Statement on Portland’s Asylum Seekers

On Wednesday, June 12, around 100 asylum seekers– many of them women and children– arrived by bus in Portland. Because our emergency shelters are already at capacity, these asylum seekers are being sent to stay at the EXPO building. Federal and state agencies have told the city to expect more arrivals in the coming weeks.

The Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America rejects the narrative put forth in news headlines that the arrival of these families is a “problem” and affirm that this “very critical emergency” we face is actually a manufactured crisis.

The City and State are already being congratulated for their response, when they should be shamed for their evasion tactics. Asking citizens to donate via crowdfunding text is washing their hands of their responsibility, both in the incendiary language they have used to respond to this situation, and for actions they’ve taken to get us to such an unprepared position

The effects of the United States’ reckless foreign policy, disastrous domestic and global wealth inequality, and an increased frequency of climate disaster will only bring more people in dire need to Portland, and our city needs to be better prepared to welcome them.

Asylum seekers are not coming here just because they want to.

They are fleeing violence, food scarcity, and persecution in their home countries, and are making the obvious decision to save the lives of themselves and their families by coming to the United States. The US has played a role in the global injustices and poverty that facilitates this violence, and we have an obligation to help the people impacted by it. US imperialism and global capitalism will continue to create instability around the world. As a self-proclaimed sanctuary city, Portland must fulfill that proclamation with action and greater preparations to meet the basic needs of people fleeing violence

The only problem we have is a public policy one.

Portland City Manager Jon Jennings and the councilors who walk in lock-step with him have prioritized private profit over the public good for far too long, systematically eroding our housing stock, under-funding our shelters and community support funds, and creating the perfect conditions for fiscal catastrophe and civil unrest. Their policy decisions and votes provide corporate welfare to the real estate developers and the billionaire corporations funding their campaigns. This leaves working-class residents to pick up the tab, as we have done here. They have pushed our city to the breaking point, and any crisis we face is a direct result of their short-sighted decision making

We need radical solutions, not damage control.

Portland’s $200,000 Community Support Fund was established in 2015 to help families who are here legally but cannot yet work. Underfunded from the start, Manager Jennings sponsored an amendment to deny new applications to the fund beginning July 1, 2019. Councilor Pious Ali and Mayor Ethan Strimling will sponsor a motion at the June 17th City Council Meeting to strike that amendment, but we must do more.

For too long, our housing stock has been commodified and compressed behind exclusionary zoning walls to cater to the needs and profits of the wealthiest in society. Massive corporations have been sold swaths of public land at below market value. Hoteliers and short-term landlords have made fortunes by flipping our depreciated and depleted housing stock. The council has enacted affordable housing zoning in name only, and voted down any efforts to strengthen it

We make the following demands:

We demand that arbitrary deadlines not be set upon asylum seekers to sign up for benefits.

We demand that finding sanctuary for new arrivals not be limited to “affordability” logic, in which the end goal is profit, but rather where is best for them. For example, the schools that are best funded (often by affluent white populations) should not escape consideration

We demand that corporations like Wex, Unum, and Maine Health, be required to pay into the Community Support Fund.

We demand that hoteliers be required to donate a number of rooms in times of housing shortages.

We demand that while our city of 70,000 is unable to house one-to-two-hundred new neighbors in need, short-term rental licenses be rescinded.

We demand that our city’s “inclusionary” zoning rules be made truly inclusionary, by removing the ability to build affordable units off-site.

We demand that our city’s inclusionary zoning fees be at minimum doubled and the required affordable units be raised to at least 25%.

We demand that our city begin a good faith dialog about building public housing.

We demand that the media, those tasked with governance, and those citizens who engage in discourse do not restrict themselves to the narrow thinking of neoliberal austerity. The question should not be, can we afford it? But rather, how do we accommodate all that are made homeless?

Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses LD308 “An Act To Increase Notification Time Periods for Rent Increases and Terminations of Tenancies at Will”

For Immediate Release
March 18, 2018

PORTLAND, ME – On Monday, March 11, 2018, the membership of the Southern Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted overwhelmingly to endorse state bill, LD308 “An Act To Increase Notification Time Periods for Rent Increases and Terminations of Tenancies at Will.”

