Ray, Spencer Thibodeau, Tae Chong, and Brian Batson – all praised the outgoing councilors and Dow for their work, making special note of the difficult circumstances Snyder faced during her tenure as mayor. Chong spoke to Dow specifically, calling her a “world class director” and praising her work in resettling women immigrants and distributing Narcan. Ray read out haikus for the honorees, beginning a trend that caught on later in the night.

After these five comments finished, Leo Hilton stepped forward to  ask why the former councilors were allowed to make their remarks when an item acknowledging the outgoing councilors was already on the agenda under Recognitions. Hilton recalled the earlier commenter addressing Order 68 who was asked to wait to speak until that portion of the agenda.

Snyder responded to Hilton’s comment directly, saying that allowing public comments on the recognition for outgoing councilors during this period was a customary exception, presumably since recognitions usually do not allow for comments. But, she continued, this had been temporarily suspended during the pandemic alongside in-person meetings generally. She acknowledged that the return to in-person meetings was a confusing transition for many, but did not explicitly address the fact that a recognition on the topic did indeed appear next on the agenda.


Continuing on, Snyder took up the next agenda items, “Recognition of outgoing elected officials for their service to the City of Portland,” and “Recognition of Kristen Dow, Director of Health & Human Services, for her service.”

Councilor Fournier gave a brief speech recognizing Andrew Zarro, explaining that the two had initially been running against each other in 2020 but met up and realized they would be better suited to work together on the council, prompting Forunier to run for an At-Large seat instead of the District 4 seat. “Your presence and your impact will be felt,” said Forunier of Zarro’s legacy.

Mayor Snyder gave remarks on Mark Dion, describing his commitment to his family, the Portland community, as well as the Lewiston community, especially in light of the recent shootings. She also thanked him for his leadership on the Finance Committee and the Search Committee. Snyder wished him well in his tenure as Mayor. “As you’re now seeing, it’s a difficult job,” the outgoing mayor said, seemingly referencing the unruly mood in the room that was taking place as the night unfolded. 

City Manager West was first to recognize the outgoing Mayor Snyder. West thanked Snyder for handling the job with “poise and grace,” noting that the past three years were “the most challenging… I’ve ever been a part of.” Councilor Zarro also offered recognition for the Mayor, similarly describing her as a “source of calm and assurance for our community,” particularly with the changeover of major staff positions, including City Manager, Corporation Counsel, and City Clerk.

Mayor Snyder then read out a recognition for departing HHS director Kristen Dow, who had served for nearly 20 years, applauding her for managing one of the most significant city departments and overseeing the opening of the new Homeless Services Center. Snyder further recognized her work supporting asylum seekers in Portland. “Your shoes will be very hard to fill,” said Snyder.

Dow briefly took the podium to thank the Council, as well as thanking her family for being her “soft place to land.”


Moving through the agenda, the Council took up two business licenses, which were both unanimously approved. The first was for Jerome’s, a new “alternative sports pub” which will replace The Snug at 223 Congress Street. The second came from Sodexo America and concerned a new cafe opening on the University of Southern Maine campus.


The Mayor took the next item, Order 69, out of order; as she previously explained, Order 68 would be saved for the end of the meeting. This next order would extend the collective bargaining agreement with the police union, which includes a 4% raise. The increase would go into effect on July 1st, 2024.

Phillips took issue with the order, asking why the police department was getting another raise when the Council had just raised their budget by 14% this past July. Human Resources Director Anne Torregrossa responded that the 4% increase would go into effect one year after the 14% increase. Phillips explained that she thought the earlier 14% raise meant that no further raises would take place for police in the ensuing two years, but Torregrossa said this was not the case and did not know why Phillips thought it was.

Councilor Pelletier asked when the executive session took place where this matter was discussed, noting that she hadn’t been in attendance. West said the session was on October 30th.

Councilor Fournier asked if the group receives a cost-of-living adjustment, or “COLA;” Torregrossa clarified that the 4% increase is the COLA.

The order passed 7-2 with Phillips and Pelletier opposing.

Order 72, which allocated $2,000 to the Shop with a Cop program, which had been donated by Oldcastle Lawn & Garden, passed unanimously as an emergency. The program pairs officers with local kids to shop for the holidays together.

Ocean Avenue Rezoning

Order 10 was then put before the council. This was the first order that prompted an outpouring of public comment. The order would rezone certain parcels of land from R-3 to R-5a, this would allow developers to build a new residential complex at 900 Ocean Avenue; without this rezoning, density restrictions at the site would limit the construction.

