‘Robin Hood in Reverse’ Works at City Hall

 

On Monday, Aug. 8, the City Council voted 3-2 to place a doctored version of the city-sponsored landlord-friendly rent ordinance (City Code 3148) on the ballot. The city tampered with the ordinance using last-minute language that can nullify months of effort by Alameda residents to ensure passage of a meaningful and effective rent stabilization law that plugs loopholes in City Code 3148.

Normally if two conflicting ballot measures pass — receive a majority vote — attorneys would be appointed to reconcile the differences. But in this case the city added a last-minute landlord-friendly clause giving the ballot measure complete dominance if it receives even a minuscule one-vote margin over the opposing bill. 

This treacherous legal maneuvering takes unfair advantage because: a) it was accomplished so late in the election process that it is almost impossible to challenge and b) it circumvents the usual public notice and discussion for the adoption of ordinances. (The new language wasn’t revealed until the Aug. 8 meeting agenda was published July 27.)

An attorney in City Attorney Janet Kern’s office simply wrote in a convenient, but deadly, landlord loophole — an abuse of the democratic process. This resolution that the City Council approved is not City Code 3148; it’s a reverse-Robin Hood lawyer’s fantasy that robs from the poor and gives to the rich.

Here’s the language that allows this doctored-up version of Section 5 of the rent ordinance “Conflicting Law” to nullify the Alameda Renters Coalition’s (ARC) charter amendment:

“If this City Council-sponsored measure and any other ballot measure or measures, whether a proposed City Charter amendment or otherwise, addressing rent, eviction, and/or relocation assistance appear on the same ballot, and a majority of the voters vote in favor of both or all measures but this City Council-sponsored measure receives more votes than the other measure or measures, this City Council-sponsored measure alone shall become valid and binding in its entirety, and the other measure or measures shall be null and void in its/their entirety and without any legal effect.

“If a majority of the voters vote in favor of this City Council-sponsored measure and also in favor of the other measure or measures, but this City Council-sponsored measure receives fewer votes than the other measure or measures, only those provisions of the other measure or measures that are in direct and irreconcilable conflict with the provisions of this measure shall control, and all other provisions of this City Council sponsored measure shall become valid and binding. The voters expressly declare this to be their intent, regardless of any contrary language in any other ballot measure or measures.”

Simply put, with the stroke of a pen, Kern can wipe out months of effort, hundreds of hours of pavement-pounding, meetings, discussions and petition gathering by concerned residents working with ARC.

Alameda voters must not only make sure ARC’s charter amendment ballot measure passes; we must make sure people do not vote for the city ordinance, even though it has the deceptive title of “Rent Stabilization Act.”

 

Monty J Heying has lived in Alameda for 16 years.