This statewide bill increases from 30 to 60 days the notice a landlord must provide to renters to terminate their tenancy. It also increases from 45 to 75 days the notice a landlord must provide to increase the rent of a residential tenant.

A public hearing will take place on Wednesday, March 27 from 9-12 in the Labor and Housing Committee in the Cross Building, room 202 at the State House in Augusta. Fair Rent Portland (sponsors of a 2017 Portland rent control ballot question) and Southern Maine DSA will organize carpools from Portland for tenants and tenant advocates who wish to testify in support of LD308.

“Housing is a human right, and Maine is one of the least affordable states in the country to rent. This is a modest bill that will help working people stay in their homes longer when landlords arbitrarily decide to sell or renovate their properties with the intention of increasing rents or putting their units into short term rentals,” said SMDSA member and Housing Justice Committee organizer Grayson Lookner.

Eviction is now the number one cause of homelessness nationwide. Homelessness disproportionately impacts veterans, women, and domestic violence survivors. In 2012, one in every 30 children in America was homeless, a number that rises as more families lose their homes to foreclosure and become renters. A growing working class awareness of the ways in which the commodification of housing exacerbates wealth inequality between the landed and non-landed classes has led to the organization of tenants’ unions in cities across the country, forcing legislators to act on behalf of their constituents.

Representative Christopher Kessler (D) South Portland wrote, “From the perspective of Oregon passing statewide rent control, [LD308] is a modest bill that gives renters the time they need to land on their feet when they are being kicked out for no fault of their own, especially in this tight rental market.” In February, the Oregon Senate passed groundbreaking statewide rent control legislation, along with restrictions on termination of tenancy for no-cause.

LD308 echoes municipal legislation passed by the residents of Yarmouth last year. That legislation established a Rental Housing Advisory Committee and required landlords of buildings with ten or more units to give tenants 75 days’ notice for rent increases.

Southern Maine DSA was instrumental in gathering signatures to put this initiative on the ballot after the Yarmouth town council refused to address renters’ concerns over rental stock monopoly and price gouging by out-of-state corporation Taymil Partners. That referendum passed in November 2018 when a recount determined that blank ballots were incorrectly counted as votes against the measure. SMDSA members were among the group that oversaw the recount process.

Democratic Socialism is an economic system in which working people exercise democratic control of the means of production in order to bring about social and economic equality. Democratic socialists reject the concentration of state power. We are not a political party, and we welcome members of any political party who wish to build working-class solidarity across party lines. DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. DSA endorses issues that align with its mission of organizing and empowering working class people to stand together to improve our material and social conditions.

For more information about the Southern Maine DSA, this press release, or its endorsement process, contact:

Jon Torsch, Co-Chair Jonathantorsch@gmail.com

Kate Sykes, Co-Chair kate_sykes_writer@yahoo.com

Wes Pelletier, Secretary DSA.SouthernMaine@gmail.com

http://southernmainedsa.org/

http://www.dsausa.org/

Press Release: SMDSA Releases 2018 Annual Report

For Immediate Release

January 21, 2019

Kate Sykes, Co-Chair

Jon Torsch, Co-Chair

 

Southern Maine DSA Files 2018 Annual Report

PORTLAND, ME – The Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America announced today that it has published its annual report for the calendar year ending December 31, 2018. The full report may be viewed here.

https://bit.ly/2RXpm4y

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is a grassroots, member-led organization whose goal is to build a mass socialist movement. Southern Maine DSA (SMDSA) was incorporated in 2017 and includes DSA members who live and/or work in Maine’s First Congressional District. According to our bylaws, DSA members who live and/or work in Maine’s Second Congressional District are also members by default of SMDSA until a chapter is formed in their area.

2018 was a year of rapid growth for DSA both nationally and in Maine. National membership grew from 32,000 to 55,000, with the number of local chapters increasing from 40 to 181. 2018 also saw the first two DSA members elected to the United States House of Representatives: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13).

