City Council Candidates on Buy Local

Is it important to you that your Portland City Councilor supports locally owned and independent businesses? It is a very important issue to us here at Portland Buy Local, so we surveyed our Portland’s City Council candidates to find out their opinions about locally owned and independent businesses, and their vision for the future of these businesses in the city of Portland. Below we share the candidates’ responses with you.

Make sure to visit your local polling station on Tuesday, November 5th!

*Please note that we are not endorsing any candidates.



Jon Hinck

I am pleased to hear from Portland Buy Local and pleased to be asked about locally owned and independent businesses. Local independent business is a huge part of the future of Portland. It is an important campaign anywhere but here in Portland it is a major part of we are and who we can be – the Portland brand. In short, homegrown businesses make us special. I also support Buy Local to reduce transportation, processing and packaging and to keep local dollars circulating locally. Purchasing from locally owned stores creates more than 50% more local jobs.

The first thing the City of Portland can do is as a consumer. We can Buy Local. Second, the city needs to pay careful attention that it supports and does not penalize local small business. Sometimes the city just finds it easier to deal with the chains. After all they have a team of professionals who have experience navigating rules and getting permits. Small business does not always have those advantages and sometimes requires a little individualized attention. Portland should be an open and willing partner toward local business success. In addition to a more helpful regulatory climate, the city can also do more to promote and market local independent businesses and their products. As a councilor, I would keep all of the above and all other good suggestions and ideas to support Portland Buy Local in mind.

LyonsWells Lyons

1. Locally Owned businesses

As a local small business owner (my company is Rogue Industries, a Portland Buy Local member), I’d like to think I’d bring a unique perspective to the Council. The Council needs to better understand the universe many small, local businesses are operating in – and I frankly think they don’t.

Tax credits that require five years of monitoring aren’t worth our time – who knows if we’ll be around in five years! Permitting delays can and have sink a business before it even gets off the ground! Unless you own a business, these issues aren’t necessarily something you’re even thinking about – let alone priorities. But they matter to us, and our families and employees who depend on us.

The Council needs to do a better job of listening to and engaging with local business owners when it comes to meeting their needs. I’ve listened to Erin Kiley at Portland Flea for All about the city’s frustrating permitting process and unresponsive councilors. I’ve talked to Allan Labos at Akari, about the city’s insistence on a $300,000 fire escape that turned out not to be needed (and unresponsive councilors). And I’ve heard from Sarah Sutton of Bite into Maine about the city’s ridiculous food truck rules (and you guessed it, unresponsive councilors). I’ll listen, because I know what it’s like trying to run your own business. And I’ll work to find solutions.

My broader economic development plan is available at my website, http://www.wellslyons.com/growing_our_local_economy. I’d encourage you to check it out if you’re so inclined.

2. Economic Development plan

Would you support the City of Portland providing additional funding and technical support to locally owned businesses and update the current plan to reflect this priority?

Yes, yes, yes. Can I carry over the remaining 297 words?

3. Zoning

Would you support zoning on the peninsula to preclude big-box retail developments of over 10,000 square feet? If not, why not.

Absolutely, for all of the reasons listed in Stacy Mitchell’s great book, “Big Box Swindle.” Check it out here if you haven’t already – http://bigboxswindle.com – and then buy it at Longfellow Books. (They’re ordering me a Leonardo Padura Fuentes novel right now actually – love that place.)

Portland has a special sense of place that is worth preserving. Bringing big box stores to the peninsula would be devastating to our local economy, our identity as a city, and the local business owners who are just trying to get by. I want to keep Portland weird. The last thing we need is a Best Buy or Wal-Mart in the heart of the downtown.

4. Transportation

It’s time we gave our current transportation system a hard look. We have an outdated bus system and inadequate bike lanes. We need to do a better job of providing real transportation choice.

Fixing our bus system should be a top priority, and a few simple steps could go a long way to making METRO a better alternative to relying on private automobiles. GPS bus trackers and scheduling apps are a good start, but what we really need is even more fundamental: we need more bus shelters to protect commuters from the weather, and more benches for those waiting for a ride. Our most frequently-used bus stops should have real-time displays indicating when buses are scheduled to arrive. In addition to infrastructure, we need to take a look at whether our current scheduling – with no service on Sundays or holidays – is meeting the needs of our citizens. Making our bus system more commuter friendly and reducing the opportunity costs associated with taking the bus makes sense for all of us. Portland is a great city – we deserve great public transit.

We also need to do a better job promoting ridership. Similar to other cities, we need to conduct more advertising about public transit and its benefits, and offer occasional free service to encourage first-time riders. By increasing ridership and operating at closer to capacity, economies of scale will allow us to further improve our public transit system in real and tangible ways.

We should also make bike lanes a high priority. We should be building a strong cycling infrastructure, complete with adequate bike storage in high use areas. Real bike lanes – well marked, adequately sized, and with appropriate traffic flow measures – can transform the way we get to work, school and local businesses.

5. Definition

To me, a locally owned business is one which is truly local in terms of physical location and legal incorporation, and which is privately held with accountable owners nearby. It’s important that the business be privately held, rather than publicly traded, because it means that owners have their own skin in the game. And it’s important that the owners be local too, because it’s more likely that they’ll be making decisions with the concerns of the community in mind.

Here are my top three:

Longfellow Books – they have a great used book selection that is eclectic and affordable, and a fantastic, knowledgeable staff. I’m always reading, and they keep me well stocked. Right now I’m reading “The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy” by David Nasaw, “Somalis in Maine” edited by Kimberly Huisman, and “Iron John” by Robert Bly, which was recommended to me by my friend David Levi. They’re all great books.

