Raise Your Glasses and Rank Your Choices

A beer-based strategy to raise awareness of the ranked choice voting referendum on the November ballot in Maine

Craft breweries throughout Maine will be holding “beer elections” during the month of September, hosting tastings and allowing customers to rank their beers as part of a campaign to bring attention to the ranked choice voting referendum on the ballot this year. The events, organized by the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, are designed to showcase how straightforward and empowering voting in future elections will be if Question 5 passes in November.


“This is a fun way to demonstrate how ranked choice voting works, and an opportunity to support Maine’s vibrant craft brewing industry,” said Committee for Ranked Choice Voting campaign manager Kyle Bailey. “We rank choices every day of our lives. Ranking candidates for public office is no different.”

19 breweries are backing the referendum and hosting the demonstrations, with the first scheduled for Friday, September 2nd at Oxbow Brewing in Newcastle. (See the full list of breweries here.)

If approved by voters, Question 5 would give Maine voters the power to rank candidates for public office up and down the ballot. The voting system, already in use in Portland mayoral elections, is designed to allow a greater degree of voter choice. If a voter’s first-place choice can’t win after the ballots are tallied, their vote is instantly counted for their next choice, removing the possibility of “spoiler” candidates or the need to vote strategically for a candidate other than one’s top preference.

“By voting yes on Question 5, voters will have more choice and more voice in electing our leaders,” said Bailey. “Ranking candidates is empowering. Ranking beer is just fun.”

This post originally appeared in the Maine Beacon.


Trump Strikes Out with Revised Tax Plan

Main Street small business owners say Trump struck out with his new economic plan, citing deficit growth, a disproportionate shift of the shared tax responsibility onto consumers, and loopholes for large corporations as their biggest concerns.

After the campaign's initial tax proposals raised the eyebrows of tax policy experts on both sides of the aisle, Trump revised his plan in a long-awaited economic policy speech. The updated proposal contains major tax breaks for large corporations, and policy that starves communities of resources and leaves small business owners and middle-income earners picking up the tab.

Surprisingly, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) called Trump’s plan a “home run,” but for whom? It is not our nation’s small and independent businesses that stand to gain the most from this policy, but rather, the largest and most profitable multinational corporations and their executives.

A cornerstone of the Trump tax plan is a repeal of the estate tax, a platform that was met by cheers from his supporters but stands to benefit only the wealthiest few. The estate tax only kicks in for estates valued at $5.45 million for individuals and $10.9 million for couples, a value realized by just 0.2 %of Americans, or the top 1/5 of the top 1%. The average benefit to these estates, were the tax repealed, is $3 million.  

“Trump's tax plan and the support it's received from the NFIB is just one more instance in which the cover of small businesses is being used to rig the system for the wealthy. Nationally, only 20 small businesses and small family farms paid any estate taxes in 2013, a typical year,” says Deborah Field, the owner of Paperjam Press in Portland, Oregon, and former corporate tax accountant. “Don’t be fooled into believing that wealthy people want to repeal the estate tax to help out ordinary folks; they are campaigning to preserve their extreme wealth for their heirs.”

Another contentious element in the Trump tax plan is lowering the tax rate for “pass-through” income (business income claimed on individual tax returns) to just 15%. Despite claims that the reduced pass-through rate would benefit the average small business owners, more than two-thirds of all pass-through business income would flow to the top 1% of tax filers. Wealthy individuals who claim pass-through income would receive tax cuts regardless of their wealth, the size or type of their business, or their role in its operation.  

"These tax breaks would deprive the government of badly needed funds for investments in infrastructure, transportation, education, and social services. The types of investments that drive local economies and put small businesses in a better position to succeed,” says Amanda Ballantyne, National Director of the Main Street Alliance. “A tax policy that works for the shops and restaurants on Main Street is one that supports our customer base and our communities. In that regard, Trump's policy fall flat."

“The vast majority of small business owners don’t support tax policy that augments their piece of the pie by cheating their fellow citizens out of theirs. When we contribute our fair share of taxes, those dollars get reinvested in our local communities,” says David Borris, the owner of Hel’s Kitchen Catering in Chicago and Main Street Alliance Executive Committee member. “Local communities that support tens of millions of small businesses from coast to coast.”


St. Paul Businesses Highlight Support for Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinance and Announce Shop Your Values Campaign

Small business owners share why they support citywide earned sick days policy at St. Paul coffee shop and launch Shop Your Values campaign to encourage customers and community members to shop at businesses that best reflect their values. 