Southern Maine DSA started the year with roughly 120 dues-paying members in Cumberland and York Counties, growing to roughly 180 by mid-year. In July, they petitioned National for a complete list of dues-paying members in all of Maine and began outreach to these members for the purpose of organizing statewide. They had roughly 300 members statewide in July, with over 360 by the end of the year.

As a result, they formed an Eastern branch on October 15th covering Penobscot County; and a Midcoast branch on November 12th covering Lincoln, Knox, Sagadahoc, and Waldo Counties.

For more information about the Southern Maine DSA or this press release call 207-331-5373 or contact us by email at: DSA.SouthernMaine@gmail.com

http://southernmainedsa.org/

http://www.dsausa.org/

Get revved up about revolution this October

Happy October, comrades! It’s the month of revolution. So, what better way to spend it than by reading about a historic revolution from Octobers past?

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a major achievement in the socialist movement, a blow against capitalism and its hold over the world. It’s also still hotly debated and dissected today, 101 years later. To help you get through this time in history and the years that followed, the Southern Maine DSA Education Committee has compiled a recommended list of books on the Russian Revolution.

All of these books are available in the Southern Maine DSA library, and you can borrow any of them by filling out this request form, or by requesting one of the books from our chapter librarian, Marc Normandin, at one of our meetings or events.

And, if you would like to learn even more about the Russian Revolution, the Education Committee will be hosting a presentation and discussion of the historic event on October 22, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Community Room in the Reiche Community Center. Todd Chretien, editor of Eyewitnesses to the Russian Revolution, will lead this event.

To wrap up our month of focus on the Russian Revolution, this month’s book club entry is V.I. Lenin’s The State and Revolution. You can find this book in our library, at various booksellers, or for free online at Marxists.org. This book club meeting will be held at Quill Books & Beverage in Westbrook, ME, on November 1 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Solidarity!

Introducing the 2018 SMDSA Comrades!

The Comrades kicked off the 2018 Casco Bay League Softball season with a rainy 19-12 loss to What’s Up Buttercup on Sunday, May 6th in Portland. The Comrades started off strong with five runs in the first inning, but early pitching challenges allowed the Buttercups to surge ahead. Wet field conditions made things challenging, but the Comrades’ managed to contain the Buttercups’ lead and work on closing the run gap over the next several innings. Todd Chretien’s plate-spanking slide home was one for the record books (and also one for the first aid kit). The game was called in the 6th inning due to time. “I’ve managed a lot of teams, and this one has potential,” said Comrades manager Marc Normandin.

The Comrades face the Raging Thunder Bunts, on Sunday, May 13th at 3:30 pm at Kiely Field.

2018 Roster

 

 

 

Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses Zak Ringelstein for US Senate

Southern Maine DSA Endorses Zak Ringelstein for US Senate

PORTLAND, ME – The Southern Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted on Monday, March 12 to endorse Zak Ringelstein for US Senate. In August, the National DSA endorsed the campaign, making Ringelstein, the only candidate for US Senate to be endorsed by the organization.

Ringelstein, a DSA member, has pledged to take no money from PACs, corporations, or special interest groups in order to be a true public servant who only answers to voters. He intends to introduce and support legislation to reverse Citizens United, end corporate campaign lobbying, and institute a federal voting holiday to make the polls more accessible to working people.

“As socialists, we are fundamentally opposed to the idea that corporate money has any place in politics, or even a fair and equitable society,” said Meg Reily, SMDSA Chair. “We’re happy to endorse someone who would prioritize reversing Citizens United and increasing voting rights, two issues that go hand-in-hand,” Reilly said.

“As a public school teacher and the son of a social worker, I am blown away by the way the DSA truly fights to increase the power of working Americans. It is not just an honor to receive their endorsement; we are now a mightier force for change because of the hundreds of passionate DSA members at our side who are ready to get money out of politics and unrig the system to create a more free, democratic, and humane society for all,” said Ringelstein.

