Welcome to Maine. You must know how much we normally appreciate your tourism. However, as a dependent of parents whose income does not directly depend on the tourism industry, I would almost always like to tell you to go fuck yourself.
Right now, I say without hesitation, please return to whence you came. I do hesitate to blame Maine’s rising COVID numbers on you, as Dr. Nirav Shah says it’s actually mostly community transmission these days, and blaming it on others allows Mainers to be more lax. However, I’d say you sure aren’t fucking helping.
The Press Herald reports that housing prices are up at least 17 percent, and people like you are making almost a third (!) of all home purchases. It’s not that I’d prefer people didn’t move here; I just wish they didn’t all move right here, into my city and neighborhood. I live in Portland’s West End, and my parents bought the house we live in about 30 years ago, which is really the only reason we’ve stayed here while, over the years, friends who once lived close by have been forced out to Westbrook or Buxton or Hollis by rising rents.
I took the girls I watch downtown the other week and we counted license plates on our walk through the Old Port. We counted 100 Maine plates to 80 from out-of-state.
I can’t even go downtown anymore. My rage is so palpable. Going down to Bayside and seeing the gentrification that happened so quickly it beat me through puberty makes me a little nauseous. Driving past the Oaks and seeing how we’re treating our homeless population during a global pandemic is also pretty nauseating. I think that’s what happens when you have a local government whose main priority is development. We end up with those ugly glass buildings, rapidly rising rents and an underserved low-income community.
I saw a post on Nextdoor the other week from a man looking for housing. He’d been living here for a little while and “decided to give up my nyc apartment” and move here permanently. I was in Rosemont the other day and the woman in front of me was talking on her phone through check-out. When she finally hung up, she and the cashier got to talking and they realized they’d lived only a few blocks apart in Manhattan. A friend of a friend is from NYC and is living in Sebago for the year. He came into Portland and loved it: “It’s so cute and authentic and affordable.”
Man, these people piss me off. Being an angry local has turned into a full-time job. It’s hard to be me.
It’s also sad, because a lot of my generation of Portlanders feel the city is headed in a bad direction. Some older folk might argue that as soon as it became safe to walk in Portland at night, the city was headed in a bad direction. I’m not that extremist.
It’s sad to see that Portland, once considered a mecca of sorts for people experiencing homelessness, is now intent on shipping them out to the Westbrook line, away from services and income, and, in the meantime, housing them in jail facilities. It’s sad to see working-class friends pushed out of town so some hipster can have their bedroom.
I canvassed for the Census this fall, and during one shift, in which I talked to six people, three of them were in-movers and two were landlords or recent buyers returning the apartments to the rental market. We have long had an affordable-housing crisis, but city management seems content to do nothing about it.
Portland has been in a long, slow drag of gentrification for decades now, and COVID is only accelerating that. Of course, the folks who were already the most financially unstable have suffered the worst of it. Many now find themselves unable to pay rent, or find that their rent is unsustainable. Wealthy folks, who are increasingly from where you’re from, can afford Portland’s high housing costs.
So now we have not only a global pandemic, not only a legitimacy crisis in the federal government, not only a looming climate crisis, not only a reckoning with systematic racism and police brutality, but here at home we have a housing crisis, a homelessness crisis, uncontained development that serves only the rich, a city losing its character and experiencing the opposite of white flight.
Oh, and one more thing. I also wish you weren’t all from New York or Massachusetts. I’m worried your terrible driving habits will spread.