The League of Young Voters

Why We Need LD 1195
May 6, 2009, 2:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

LD 1195: An Act to Allow Non-Citizen Residents to Vote in Municipal Elections

Maine is a distinctive state for its welcoming culture, and its values for community and inclusivity. Unfortunately for a growing part of Maine’s population, participation excludes the fundamental right of having a voice in our democracy—the right to vote. LD 1195 “An Act to Allow Non-Citizen Residents to Vote in Municipal Elections” would encourage civic engagement and responsibility, and give voice to one of the last disenfranchised segments of the population; to increase government accountability in communities with large immigrant population.

Why We Need LD 1195:

— Resident voting is the next step in expanding democracy. Democracy building is a process of continual evolution. Women and people of color fought hard-won battles for the right to vote. It was just over forty years ago that we extended the franchise to those under 21 years of age. It is time to include immigrants in our democracy.

— Resident voting is not a new right; it is the restoration of an old practice. For the first 150 years of U.S. history, immigrants in America were allowed to vote. It was not until the intense anti-immigrant backlash of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that immigrants lost this critical right. The Revolutionary War statement, ” no taxation without representation” is as relevant today as it was over 200 years ago.

— Resident voting is provided for constitutionally. There is nothing in the U.S. constitution that prevents immigrant residents of Maine from voting in municipal elections.

— Residents already have voting rights in some parts of the United States and in other countries. Immigrant residents have the right to vote in local elections in parts of Maryland, Massachusetts, San Francisco, Chicago, and in countries around the world

— Individuals should have a say in the laws that govern them. Laws apply to everyone in a society. Government services are established for the benefit of the public at large, not individuals. In Maine that public includes up to 64,000 immigrants who live, work, go to school, or pay taxes, and deserve to have a say in the laws that govern them and the programs that they pay for and use.

— We need to close the gap between local government and the people it serves. Many non-profit groups and writers have documented and released reports on the social and economic contributions immigrant make in Maine communities. Extending the right to vote will increase civic and political engagement in Maine and help ensure that elected representatives take the needs of all of their constituents into account.

— The path to citizenship is currently flawed. For many legal non-citizens, this isn’t a matter of “if they will get citizenship”—it’s a matter of when. Becoming a U.S. citizen can take as long as 10 years.

— This bill would strengthen our local control. Municipalities who want to allow its community members to vote should be able to instead of letting our Federal and state control who makes decisions.

— Non-citizens are held to the same obligations to serve our country as those who are citizens. They are required to register for the selective service (or the draft). If we lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 because we wanted to extend that right to an age group because we believe in accountability, we should make those rights at least available on a local level.


ReEmergence’09 SCHEDULE OF Performance EVENTS
April 15, 2009, 4:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

ReEmergence’09 SCHEDULE OF Performance EVENTS

8:00 PM: Doors Open : DJ Lady Zen

8:30-9:20 PM: Sean Mencher

9:20-9:30 PM: Bunny Wonderland

9:30-9:45 PM: Port Veritas

9:45-9:55 PM: Belly Dancers

10:00-10:50 PM: Dreamosaic

10:50-11:05 PM: Port Veritas

11:05-11:15 PM: Bunny Wonderland

11:20-11:30 PM: Belly Dancers

11:30 PM-Close (1:00 AM) DJ Lady Zen dance party set

Jenna’s work on the Pier — check it!
April 8, 2009, 5:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Presentation: Understanding the Local Needs and Uses for the Maine State Pier
March 26, 2009

a) Understanding what the community members value
b) Leads to understanding what are priorities or principles for economic development
c) The most important question to address in future discussion is “what kind of economic development do we want in our city?

Examine how to maximize the pier’s development potential for the public, including islanders, neighborhoods and businesses.

My name is Jenna Vendil and I’m the Field Director for The League of Young Voters.  I’m very grateful for this opportunity to talk in more depth about how we can maximize the pier’s development potential for the community.  I realize the unusual nature of having a member of this panel represent a part of the community that, on the surface, doesn’t seem to be a typical stakeholder regarding waterfront development issues.  However, the interests of young people actually coincide with the mutual interests of many members of the community regardless of their age, their class, where they live, or how long they’ve lived in this city.  The crux of understanding local needs is to understand what residents value from our waterfront and our community as a whole—What characteristics make Portland provide the quality of life and be the place people want to move to?  How do we not just preserve it for the future years, but enhance it to meet the needs of a shifting and developing economy, without shooting ourselves in the foot?

After negotiations with Olympia failed several months ago, I began to sit down with community members from all walks of life in order to figure out what it is community residents wanted to see out of the pier development.  Some of the folks I met with were young, transportation activists who lived on the peninsula.  Others were minivan-owning soccer moms who lived by Deering Center.  Some were labor organizers who care deeply about the working conditions of those who work in Maine’s burgeoning service industry.  One was a union construction worker who hasn’t been able to find work in that field for months.  Another was a local business owner who was a part of Portland’s economic and cultural transformation in the 90’s.  A few were retirees from Peaks Islands who are year-round residents of the island and saw the waterfront as their “backyard.”  It wasn’t a scientific survey or a poll by any stretch—but it is anecdotal evidence on how different members of our community share similar values about the potential for the Maine State Pier and our city.