Ringelstein came to politics from a former career as a public school teacher. As a rank-and-file union member, he helped form and lead PowerToPublic, a teacher-led campaign to expose billionaire Betsy DeVos’s attempts to defund our public schools. He wants to enact democratic socialist reform in Washington, including Medicare for All, public ownership of natural resources, including groundwater, increasing protections on public land, holding corporations accountable for their emissions, and divesting from fossil fuels. He supports medicare for all and full, publicly-funded reproductive healthcare for women, including abortion. He condemns the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians and the US’s part in funding these actions, and he rejects the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel.

Ringelstein is running unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face off against Independent incumbent Angus King in the Fall. Ringelstein expresses frustration at the lack of accurate media coverage on King’s voting record on gun control, as well as King’s sources of campaign financing. “One of the reasons I’m running is to force those conversations into the open,” Ringelstein said.

The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its membership includes 35 elected officials around country. Southern Maine DSA is not a political party. The DSA welcomes members and endorses candidates of any party affiliation who share its mission to decrease the influence of money in politics so that ordinary citizens can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives.

*This press release has been update to reflect Zak’s membership status and the endorsement of National DSA.

Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses Seth Levy in June primary for District Attorney, Cumberland County

For Immediate Release
March 22, 2018
Meg Reilly, Chair

Southern Maine DSA Endorses Seth Levy in June primary for District Attorney, Cumberland County

PORTLAND, ME – The Southern Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted overwhelmingly on Monday, March 12 to endorse Seth Levy for Cumberland County District Attorney in the June Democratic Party primary. Levy is the first District Attorney candidate in the group’s history to earn an endorsement.

“I’m grateful to receive the endorsement of SMDSA,” Levy said. “Its members are some of the hardest working activists for progressive change. Having their support means more volunteers on the ground to get the word out about the opportunity to make criminal justice reform a reality.”

Levy’s platform highlights necessary criminal justice reform for Cumberland County. In particular, it focuses on expanding restorative justice as a more effective means of crime reduction. His success in addressing substance abuse disorders within the Veterans Court system, and his plan to try similar approaches in southern Maine, is a sorely needed new approach to dealing with the severe opioid crisis.

Levy also promises not to seek cash bail for low-risk defendants, so that they can remain employed, not separated from their families, and get into treatment when necessary,” according to his campaign website. Cash bail disproportionately impacts poor people, people of color, and drives defendants deeper into poverty, irrespective of the outcome of their case.“The evidence is clear that cash bail has little impact on public safety or making sure that defendants show up to court. Cash bail keeps people who are poor in jail,” Levy said.

“As Democratic Socialists, we know that class, power, and race all intersect in the criminal justice system,” said Meg Reilly, SMDSA Chair. “The current system blatantly treats rich and poor people differently. As District Attorney, Seth Levy would end cash bail, an archaic and classist system. The amount of money in your bank account should never factor into how you experience the criminal justice system. We look forward to Cumberland County leading the way in reforming our justice system to ensure that we’re rehabilitating, not punishing, members of our society,” Reilly said.

Levy is running a campaign funded by small individual donors, free of corporate, PAC, and special interest money. His campaign seeks to address the over-incarceration of people with mental illness, substance use disorders, and people living in poverty.

The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its membership includes 35 elected officials around country. Southern Maine DSA is not a political party. The DSA welcomes members and endorses candidates of any party affiliation who share its mission to decrease the influence of money in politics so that ordinary citizens can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives.

For more information about the Southern Maine DSA or its endorsement process, contact DSA.SouthernMaine@Gmail.com

http://southernmainedsa.org/
http://www.dsausa.org/

Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses Mike Sylvester for Maine State Representative, District 39

Southern Maine DSA Endorses Mike Sylvester for Maine State Representative, District 39

PORTLAND, ME – The Southern Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted unanimously on Monday, March 12 to endorse Mike Sylvester for Maine House of Representatives District 39. In August, the national DSA also endorsed Sylvester, who is running for a second term, is a co-founder of SMDSA and the chapter’s first member to be elected to a state-level office.

“We’ve always been incredibly proud to be home to one of two open democratic socialist state representatives in the country,” said Meg Reilly, SMDSA Chair. “Mike is a longtime union organizer who walks the walk in the state house, and we’re looking forward to another term of him representing democratic socialist ideals in Maine’s capital.”