Many people opposed to this order had been making their opinion known during open public comment at prior meetings. The first comment, however, was in favor. Bill Higgins advocated for the passage of the order, asking the Council to encourage anything that brings more housing in the city.

 As more stepped forward to speak, just over half of the comments were in opposition. Including Higgins, 14 people spoke in total on Order 10. Eight were nearby residents opposed to the rezoning. Many of them reiterated concerns expressed at earlier meetings, including predictions of negative environmental impacts and concerns about blasting damage to their homes, as well as an influx of cars and traffic to their neighborhood. The residents decried the planning process, claiming that their voices were not being heard and that the city favored developers interests over their own.

Ron Morse accused the developers of being deceitful and planning to build more than they were now saying, he also worried about the demand on infrastructure, “400 units? That’s 400 toilets.” Deirdre St. Louis asked the council to “protect the character of the area” by “maintaining the status quo,” while Keri Lord argued that “we don’t have an obligation to provide housing for every single person in the world who wants to come live in Portland.” Patty Webber pleaded for the council to ignore the Planning Board’s approval, “You are the front line in preventing the Planning Board from abusing their power.”

Those in favor of the project had varied reasons for supporting it. Reiterating sentiments expressed by Higgins’ earlier comment about bringing in more housing, regular commenters George Rheault and Steven Scharf both supported the order. Scharf encouraged the city to build “all types of housing, for all types of people, in all neighborhoods,” while Rheault criticized the council for “exclud[ing] all types of people from living in our community” and making it “illegal to build housing.” He also compared Portland’s housing woes unfavorably with other jurisdictions friendlier to housing construction.

Developers for the project also commented; Sam LaBelle of Acorn Engineering explained that per the company’s assessment, the R-5a zoning would allow for more flexibility in building and, he said, less land disturbance. This was because the additional density would allow them to build taller, and in fewer buildings, leaving a smaller footprint and clearing fewer trees than would be required of a less-dense development. Matthew Tonello, a property manager affiliated with the project, reiterated LaBelle’s explanation and added that his employees struggle to find housing in Portland. He also read a haiku as part of his public comment.

In a back and forth with Brendan Mazer, Planning Board chair, Councilor Zarro (whose district the land is in) sympathized with the general public’s confusion and asked why abutting properties were also included in this rezoning. Mazer responded that the board doesn’t like to make “toothy” zone changes, and that the broader scope made for a cleaner map with greater flexibility. .

Zarro criticized the “piecemeal” approach to rezoning, given the ongoing ReCode process to reform the whole Land Use Code, but Mazer responded that the board had an obligation to applicants regardless of how far along the ReCode process is. He then admitted that he did not know how ReCode would affect the area, as despite the process being many years in progress, “We have not even started looking at the [zoning] maps yet.” Zarro suggested striking the zone change to the abutting properties, and focusing only on the single parcel which the developer owns, or even rejecting the plan entirely. Leaving the parcels zoned as R3 would allow the developers to build in a more limited capacity.

Dion raised several questions about how building plans are assessed against the comprehensive plan, and how many opportunities for public comment took place during this process. Mazer responded that several opportunities for public engagement had occurred. Christine Grimando, Director of Planning and Urban Development, elaborated on the comprehensive plan piece, noting that assessment methods for projects are varied and not done with any strict formula. Dion also confirmed with planning staff that just because a parcel was ‘upzoned’ to a denser zone, that this merely gives property owners permission to build more densely, and not that they are in any way obligated to do so.

Fournier spoke out in favor of passing the order, including the full rezone, on the grounds of expanding housing across all neighborhoods. She pointed to the encampment crisis and noted that building more housing is essential to resolving it. “We need housing for everybody,” she reminded the council, noting that even market-rate housing is beneficial.

Phillips asked how much the planned units would sell or rent for; developers were unable to give her a number or estimate, as there were no plans yet. More thorough planning would only proceed once they knew the outcome of this very process. Phillips also pointed out that, even if the developers were unsuccessful with the rezone request, they will still be able to build in the R-3 zone. She indicated her intention to vote against the rezoning.

Zarro then pointed out that the parcels in discussion would likely be rezoned in a similar fashion under the current ReCode proposal. Grimando was hesitant to confirm or deny given that the ReCode is still subject to change, as Mazer had earlier said, no maps had been made yet. However, she did agree that it was a possibility.

