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'We are polarized': Sndyer says homelessness, crime have divided Portland in State of the City Address

The mayor said that while the city is plagued with serious issues, improvements are being made.

PORTLAND, Maine — Portland Mayor Kate Snyder delivered a State of the City Address that highlighted a divided community, immense struggles and some signs of progress for Maine's largest municipality. 

Snyder delivered the remarks Monday night for the first time in-person at City Hall since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

"We are polarized. We are divided. Things are tough," she said. "We need more housing, we have a homelessness crisis in the State of Maine, we see more violent crime."

Portland has seen a notable uptick in shootings in recent months, despite being ranked among the safest in the country.

Snyder was quick to discuss the complexity of the issue, including a lack of housing, substance use and an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness. 

She also talked about ways the city has made progress to address the issue, including with the construction of a new Homeless Services Center set to open in March.

"This small city works really hard! Problems are being addressed. Investments are being made," she said.

On the cost of housing, Snyder said of the more than 14,000 dwellings under construction citywide right now, a third are classified as "affordable."

She noted that Portland has carried a lot of the burden of addressing these statewide issues, but that it is ultimately a shared responsibility. 

"Housing. The supply of it, and the affordability of units, is at the top of everyone's minds," Snyder said. "This is a City of Portland need, it's a regional and state need. Portland is a municipality that says 'yes' to affordable housing."

Snyder shared again that she will not be seeking another term as mayor.

She has publicly voiced her opposition to proposed changes to the city's governance structure that will go before voters in November, but Snyder said the polarized environment is why she will not run again.

"What I have seen happen...for some time now, is that there’s deep and persistent messaging that one camp, or side of an issue is good, and one is bad. That in order to get things done we must square off and enter into standoffs," Snyder said. "For me, working together to address the issues without tearing each other apart is what matters."

Still, Snyder took a lot of time to discuss the slew of ballot issues voters will decide on and criticized the proposed change the structure of the city's government put forth by the Charter Commission.

She said the entire city, including management, police and others have been in a "holding pattern" while the commission did its work.

The city manager, corporation counsel, police chief, housing director and public works director are all "interim" positions. Snyder said staff are "desperate for some stability."

With just weeks until Election Day and early voting already underway, Snyder ended her remarks by urging residents to make their voices heard on Nov. 8.

"We are at a crossroads," she said. "The choices we make collectively will determine this next year’s pathway, and well beyond."

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