Sylvester currently sits on the House Labor Committee and serves as Organizing Chair of the Bull Moose Caucus, a body of 37 legislators willing to vote for progressive legislation regardless of Party affiliation.

During his term of office he has submitted many bills founded on socialist principles, including the Local Option Sales Tax bill to spread the financial benefits of tourism statewide and lower property taxes. He supports single payer healthcare and has been active in helping to pass ranked choice voting. He is a proponent of public sector right to strike, worker safety, safe consumption sites for opiods, and living wage legislation.

“I hope to speak and cast my vote for the people who are left out of the political process or who have given up hope that anyone is listening. An endorsement by groups like Southern Maine DSA, groups who are working on the ground and having conversations about how our state can be better, those are the groups whose endorsements mean the most to me,” Sylvester said.

Sylvester is running as a Maine clean elections candidate, and has pledged not to accept campaign money from corporations, lobbyists, or PACs. He is currently working to organize more DSA chapters across the state of Maine, and recruiting and mentoring democratic socialist candidates who wish to run for office.

The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its membership includes 35 elected officials around country. Southern Maine DSA is not a political party. The DSA welcomes members and endorses candidates of any party affiliation who share its mission to decrease the influence of money in politics so that ordinary citizens can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives.

*This release has been update to reflect the endorsement of the national DSA.

Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses Bob Maheu in June primary for Maine State Representative, District 65

For Immediate Release
March 22, 2018
Meg Reilly, Chair

Southern Maine DSA Endorses Bob Maheu in June primary for Maine State Representative, District 65

PORTLAND, ME – The Southern Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted on Monday, March 12 to endorse DSA member Bob Maheu for Maine House of Representatives District 65 in the June Democratic Party primary.

“I am pleased and honored to receive the endorsement of the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists,” Maheu said. “The chapter’s previous endorsements were for candidates running for office in the city of Portland, and now they’re supporting someone from the northernmost part of Cumberland County.”

The chapter endorses democratic socialist and anti-corporate candidates running in York and Cumberland counties who are committed to decreasing the influence of money in politics, making gender and cultural relationships more equitable, increasing the power of working class people over corporate interests and acting as public stewards for environmental resources.

“It’s really exciting to have an endorsed candidate from District 65,” said Meg Reilly, SMDSA Chair. “It goes to show that Democratic Socialism isn’t just for Portlanders. Organizers are currently expanding into the Bangor, Lewiston, and MidCoast areas as well. We’re really proud to endorse Bob for the New Gloucester and Poland area,” Reilly said.

Maheu, a former town Councilor in Fairfield, was inspired to enter state politics after serving as a volunteer on the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential election campaign, knocking on doors in his district for Senator Sanders.

Maheu speaks passionately about the need for the state to intervene in the opioid epidemic and says drug companies should be held financially accountable for the crisis. Maheu, who completed the AFL-CIO candidate training in January of this year, is a strong supporter of organized labor. He is currently seeking qualifying donation for a Maine Clean Elections campaign and has pledged to take no money from corporations or PACs. “We must all work together to eliminate pay-to-play politics,” Maheu stated in his endorsement interview.

The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its membership includes 35 elected officials around country. Southern Maine DSA is not a political party. The DSA welcomes members and endorses candidates of any party affiliation who share its mission to decrease the influence of money in politics so that ordinary citizens can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives.

For more information about the Southern Maine DSA or its endorsement process, contact DSA.SouthernMaine@Gmail.com

 

http://southernmainedsa.org/

http://www.dsausa.org/

 

 

Heavy Rotation: Labor in the Time of Trump

Southern Maine DSA recently presented Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 play “It Can’t Happen Here,” which asked audiences if European fascism could take hold in America. The question is still relevant today, but it contains another more practical question: What can we do to stop it?

California labor historian Fred Glass believes that labor history provides a doorway for ordinary working people who want to fight the rise of fascism in contemporary America. Sacramento DSA and the Sacramento Central Labor Council recently co-hosted Glass for this discussion about labor in the time of Trump.

Fred Glass is the author of  “From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement.”