St. Paul small business owners gathered at Workhorse Coffee on University to urge City Council to pass the citywide earned sick and safe time ordinance currently being considered by the St. Paul City Council. 

“Paid sick time just makes sense to us. Making sure employees can stay home if they are sick makes sense from a health perspective,” said Shannon Forney, Owner, Workhorse Coffee.“We see our employee as a core to our success. They work hard for us, so we want to treat them fairly.”   

Eric Foster, co- owner of Ward 6 served on the HREEO task force in the Spring of 2016. “We spent a lot of time working on a policy that would be best for St. Paul and came up with good language that makes practical sense for business. It was a fair and reasonable process.”  

“Minnesota has traditionally shown itself to be a place where we succeed when we look out for each other. It's the right thing to do,” said Bob Parker, co-owner of Ward 6 Food & Drink. “Some business owners might be afraid of the change, just as they were of the smoking ban.  In the end, they’ll see that the benefits, like retention, outweigh the cost. Turnover is bad for business, and keeping worker means they will stay around to make our business strong.”

James Williams, owner of 6th Chamber Used Books on Grand Avenue agreed. “As a society, we keep moving away from supporting people and workers, and earned sick and safe time is a basic protection that is very sensible.”

“As a small nonprofit, we feel the need to make this work to show we are committed to our employees,” said Chad Kampe, Executive Director of the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute. “If employees come in sick, it could make the students we work with sick, and we can’t let that happen.”

Matt Zanetti, owner, Lake Monster brewing speaks at Workhorse CoffeeMatt Zanetti, the owner of Lake Monster Brewing, shared his perspective as a parent and business owner: “I'm looking for best employees and want to keep them. Sick time is a simple way to do that.”

The event also announced a “Shop Your Values” campaign with map of forty St Paul businesses who support earned sick and safe time: www.tinyurl.com/SYV-STP

“I’m delighted to be in a cohort of other food businesses and small employers who support sick time,” said Shannon Forney. “By using our voice and agency, we are working together to make a difference.”

Corinne Horowitz, State Director of Main Street Alliance of Minnesota, also encouraged additional businesses to sign on with their support. “We know many small businesses both here in St Paul and statewide care about their employees and their communities,” said Horowitz.  “We encourage Minnesotans to shop their values, and patronize businesses that support their employees, the community, and working families.”  

Main Street Alliance of Oregon Members Host Mixer with the Secretary of State's Office



Oregon members gather to share stories of their leadership in action and to learn from each other and elected officials

Ruth Miles of the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office of Small Business Assistance joined Main Street Alliance of Oregon members to discuss the needs of the small business community and give an overview of the services provided by the office of the Secretary of State.

With nearly a dozen small business owners in the room, Miles heard the stories of member’s activities with the organization and their shared efforts in making Oregon a place where small business can succeed and share values that put their communities first.

Rosalind McCallard, the owner of Snackrilege, spoke about her experience attending the FACT (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) Conference in DC this past April and Shaun Sieren, the owner of O’Neill Pub, who also attended the FACT conference spoke about the importance of the Main Street Alliance. Shaun shared his gratitude for MSA and the business owners he works alongside for helping him plug into the events and actions that he cares about and that impact the day-to-day operation and success of his small business.

This networking event and learning session could not have happened without the generosity of MSA members and the time commitment from the Office of the Secretary. Shaun provided the space at his pub and side salads; Rosalind provided sandwiches from her vegan shop and Roland Carfagno, the owner of Justa Pasta, brought six bottles of wine for the group.

Small donations were collected and a commitment to reconvene was made by all attendees and another small business owners stepped up and offered to host what should prove to be another valuable team building and learning experience. 

Hate Has No Business in Faribault, MN



50 miles south of the Twin Cities lies Faribault, Minnesota, a town with a population of 23,352, some of which are taking a stand against hateful and bigoted political dialogue.

On a Main Street that features a fancy cupcake shop, a brew pub, and two newly opened clothing stores, you will find Vohs Floors, owned by Ann and Karl Vohs, and opened in 1946. The Vohs have lived in Faribault and have served their community for over 50 years. They’ve seen countless business come and go, and they’ve seen communities shaped and strengthened by immigrants and refugees.


The Abduille's own Kulmiye Mini Market and are part of a strong Somali refugee community, and their family-owned market contributes to the diversity and opportunity that makes Faribault, and America, great. Faribault’s economy relies on the hardworking new Americans who patron local businesses like Vohs Floors and Kulmiye Market. Faribault isn’t a place where fear and anger is directed towards the refugee communities, and it’s not a place where hate is allowed to pervade.