Harbor Fish Market – When I was going to law school in Chicago, I would literally dream about this place; it’s one of those spots in Portland that I think has become part of the genetic code of the city. My girlfriend and I love to cook seafood, and whether it’s cod, monkfish tails (try them!), or clams, nowhere has fresher seafood than Harbor Fish.

Portland Farmers Market – What a sense of place we have at the Farmers Market. There’s simply nowhere better for local, healthy, seasonal food. While I try to grow kale, garlic, Brussels sprouts and chard in raised beds in the backyard, most other vegetables I haven’t had the same success with. A trip to the farmers market is a reminder of the amazing natural resources of the land around us. There’s no better way to spend a Saturday morning.

Thanks for reading! Please vote Lyons November 5th!



Chris ShorrShorr

1. Locally Owned businesses

In Portland we need serious reform in regards to our practices of distributing TIFs. I propose that at least 25% of the funds devoted annually to TIF agreements be appropriated for local businesses with 25 employees or less.

2. Economic Development plan

Would you support the City of Portland providing additional funding and technical support to locally owned businesses and update the current plan to reflect this priority?


3. Zoning

Would you support zoning on the peninsula to preclude big-box retail developments of over 10,000 square feet? If not, why not.


4. Transportation

We need to modernize the metro system with a focus on rider experience. I propose updating the Metro’s map and schedule, which can be both difficult to understand and off-putting for people from out of town or locals who are not used to them. I also think that devising a system to inform people waiting at bus stops of the real time locations of the buses and their arrival times would make the Metro experience more enjoyable. One possibility is installing digital boards at the most major bus stops with maps that display the current location of all the buses on the road. Additionally, we could offer a real time smart phone app that displays the same information as the digital boards. The boards and app could offer advertising space to generate revenue to help off-set the costs and, since riders would know the exact time before the next bus, foot traffic would be driven to nearby businesses for the quick coffee or sandwich.

We can go a long way in supporting bicyclists. More of our roads need bike lanes and many of the existing lanes should be widened. Offering a tax break to businesses who provide onsite facilities for employees to shower, change, and store their clothing in lockers would be a good incentive for both employers and employees to embrace bicycling to work.

Finally, there are various successful bike share programs across the country in cities similar to Portland. Considering how progressive a city Portland is, I can’t understand why we don’t already have a bike share program of our own. This would be exactly the type of business venture that the City Council should support through offering a TIF agreement. Bike share programs aren’t just good for the environment, they’re also good for our wallets and they help to foster a greater sense of community togetherness and forward thinking ideals.

5. Definition

My idea of a locally owned business is one that is owned and operated by a local citizen. It’s tough to pick a “Top 3″, but I’d say that the Rosemont Markets are probably my favorite places for groceries. Their meat and produce is brought in from local farms that use organic, ethical, and sustainable practices for their products. I’m also a big fan of Otto’s Pizza. Their business model is clearly working, they’re big proponents of marketing the Portland brand (even at their Boston location it says “Portland, Maine” on their sign and on their pizza boxes). Plus their pizza is delicious. The third I’d have to choose is the lobster boat that I work on, The Foxy Lady, which docks at Union Wharf. Along with my Captain and part time second crew mate we brought many tons of lobsters in from Casco Bay this year and we sell to a local processor who operates on the Maine State Pier. Our catch not only contributes to the local restaurant and tourist industries, it also helps to support the jobs provided by the processors, retailers, and distributors.

Ed Suslovic
In my 2 previous terms on the council I have been a staunch advocate of small business. For example, when I was on the Finance Committee I spearheaded an initiative to reduce the size of the bid packages for certain city contracts to allow local small businesses to compete. Just ask Claudia and Pete Risbarra how effective that one change was in order for them to successfully bid on city purchase orders for landscaping products! Just today I took Jeff Levine, Portland’s Director of Planning and Urban Development on a tour of neighborhood business centers in District 3 to discuss what the city could do to make them more neighborhood business friendly. With small business development and support, it really is about doing the little things right!
As President of the Greater Portland Council of Governments, I am also leading the regional effort to promote regional economic development by building on our most important asset – our base of small, locally owned and operated businesses!
I am not sure that we need further zoning limits on so called big box retail in downtown Portland. I would need to be convinced – always possible! – that there is a viable threat to our downtown businesses on the horizon. The biggest complaint I get from downtown businesses is the insecure atmosphere on our streets which requires a more visible police presence. That is why I have been proposing fewer firefighters and more police officers. I also see the need for a staff person at city hall dedicated to service small businesses.
No response was received from candidates Jill Duson, Gregory Smaha, or Gregory Blouin.

Thank you sustaining members!

Aikido of Maine   /   Allagash Brewing Co.   /   Andrew and Debra Tenenbaum   /   angela adams   /   BENCHMARK Residential & Investment Real Estate   /   Bull Feeney's   /   Caravan Beads   /   Casco Bay EyeCare   /   Casco Bay Frames & Gallery   /   Coffee By Design   /   CornerStone Building & Restoration   /   CrossFit Beacon   /   The Fish & Bone   /   Green Clean Maine   /   Joan Leitzer   /   Teel Law Office, LLC   /   Liquid Riot   /   Maine Business Immigration Coalition   /   Malone Commercial Brokers   /   Marsh Agency   /   Max Ashburn   /   Nine Stones   /   Nomads   /   OTTO   /   Philip Spalding   /   Port Property Management   /   Portland Downtown   /   Portland Farmers’ Market   /   Portside Real Estate Group   /   Renys Department Store   /   Rich Nowak   /   Sebago Brewing Company   /   Stacy Mitchell   /   Summit Case Management Services, LLC.   /   The SunriseGuide   /   Tsunami Tattoo   /   University Credit Union   /   University of Southern Maine   /   Wellness Connection of Maine   /   XPress Copy   /   Young’s Furniture

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