Dear Friend of HFHA,
After a very long winter we’ve finally got the month of May in Hoboken. But we still have an undemocratically, falsely, wrongly overturned election from last November.
As many of you will recall, the forces defending rent control (that’s us) soundly defeated, on November 6th, the ballot initiative known as “Hoboken Public Question #2″, which would have severely weakened Hoboken’s rent protections and put many of our friends and neighbors in immediate or short-term risk of losing their homes.
The landlords’ group MSTA (you may know about them by now) didn’t like that. So they drew up a list of over a hundred names of folks who voted outside of Hoboken and declared them all as displaced and “disenfranchised” by storm Sandy, said they all might have voted against rent control and that this could have changed the election result, and gave it to a local judge. Presto — election results “set aside.”
Once we were able to get our hands on this list — and that wasn’t easy — we discovered that most of names on it didn’t even live in town on election day. Or, they did live AND vote in town, but were registered elsewhere. The list was almost entirely fraudulent.
We’re now attempting to supplement the court record with proof that the list of voters used to overturn the election was false, and obtain status to appeal that local judge’s decision. We’ll have a new decision from an appeals court panel of judges within a few weeks.
As you might guess, all of this has cost us a pile of money. So, as we did last January when we began this process, we’re appealing to you – our friends,supporters and fellow-travelers, for help. (And we really want to thank everyone who donated in January.)
Here’s the question: How much is your rent-controlled dwelling-place worth to you? And for those of you that don’t rent your homes, how much is the stability of the community in which you live and where your friends and neighbors rely on our rent protections worth?
One thing’s for sure — if rent control in Hoboken goes the way of the dinosaur,there will be a mass exodus of all but the wealthiest among us. That mass exodus may well include you.
And if we don’t do everything we can to make sure the election that we already won stands — to protect the sanctity of the democratic process itself — then the whole meaning and purpose of a democratic election becomes “fungible” –manipulable by those with the deepest pockets.
If a special election is held on the rent-control question, it will be manipulated, one way or another — bent to the desired results of MSTA and its attorneys. And they have no interest in what is best for Hoboken. Their membership consists largely of outside developers.
So, once again, we want to urge everyone reading this — you, and you, and you — to, at the very least, join Hoboken Fair Housing Association if you are not already a member. It’s 25 bucks a year. You’ll automatically gain membership to NJTO, the New Jersey Tenant’s Organization. (They’re the ones responsible or the fact that our state is one of only a few in this country that still has functioning rent control.)
If you can’t afford that, we want to urge you to contribute five dollars. Twenty folks donating five dollars gives us $100 that we didn’t previously have to fight this legal travesty.
And if you are already a member or if you can give more — how much is your rent-controlled dwelling-place worth? — please do that.
After all, if you don’t help us build strong rent-control protections in a 1.3-square-mile town swarming with big landlords, realtors and developers chomping at the bit for stratospheric rents, who will ?
We don’t think you’ll regret it. In fact, we think it’ll help you enjoy the month of May knowing you’ve done the right thing.
This past election day—with a full ballot of candidates from U.S. president to local school board, an array of state and municipal questions and a rent-control ballot question cynically worded to deceive voters into thinking a “yes” vote was a vote for rent control when in fact voting “yes” was to vote against it—the pro-rent control forces prevailed, by 560 votes “on the machines,” as they say.
We won Hoboken Public Question Number 2.
Of course the “machine votes”—that is, the votes of you and I who go to the polls—really don’t win elections. The absentee votes, the vote-by-mails (VBMs)—hundreds, sometimes thousands of them—harvested from employees, seniors and subsidized-housing tenants—these are what decide elections.
And in the election of November 6, 2012, once those votes were counted, the pro-tenant lead had mysteriously slimmed from 560 to just 52 votes. Close, yes.
But we still won.
But MSTA is nothing if not a bunch of very sore losers. Mile Square Taxpayers Association (Hoboken’s notorious big-landlords group) has taken—yet again—to the courts (here is a PDF of their embarrassingly shoddy brief) to attempt to do there what they couldn’t do at the polls—even after having been granted the gift of an extended deadline for submission of VBMs by an extra thirteen days, until Friday, Nov. 19th.
MSTA’s attorneys—Sean Smith and Charles Gormally—now contend that the vote should be overturned because (1) the sample ballots were sent out too late; and (2) the Hudson County Clerk improperly rejected, they say, more than 53 valid VBMs that supposedly voted in favor of Hoboken Public Question No. 2.
We say, “bull.”
We have to ask: How does MSTA know how people voted? Have they seen these absentee ballots? And if they have—why, how have they been given access to voter’s confidential ballots?
Maybe they know because they recognize the names and they know what they paid—X number of dollars for X number of “yes” votes—and the math isn’t adding up. Oh, but wait—that sort of thing could never happen in Hoboken, could it?
How many times will they get away with trying to steal this election?
First they word the ballot question so that people would think it protects rent control rather than destroys it.
Then they manipulate the timing of the court proceedings on the subject of the wording so as to ensure that the tenants don’t have a real voice in the matter.
Then they hand out flyers urging tenants to vote yes on question 2 because it supposedly protects them (even though it puts them in extreme danger of losing their homes).
Then, after they lose the election, they go to court to try to undo the democratic process.
In an attempt to defend the votes of 8,248 resident Hoboken voters, tenant activist and campaign manager for Hoboken Fair Housing Association, Cheryl Fallick, filed, pro se, a motion to intervene and dismiss (PDF) this ridiculous case with a brief so well written that Judge Christine Farrington actually complimented her on it and her arguments, but then dismissed her motion and denied her from having any presence at the next hearing because, in the judge’s view, Ms. Fallick had no “unique stake” in the legal challenge.
Matt Shapiro of the New Jersey Tenants Organization had this to say about the Judge’s ruling:
Consider, if you will, the analogous situation of a losing candidate for office who files a legal challenge to the election result. Would any judge even think twice about allowing the winning candidate to become a party to the case? Not in a million years. Prohibiting Ms. Fallick from becoming a party in this case is a clear miscarriage of justice.
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