Many of the town’s residents and members of it's business community are using this moment in our national political conversation to take a stand against the forces of hate and bigotry that loom like a black cloud over our country. 

In the spirit of inclusion, small business owners like the Voh's and the Absuille's are posting Hate Has No Business Here signs in their storefronts to send the clear message to the communities on which their businesses rely--all are welcome in Faribault and hate has no business here. 

Why More New Jersey Consumers Are Choosing to Shop Small

New Jersey small businesses weigh-in on the growing number of consumers choosing to shop on Main Street

New research shows a shift from malls and box retailers towards the shops and restaurants on Main Street and local New Jersey press reached out to Main Street Alliance of New Jersey leaders to learn more.

Barbara Stanton of Heritage Lighting and Jeff Beck of East Side Mags were interviewed by a reporter from New Jersey’s 101.5 and provided quotes for a piece highlighting the report from Reis, a real estate research and analytics firm. The firm linked shopping trends to the decreased vacancies in Main Street business districts and the increased vacancies in malls and shopping centers.

“The kind of customer we attract is not interested in looking at masses of goods. They want an edited collection,” said Barbara Stanton of Heritage Lighting. “I can’t imagine the type of shop I have being in any mall. Many customers want to be able to enjoy a shopping excursion, not go into a giant store that’s impersonal. They want to be able to have lunch. They want a pretty setting. They prefer to deal with an owner or a shopkeeper rather than a faceless, corporate façade.”

“People enjoy coming to the downtown area for the different shops, restaurants and just to walk around,” said Jeff Beck of East Side Mags. “We foster a community environment. You’re outdoors. You’re soaking up the sun. You’re walking around. There’s a breeze. It’s just a nice environment.” 

Stanton said downtown shops are attracting a cross-section of customers — millennials and boomers, first-time homeowners and those who have been in the same house for decades. “Customers are increasingly shopping in local stores because they want something more experiential. They don’t want to go to a mall and just pace down the aisles and pick one — they want things that aren’t common,’ she said. “They want handmade goods, they want to know a back-story on something, and we definitely talk to people, give them ideas, and try to help them get what they’re going for.”

Stanton stressed “people value attention, and there are many sellers who don’t offer any of that in a mall. At a local establishment, that’s what we’re all about.”

Whatever their reason is, more and more consumers are turning to Main Street retailers for their shopping needs, and we’re welcoming them with open arms.

Quotes featured in this post originally appeared in an article on NJ1015.com

Iowa's Small Business Owners Call on Senator Grassley to do is job

Six rallies took place across the state urging the lawmaker to move forward with hearings for Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland

Small business owners from across the Hawkeye State joined concerned citizens and activists to call on the Senate to end their obstruction and move forward with the process to fill the seat vacated by Antonin Scalia upon his passing in February.

President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, but we have seen an unprecedented contempt from GOP Senate leaders and an outright refusal to move forward with the consideration process. Garland, a moderate who has garnered support from Republicans and Democrats in the past, hasn’t been granted customary sit down meetings with Senate leadership and all signs point to his nomination being ignored.

Those leaders objecting to Garland moving forward in the process claim that President Obama’s term is too near it’s end, and the onus should fall on his replacement. At the time of the nomination, President Obama had over 300 days left in his term when, on average, Supreme Court vacancies are filled within 55 days.

Residents and business owners in Des Moines, Waterloo, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Davenport and Cedar Rapids gathered to ask that their Senator, Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, do his job and proceed with the consideration and nomination process despite his objections.

Lance Coles, of Lance Coles Photography, said that he participated because he knows that a dysfunctional court system makes for a dysfunctional government and economy. Ron Dinsdale, of Midvale Pinacotheca, showed up in support because day in and day out, he does his job, and he thinks that Senator Grassley should do his job, too. One rally featured a banner printed by Main Street Alliance of Iowa member John Bartlett, who owns and operates iWork&Play. 

Iowa-based Main Street Alliance members will continue to call on their Senator and other leaders to move forward with the nomination process until the vacancy on the Supreme Court is filled. 

Report: Minimum Wage Increase Will Level Playing Field for Maine Small Businesses

Portland-area small business owners gather in support of Question 4, the referendum to raise Maine's minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. 