Zarro then moved to amend the order to exclude the parcels that abut the Ocean Ridge Condominiums property from the rezone. The amendment passed unanimously.

City Manager West added an amendment of her own, adding language to recognize and adopt the findings of the planning board. West explained that this technical modification would ensure all relevant materials were incorporated into the record, a necessary new practice in light of recent lawsuits against the city’s planning bodies. This amendment passed unanimously as well.

Moving into the vote on the order itself, Phillips asked for more information about neighborhood meetings and engagement on the rezoning. Mazer explained that there had been three opportunities for public comment on this project – the neighborhood meeting hosted by the developer and the two planning board meetings that took this project up, which allow for public comments. Phillips asked if there was any way to further engage the nearby residents, to which West responded that such an effort would involve a procedural change in the planning process, a task separate from the one in front of the council. Deputy Planning Director Kevin Kraft also explained that this rezoning process was only the first stage, the developers would need to return to gain approval for their plans. Using the Roux Institute as a comparable example, he said that there would likely be at least four more opportunities for neighbors to offer input.

Snyder summarized the discussion by noting that rezoning and change are always difficult and contentious topics. She then moved to a vote, where the amended order passed 7-2, Zarro and Phillips opposing.

Snyder then called a 10 minute break before picking the meeting back up around 7:50 p.m.

Civil Forfeiture

Upon returning from the break Snyder clarified that the meeting was not hybrid, meaning public comments would not be taken on Zoom.

Taking up Order 67, Accepting and Appropriating Asset Forfeiture Funds to the PPD, was next on the agenda. This involved the acceptance of funds by Portland’s Police relating to surrendered property following a felony investigation, in partnership with federal authorities. No public comments occurred.

Councilor Fournier asked if the forfeiture funds could replace funds allocated to police in the municipal budget, freeing up the money for other purposes. A police representative answered, explaining that forfeiture funds are only to be used supplementally, per FBI stipulations, and thus cannot replace any pre-existing funding. Phillips, noting that some of these funds would go towards training, asked the police chief if that included DEI training. Chief Dubois answered no, and that no specific programs had yet been outlined, prompting Phillips to urge him to include DEI units in the training.

The order passed unanimously.

The Main Event: Order 68

Finally, the Council took up Order 68, the most notable order of the evening.

Councilor Rodriguez briefly explained the background on the order and why he and Councilor Trevorrow were bringing it before the council. Per Rodriguez, a significant piece of feedback over the two Council workshops, as well as Encampment Crisis Response Team (ECRT) meetings, was opposition to encampment “sweeps,” in which the largest agglomerations of tents are removed by city or state authorities all at once. Order 68 is intended to temporarily suspend encampment sweeps by allowing people to use public spaces as a place to set up shelter, such as tents, to live in. He also explained the various amendments to the order. For a full breakdown of the order’s context, details, and amendments, refer to the Townsman’s article on the order.

In an unusually critical memorandum, several of Portland’s department heads had previously stated their strong opposition to Order 68. City Manager West noted that additional space would soon become available at the Homeless Services Center, and that sweeps are only carried out if there are health and safety concerns.

West then invited Police Chief Mark Dubois to speak. Dubois described multiple instances of overdoses and violent crime that the police department had witnessed at various encampment sites. These included thousands of service calls, over one hundred overdoses (several of which were fatal,) stabbings, machete and hammer attacks, at least one vehicular death, and many sexual assaults, robberies, and thefts. Fire Chief Keith Gautreau also spoke, pointing to the hazards of exploding propane tanks and burning of toxic materials. He recalled one instance of 17 rounds of ammunition firing off during a tent fire. West capped their comments by stating that city staff are “strongly against” the order.

Snyder reiterated the council and public comment rules, and then opened the floor for commenters.

Four Hours of Public Comment

In total, ninety people made public comments in chambers over the course of over four hours. Fundamentally, the two groups of commenters seemed to disagree on what the order would actually do.

Those advocating for the order’s passage believed that the city should stop encampment sweeps, given that such sweeps are linked to negative consequences – including death – for unhoused people. Many commenters in this group acknowledged that living in a tent over the winter is not an ideal solution, but those who are currently doing so likely have no other option. Per these commenters, ending encampment sweeps would at least allow those in an already dire situation some degree of stability.

Comments against the order pointed to the dangerous conditions in the encampments, and described the order as endorsing living outdoors. Many of these commenters urged the city to find other solutions; however, there was no broad consensus from the group as to what that solution would be. Those against the order were also quick to point out that such a measure could potentially expand the number of encampments in Portland.

