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New 'Renew Maine Alliance' vows to tackle housing, racial injustice, climate change, COVID-19

The coalition draws on 20 grassroots organizations to back specific pieces of legislation in Maine.

PORTLAND, Maine — A new coalition of 20 grassroots organizations in Maine have formed an alliance to back specific pieces of legislation in the state relating to climate change, racial injustice, the COVID-19 pandemic, housing, and unemployment.

The 'Renew Maine Alliance' includes state representatives Rebecca Millett (D - Cape Elizabeth) and Seth Berry (D - Bowdoinham), and Penobscot Nation ambassador Maulian Dana. 

Renew Maine is backing a range of specific legislation submitted in the legislature this year, including bonds for housing and solar energy development, tribal sovereignty legislation, and a bill creating a consumer-owned utility.

The group plans to tackle issues they say are interconnected: the pandemic creates mass unemployment that disproportionately affects minority communities.

One of the bills Berry is introducing involves creating a consumer-owned power utility to replace Central Maine Power and Versant.

"Consumer ownership has three principle advantages: lower cost, local control, and far better opportunities to create green energy," he said.

Berry argues that a consumer-owned utility keeps more money in the state for improvements to the grid, instead of being sent to the foreign governments and investors who own portions of the two largest power companies in Maine.

"We are pumping millions and millions of dollars out of the economy each year in order to profit those investors. We should be keeping those here in Maine," Berry said.

The Renew Maine Alliance is a chapter of 'Renew New England,' which focuses on the same issues.

One of the bills Rep. Millett plans to introduce, the Green Affordable Housing Bond, involves creating more affordable housing, increasing the supply, helping those who can no longer afford rising rents, and helping builders flex to meet the environmental standards for building sustainable homes.

"The green affordable housing bond is about increasing the available housing, addressing chronic and severe shortages and helping thousands of Mainers who find themselves being squeezed out of their homes as rents rise. It’s about building better, greener homes, to begin to meet our commitment to addressing climate change and protecting our kids from a worsening global crisis. It’s about raising our wage and labor standards and creating good jobs that can support families and allow tradespeople to return home to work here in Maine," Millett said.

The group also plans to address racial injustice and sovereignty of indigenous groups.

"The tribal nations are hoping to reach new grounds of equity and fairness and heal the deep wounds of our individual and collective histories. We are thankful for the support of Renew Maine," Dana said.