Indy Bay: Richmond progressives respond to CAA petition blocking renter protections


Richmond - In response to the California Apartment Association (CAA) petition that many citizens complained about because they were lied to, and tricked into signing the petition by signature gatherers, Richmond Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin and Mike Parker, both being members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), have made statements in regards to the CAA backed petition that blocked renter protections from going into effect on September 4. 

Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin said: “As many of you know, three specific Richmond-related petitions were circulated for signatures in our city recently.  They were turned into our City Clerk's office earlier this month.  The signatures are currently being reviewed in the Contra Costa Elections Office to determine whether or not they have sufficient qualifying signatures.” 

“One of the petitions refers to the Richmond City Manager's salary, another refers to a development project in Richmond, and the third petition refers to Rent Control/Just Cause for Eviction in Richmond. I will continue to update you as the process of reviewing these petitions continues.” 

Additionally, in a statement from RPA member Mike Parker called; “RPA Statement on Petition to Block Rent Control & Just Cause for Eviction.” 

On September 11, RPA member Mike Parker said: “The filing of petitions to suspend the City’s rent control/just cause ordinance does not stop the need for tenant protections in a city where almost half the residents live in rented housing. 

Despite statements by City officials that the filing suspends the ordinance, there is also legal opinion that the suspension does not take place until sufficient signatures are verified by the county, a process that may take up to 30 days. 

If the signatures are verified, the ordinance will be suspended. The City Council will either repeal the ordinance or schedule it for a referendum vote, although it is not required to decide immediately. The coalition of community organizations that have been backing rent control will make recommendations to the City Council about next steps. 

We wish to emphasize that this petition has been an abuse of the elections system. First, the petition was circulated without the sponsoring organization being known. Only after the petitions were filed was the role of the California Apartment Association revealed. 

Second, the system of allowing paid signature gatherers already biases the initiative/referendum process in favor of wealthy persons or corporations. In this case the signature drive only succeeded because gatherers were paid three to six times normal rates. When rates jumped up to $12.50 per signature and in some cases a reported $20.00 per signature, petition gatherers from around the state converged on Richmond. The high rates encouraged gatherers to say anything to get a signature. We have many cases documented where potential signers were told that this petition would favor or strengthen rent control. 

What this means is that any well financed organization or individuals can suspend any ordinance in the city during the month after passage if they have$100,000 to spend. This is in the same spirit as the Citizens United decision that allows money to control our politics. 

“We continue to believe that Bay Area gentrification and displacement are threats to Richmond. We believe a variety of policies must be followed to increase the supply of affordable housing. We believe that renters should have rights and that they are an important part of our city. We believe that stabilizing rental prices and establishing just cause for evictions, which is what the ordinance did, is critical to stabilizing our neighborhoods. Stable neighborhoods are critical to achieving safety, good schools, and strong organizations that benefit everybody in the community.” 

Mike Parker, On behalf of the RPA Steering Committee. 

In a statement by Tenant advocate Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival based in Los Angeles, in an article of today's Nonprofit Quarterly, Larry Gross said. “More typical forms of landlord advocacy come through the state legislature or by bringing litigation, two venues where money speaks louder than votes. The landlords still have enormous influence in Sacramento and most cities in California.” 

“It’s all about money and the ability to line the coffers of campaign war chests. That money buys influence. They have also, for the most part, not been successful at the ballot box. Best recent example is was in 2008 with Proposition 98, which they placed on the statewide ballot as an anti-eminent domain measure, but which would, in fact, have wiped out all rent control and tenants’ rights laws in California. They spent millions on it and we crushed it with a 2-to-1 vote victory.” 


Reposted from Indy Bay

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