57 commenters expressly opposed the order, while 26 expressly supported it. The remainder had nuanced, ambiguous, or no opinions on the matter.

Some commenters had firsthand experience with homelessness, though none stated that they were current encampment residents. One commenter explained that many of the unhoused were unable to stay for public comment because they needed to find shelter for the evening before dark. Carl, a St. Lawrence Street resident, shared that he had previously been unhoused but spoke against the order, calling it “not compassionate”; Michael Fletcher, also speaking from experience as a formerly unhoused person, supported the order, adding that ending the sweeps would build trust between the unhoused community and the city.

Dana Staling, a detox nurse with Milestone, described driving around the city to track people down after an encampment sweep. She shared stories from her patients – one mother lost photos of her children in a sweep, and another lost important medication. “[Living outside] is not by choice,” she emphasized.

The breadth of commenters demonstrated the polarized opinions on this issue. While Ethan Gammon said he brought food to the unhoused, another commenter, Alison Hawkes, called such behavior “enabling.” Mike Olmstead expressed concern that encampments could “repel tourists,” while Osgood, director of Portland Outright, emphasized the importance of “dignity and safety” of all Portland residents, not just those that are housed.

Cullen Ryan, Executive Director of Community Housing of Maine, stated that his many years of experience in providing shelter and affordable housing to the unhoused led him to oppose the order. He, and others who supported him, emphasized the objections of city staff and urged the council to continue pursuing other solutions.

One commenter, Sean Thompson, offered a step by step process by which shipping containers could be converted into housing.

Multiple people gave emotional testimony on their feelings of safety. One commenter, who did not provide a name, tearfully explained that she worries about the safety of kids at the art program she runs, located near the Harborview encampment. She described picking up needles on the ground near the school and locking the doors once the children are inside. Many others living near the Harborview encampment also expressed fear about the encampment being so close to their home. Kristin Carreras described being followed home by someone after passing by the encampment, and Stella Larue shared the fear she now had following attempts by homeless people to break into her car while her family was still inside. Leo Hilton, by contrast, stated that he had never felt safer with the encampment nearby, and that many of the “affordable housing” providers present that night were actually exploiters of poverty.

Maya, a Vesper Street resident, gave another tearful testimony, sharing that she has moved 25 times in 11 years and empathizes with unhoused people who have been forced to move, sweep after sweep. Alison Hawkes, who shared her experiences of having her car broken into by encampment residents, continued the night’s theme by reading a haiku in opposition.

Others took firmer stances; Becca, a Morning Street resident, criticized the voices against the order, saying that she would “rather have people… just admit that they dislike the look of poverty.” Elizabeth Capone-Newton likened the sweeps to colonialism and accused the city of trying to kill people.

Heather Zimmerman, from the ACLU of Maine, supported the order, and explained that the homelessness crisis was a national issue which most critically impacted people of color. But Jackie Sartoris, District Attorney for Cumberland County, shared her experience with women victims of rampant sexual abuse in the encampments, and urged the Council to oppose.

Quincy Hentzel, President of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, urged the council to oppose, stating that the encampments were becoming “a mass casualty event,” and claiming “This is one of, if not the most consequential votes the council has faced in 10 years.” Other commenters alleged that this sort of advocacy from Portland’s business community was out-of-touch and profit-driven.

Pat Bailey, Chair of the city’s Land Bank Commission, supported by a Park Ranger, opposed the order in the interest of protecting the city’s parks. Meanwhile, Peaks Island Council member Peter McLaughlin supported the order, saying “It is not a solution, but it is the only humane option available.”

A salient point, which commenter Ann Pringle drew attention to, was that exact numbers of unhoused persons is unknown, making it difficult to assess whether or not the city and its partners have enough space to shelter them all.

As of this writing, the city reports that there are 230 tents throughout Portland. It is not known how many people live in each tent, making that count imprecise. A projected 50 beds will soon open at the HSC, and 179 more will be made available upon the opening of the new shelter for asylum seekers on November 26th, indicating that 229 beds will soon be available. Members of the public on both sides of the debate interpreted this data in different ways.

Proponents of the order argued that there is not enough space at shelters for all the unhoused to come indoors, given that multiple people could be living inside any given tent, let alone barriers that make taking those shelter beds impossible for some people. Those against the order seemed to believe that the recent expansions to shelter space could be enough to feasibly house, at the very least, a significant percentage of the unhoused.