I want to share a brief list of some of the commonly cited uses and needs that these individuals value in our city—

a.) Transportation.  Transportation development on the waterfront doesn’t just mean transportation for tourism or recreational use, but intermodal forms so people from the Greater Portland area so we can reduce parking density on the peninsula and residents can get to and from work.
b.) Alternative energy.  Yesterday’s analogy that “wind energy can make Portland the Saudi Arabia of Maine” should be explored.  Alternative energy and green jobs have the potential for generating revenue our city can benefit from.
c.) Jobs.  Not only do we need more jobs, but we need good, high-paying jobs for both constructions and operations.  It’s hard to get by with on full-time $7 hour hospitality jobs.
d.) Tourism.  What kind of tourism development do we want to bring?  If we are committed to building Portland’s tourist economy, we need to build it on assets like our local economy and the city’s unique characteristics…  As much as I like visiting Old Orchard Beach, that’s not where I chose to live or what I want Portland’s development to look like.
e.) Open Space:  The ideas of open space and public use shouldn’t be limited to whether or not there’s a private gate on our waterfront or not.  Thinking more broadly about what people in our community feel open to explore and use.  An example is Deering Oaks Park—it’s a public space that feels actually welcoming to both residents and tourists because of its diverse attractions with community festivals and events.
f.) Other values.  The list can go on and on and includes our local arts and entrepreneur spirit of Portlanders.

So all of these points of values, local needs, and local uses dance around a bigger question of why, after decades of discussion, we’re still having these conversations about what we should with the Maine State Pier.  That question is “what kind of economic development do we want in our city?”  Through my conversations with members of our community, it became clear that while a residents may share similar values about our city, we weren’t using those values to define a vision for the pier.  It’s critical that as a community, we give input that influences design standards and zoning limits, but that in and of itself is not enough.  We as a community must be included in the bigger conversations around the specifics, like what kind of business development should go into the pier.  For example, we have a strong local economy, which is an asset in our city.  We have the creative entrepreneurial minds to really flourish.  I’m really excited that the City has taken this step with public input and dialogue around the Maine State Pier and I look forward to a more holistic approach to the discussion of local needs.

An Act to Create Jobs and Improve Energy Efficiency Through the Transformation of Maine’s Housing Stock.
April 8, 2009, 5:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Read Jenna’s testimony on LD 774!



LD 774 – Ought to Pass

An Act to Create Jobs and Improve Energy Efficiency Through the Transformation of Maine’s Housing Stock.

Submitted to the

March 25, 2009

Good afternoon, Chairman Bartlett, Chairman Martin and members of the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Energy Future, thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of LD 774, “An Act to Create Jobs and Improve Energy Efficiency Through the Transformation of Maine’s Housing Stock.”  My name is Jenna Vendil; I’m the Field Director for The League of Young Voters and a Portland resident.

The League of Young Voters empowers young people to be engaged in politics on a local level and collaborates with organizations to solve problems in our communities.  We’ve joined the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition’s campaign to support this bill because it addresses two of the most critical problems that young people are facing in these tough economic times: investment in affordable housing and job creation.

The League is statewide organization, though we’re based in Portland where a large number of Maine’s young people reside.  Like the rest of the state, Portlanders are feeling the impact of rising food, energy, and housing costs.  The current economic climate doesn’t help the problem that good paying jobs are in short supply—a problem Mainers were dealing with before this economic recession.  As the Portland Press Herald recently cited, Maine has lost about 8,900 jobs since December.  This economic downturn has human faces—they are our parents, our spouses, our neighbors, and our friends.

Housing is frequently cited by our members as one of the biggest costs and barriers for achieving economic security and stability for young people, especially those in low or moderately income households.  Those who are fortunate to have job currently are paying anywhere between 30-50% of their incomes on housing.

A member of our organization, “George,” came to me last week asking for help looking for a job.  After talking to him, he informed me that over the last six months his roommates had one by one moved out of their three-bedroom apartment to move in with their partners and families.  He had been working twelve-hour days during the election and didn’t have the time to dedicate to apartment searches.  Now that the election is over and he’s back to looking for another job, his final roommate gave him an unexpected two weeks notice to find new roommates so he could keep the apartment.  He hasn’t been able to find a job yet, and can’t afford to move into a single-bedroom apartment by himself.  George told me that if he didn’t find a job or a roommate, he would have to move back to Northern Maine to live with his parents.  As a passionate activist and a contributor to neighborhood groups in my community, it would be a shame if he had to move against his will because of the lack of opportunities.

The League wants to ensure that investment in housing meets the people with greatest need—severely low-income, homeless, as well as single people.  LD 774 would address the issues of jobs and housing for Maine by providing a steady revenue source to ensure adequate investment is made for energy efficient affordable housing.  It rewards businesses and its employees who commit to living near their place of work, reducing their carbon footprint.  It makes a commitment to build multi-family units so it can meet the needs of working families in Maine.  We support the bill and encourage you to pass it, but to also consider single young people like George to have his affordable housing needs met through this bill.

Did you see our action!?
January 15, 2009, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Check out the Press Herald article regarding the School Committee hearing last night! We’re proud we got so many folks to come forward for public comment.

Cut Backs and Taxes
December 16, 2008, 5:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hmmm, an interesting article of things coming down the pipeline for Maine…

Have Bike, Need Rack?
December 15, 2008, 7:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Tell the city we need more bike racks!