Special Council Meeting called for Anti-Rent Control Lobby:
Santa Cruz Mayor David Terrazas has convened a special session of the City Council this Tuesday, August 7, at 6:00pm, to make a final decision on whether to grant special favors to the anti-rent control lobby, which the Mayor has publicly endorsed. After the lobby failed to submit their main argument to voters on time, they now want the city to extend the ballot argument deadline, after it has already passed. Terrazas will face constituents who have questions about whether the Mayor and the City Council are fairly representing all city residents—especially those who are most vulnerable—and about how Mayor Terrazas is using his public office.
The anti-rent control lobby, calling itself “Santa Cruz Together” (SCT), failed to meet the July 10 deadline to submit their opposition argument on the rent control ballot measure. Terrazas, SCT, and their lawyer have argued for changing the deadline set by the City Clerk, to allow the opposition argument to appear on the ballot in November, despite the fact that Terrazas himself voted to approve the original deadline.
SCT and affiliated anti-rent control groups have raised over $400,000 so far, largely from contributions from state and national real estate lobbying groups, in their effort to kill rent control in Santa Cruz. Despite spending more than $23,000 on campaign consultants based in Roseville—the Wheelhouse Strategy Group—they missed this critical campaign deadline.
The Movement for Housing Justice, who gathered 10,791 signatures from community members by the May 9 deadline to qualify the measure for the ballot, and who turned their ballot argument in on time, objects to this extension on the basis that their argument had already been published when SCT demanded a new deadline to be able to submit their own. This would give SCT an unfair advantage.
The Movement for Housing Justice (MHJ) wants voters to have access to both sides of the argument to make an informed decision. However, this process must follow California election law by ensuring that each side submits their undisclosed argument in a timely manner, before each can view the other side’s argument. Changing the deadline after the original date passed, and MHJ’s argument was revealed to SCT, would clearly violate this crucial principle. This subversion of the public process would only increase the disproportionate advantage that SCT already enjoys, in addition to the their massive campaign coffers. “With all this money coming in, there is no danger of SCT not getting the anti-rent control message out to voters here” said Michael Gasser, a pro-rent control campaigner with Movement for Housing Justice. “To have the mayor bending over backwards like this to invent a second, more favorable set of rules for his friends in SCT says something about the challenges ordinary renters face in this campaign. When wealthy real estate interests play by a different set of rules, our democracy is hollowed out in a fundamental way.”