Many commenters were keen to have the last word, leading to a standoff that drew out an already prolonged public comment period.

Debate on the Order

Following the final public comment, Snyder put forward a motion to extend the meeting, given the late hour, (it was now past midnight); the motion passed unanimously. A five-minute break took place before the Council took up discussion on the order.

Councilor Trevorrow then moved to act on the amendments. The first amendment passed 5-4, with Dion, Snyder, Zarro and Phillips opposing.

Trevorrow then chose not to offer amendments 2 and 3, explaining that she had prepared them in case any councilors were concerned about the effects of the ordinance on land use and parks, but would prefer instead to discuss the main order.

Trevorrow then offered remarks explaining why she and Rodriguez had chosen to bring this order forward. Looking back to the goals the Council had set last year, she explained, advancing racial equity and social justice was a top priority. When it came to policy towards the unhoused in Portland, however, Trevorrow said that the council “failed to live up to that goal, or even understand it.” She went on to cite multiple studies and organizations that condemn encampment sweeps, including the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Public Health Association (APHA), and the National League of Cities, of which Portland is a member. Links to the specific studies were not provided in the meeting materials. According to the AMA, sweeps increase mortality and disease; Trevorrow pointed out that the Hepatitis A outbreak occurred directly after the Fore River Encampment sweep. Further citing the studies, she noted that the APHA policy statements explicitly stated that forcible removal does not incentivize unhoused persons to seek shelter, and rather, exacerbates anxiety and disconnect from services. The goal of the policy, Trevorrow clarified, was to stop the encampment sweeps, in order to not further isolate those who have “suffered every disadvantage.”

She also pointed out anti-homeless bias, noting that such sentiments are in direct conflict with the aforementioned council priorities. As an example, Trevorrow noted that many have said that encampments in parks prevent the general public from being able to use them. “Implicit in that is the notion that the unhoused are not considered the general public, and are therefore less deserving in the sharing of public space,” said the councilor. Speaking to the unhoused, she added, “you are my constituents… your well being is my priority.” Finally, she likened the current encampment crisis to civil rights struggles of the past, and encouraged her fellow councilors to be on the right side of history.

Rodriguez followed Trevorrow, to add that many solutions have been attempted to mitigate this issue, but that the ordinance before the council is the “only avenue available” to stop the sweeps. Referencing earlier comments where people had expressed their frustration with the encampment situation, Rodriguez noted that these experiences occurred under the current policy – and that the ordinance at hand is an attempt to do things differently. He also noted that sweeps have funneled the unhoused into fewer and fewer areas, leading to the large encampment currently at Harborview Park.

Other councilors were reticent following Trevorrow and Rodriguez’s remarks. Snyder broke the silence. She stated that the ECRT had attempted to bring people inside but that those efforts had not been successful – people often declined shelter beds due to the rules at the shelter, and because of the nice weather, Snyder said. “It didn’t work. It hasn’t worked.” Snyder lamented of her administration’s strategy. She added that the council has an obligation not only to the unhoused but to the rest of Portland, including the city departments tasked with handling encampments. The outgoing mayor encouraged the council to focus instead on expanding emergency shelter. If the order is approved, Snyder asked, “do we really think [encampments are] going to go away?”

Rodriguez then asked West if a “resolution” date had been set for Harborview Park. West said that a date had not been set, given that Order 68 was up in the air. He further asked where people in that encampment were expected to go should it be swept, given that most public areas on the peninsula had already been swept and designated as “emphasis zones” where camping is strictly prohibited. West did not give a direct answer, but rather explained that she is legally obligated to enforce the outdoor camping ordinance, and believes it is likely that those living at Harborview could be served by the capacity expansion at the Homeless Services Center. Rodriguez believed that it “seemed unlikely” that the city could do so.

Different lines of questioning from both Snyder and Ali seemed to get at the lack of clear data on available shelter beds; their questioning elucidated the fact that an expected 179 beds will open at the Homeless Services Center after November 29th, once the new shelter is open. Dow, in response to Snyder’s questioning, estimated that there is generally a turnover of about 60 beds at the Homeless Services Center in an average month, or about two new openings each day.