Small business owners and other supporters gathered at Coffee By Design in Portland today to release a report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) explaining how the state’s current, low minimum wage puts Maine small businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

“On average, large businesses pay just a little over $10 per hour, while small businesses pay almost $13 per hour. That is a big difference that adds up to over $5,500 per year,” said NELP researcher and policy analyst Yannet Lathrop. “For low-income families, $5,500 is a significant amount of money that could make the difference between paying rent on time, or falling behind and risking eviction. Buying enough food, or going hungry between paychecks. Going to see a doctor when needed, or letting a minor condition get worse until it requires a trip to the emergency room.”

The report is based on an analysis of U.S. Census data for the retail industry—one of Maine’s lowest-wage sectors—which shows that while small and large businesses employ roughly the same number of workers in Maine, small, local businesses pay significantly higher wages.

“I’m grateful for every one of the 45 employees who work in our coffee shops and our roaster, for every farmer who grows our beans and for every customer who walks through our door. We’re all in this together,” said Mary Allen Lindemann, co-owner of Coffee by Design. “Community-based businesses are more likely to reinvest locally and, as this report shows, they show a greater dedication to their employees, including by paying higher wages than the national chains they’re often competing against.”

Lindemann is one of more than 500 Maine small business owners who have publicly endorsed the referendum to raise the minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $9 in 2017 and then by a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2020. After that, it would increase with the cost of living. The sub-minimum wage for service workers who receive tips would also increase gradually to reach the minimum wage.

“I'm one of the 159,000 Mainers who would get a raise when this referendum passes,” said Kyle Scott, who works as a cashier at a Portland grocery store. “I'm an example of the many, many Mainers who are trying to pay rent, support their families, and pay off student loans. That's impossible on poverty wages. I work hard, have an advanced degree, and can't make ends meet. I support the campaign to raise Maine's minimum wage. Yes on Question 4.”

“Small businesses across Maine support increasing the minimum wage, not just because it will help level the playing field with national chains, or because it will boost our economy by putting more money into the pockets of our customers, but because it’s just the right thing to do,” said Will Ikard, director of the Maine Small Business Coalition. “There are thousands of Maine seniors who work hard and can’t afford to retire and too many mothers are making poverty wages and struggling to feed their kids. It’s long past time to raise Maine’s minimum wage.”

The full report can be read at: http://bit.ly/2as19iW

Executive Committee Member David Borris Talks Payday Lending and it's Impact on Small Business

In a video, filmed on location at Hel's Kitchen Catering in Chicago, owner and MSA Executive Committee Member David Borris discusses payday lending and why it's bad for his business, his 100+ employees, and his community. Check out the video, and then head to stoppaydaypredators.org/MSA to issue a comment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) telling them to strengthen their proposed rule on payday lending, close the loopholes, and protect Main Street/

Members in San Diego Testify at City Council Hearing on Implementation of Prop 1


Prop 1, passed by ballot measure in early June, raises San Diego's minimum wage and increases access to paid sick days

Today, Main Street Alliance members thanked the San Diego City Council for passing the minimum wage and earned sick days ordinance, celebrating the enormous raise for 170,000 hard working San Diegans. Francisco Garcia of The Building Workshop, Sarah Davis of Al Davis Furniture and Alma Rodriguez of Queen Bee's testified at the meeting to approve the budget committee’s recommendations on implementation and enforcement of the ordinance.

“Because hard-working San Diegans working full-time must be able to avoid homelessness, the council’s approval of this measure was necessary, and I strongly encourage that the implementing law is approved today,” says Sarah Davis of Al Davis Furniture. “An enforcement agency will level the playing field by ensuring honest businesses are not undercut by dishonest employers and ensure protections against bad actors.”

The San Diego minimum wage and earned paid sick days ordinance was originally approved by the City Council in 2014, but an opposition group successfully gathered referendum signatures to place the measure on the June 2016 ballot. The initiative, Proposition I, passed with more than 63% of the vote in June 2016.

According to Francisco Garcia of The Building Workshop, as the entire business community gets on the same page, it’s important to make sure they receive education to understand the implementation parameters, too.

“We want to ensure strong anti-retaliation penalties and stiff fines for repeat offenders and willful bad actors. Most San Diego employers are honest, and they play by the rules. We need to ensure that unscrupulous businesses are not allowed to skirt the law to gain a competitive advantage,” testified Mr. Garcia. He continued: “This is why we have to educate and inform and request that notices and postings be made available to both the employer and employees. This gives employees the right to review their pay records without fear of retaliation. Examples from other cities show that retaliation can take extreme forms, such as employer threats to an employee’s immigration status.”

The City Council’s Budget Committee will work in the recommendations from different members before presenting the final implementation and enforcement, and Main Street Alliance members will continue to push for implementation language that works for small business owners and the community.


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