Dion then offered his view. In unequivocal terms, the mayor-elect stated that he “subscribe[s] to the sweep approach… each time we do it the population [of active campers] should lessen.” He went on to explain that he believes sweeps are “in the best interest of the entire city,” as well as being unsafe and unhealthy. Pointing to the studies that Trevorrow referenced, Dion asked how those study authors would describe the consequences of not carrying out sweeps. He strongly rejected Trevorrow’s implication that sweeps were a violation of constitutional rights, and that even the Idaho v. Boise case which many of these claims were based on didn’t go so far as to call public camping a “right.” He also questioned Rodriguez’s assessment of this being the only path forward, and rejected his implication that the council had already decided in principle that sweeps are undesirable.

Pelletier countered Dion’s view, noting that the council was privileged to be returning to safe housing that night. “Sweeping or no sweeping, people are going to be outside in the cold,” Pelletier said, explaining that the very least the council could do was to not further punish those living outdoors with sweeps. She questioned the logic of those opposing the order, pointing out that sweeps do not trigger a “mass movement to shelter,” as some comments seemed to imply. “I am not in favor of retraumatizing an already traumatized community,” added the councilor. She went on to note that decriminalizing encampments is one component of “layered problem solving,” an idea that both sides of the debate supported.

Fournier then offered her position. “There is no perfect solution. If there were, then all these other cities would have figured it out,” she began. The councilor acknowledged that sweeps make the work of ending homelessness more difficult, while adding that it was important to listen to the voices of city staff who opposed this order. She noted the lack of clear data, and advocated for a coordinated conversation among all levels of government and other stakeholders in order to land on a comprehensive path forward. Fournier also acknowledged that the unhoused population cannot be approached as a “monolith,” and that the different needs of different populations should be taken into account. She urged greater action by the city government, “This needs to be on every agenda for every committee.”

Zarro echoed some of Fournier’s sentiments, explaining that he would have preferred to see a policy that designated specific encampment areas rather than broad decriminalization. He questioned why this order did not go through the committee process, noting that constituents asked him for details on the order that he was unable to provide because of the “unusual” way that it came before council. “I believe housing is a human right,” said Zarro, then suggesting that the order at hand seemed to imply the opposite. He questioned whether Order 68 would really be temporary, and expressed worry that it could cause Portland to lose money from the state, as Augusta’s program directors would not approve of this course of action.

Phillips agreed with the prior two councilor’s positions. “Encampments are not safe. I believe the statistics the police chief made,” she said. She expressed particular concern for the safety of women in encampments, and added that she wanted to trust the process set forth by the ECRT.

Trevorrow, noting that it was past 1:00 a.m., moved to postpone the order to the inaugural meeting on December 4th. Dion and Zarro quickly voiced opposition on the grounds that it would be unfair to the incoming councilors – but Trevorrow countered, noting that incoming councilors had been tasked with controversial orders in the past and that both of the newly elected councilors had campaigned on this issue.

Snyder also voiced her opposition to postponement, noting that the public expected the issue to be resolved by the end of the meeting. The motion to postpone then failed 7-2, with Trevorrow and Rodriguez as the only supporters.

Before voting on the main order, councilors took up the second amendment to the order, which failed 6-3, Trevorrow, Pelletier, and Rodriguez in the minority. Sensing the fate of the order, Trevorrow declined to offer the third amendment, allowing the council to finally vote on Order 68. The order failed 6-3, with Trevorrow, Pelletier, and Rodriguez voting in favor and all others voting against.

As Councilor Fournier attempted to introduce a motion referring the matter to committee, commotion ensued on the dais. A person who previously introduced herself during public comment as Elizabeth Capone-Newton had climbed onto the dais and laid down, while another audience member sang Portland Town by Schooner Fare. Snyder quickly asked for an officer, and within seconds two police officers were on hand attempting to force Capone-Newton away from the Council floor. Though the police were able to move Capone-Newton off the mayor’s desk, she continued to resist their handling and lay on the floor of the council chambers as the council proceeded with the meeting. Ultimately police ushered her out of the building.

Among the commotion, Councilor Fournier once again introduced the motion of moving Order 68 to committee. Confusion ensued about when the committee would actually take up the issue, and Trevorrow questioned what the point would be, given that it could take until February at the earliest to enact anything. This led Trevorrow, Rodriguez, and Pelletier to vote against the motion; all other councilors supported it, leading it to succeed with a 6-3 vote.

Finally, at 1:33am, Mayor Snyder adjourned the nine hour and thirteen-minute meeting.

Erica Snyder-Drummond – Erica is a proud Portland resident, documentary filmmaker, and baker. Previously she has been a campaign canvasser, an immigration advocate, and a server. You can see more of her work at

One Comment

  1. Amy Amy

    Thanks for your great reporting!

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