Next Tuesday, June 3rd, Californians trudge once again to the polls. Didn’t we just do this? Coming so soon after the February 5th, “Super Tuesday” primary, this election does seem unnecessary. Nevetheless, it’s got, as usual, tricky propositions on the ballot.
In 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court stunned the nation in its Kelso v. City of New London (Conn) decision allowing a city to take private property by eminent domain and turn it over to a private developer who could, presumably, produce more sales tax income by building a shopping center. That was obviously wrong and these propositions seek to remedy that loophole. But, one, Prop 98 does just that and only that, while the other, Prop 99, also throws in the kitchen sink, hoping to trick voters into also eliminating rent control on apartments and mobile home parks.
Prop 99 is the correct proposition, providing protection for homeowners from rapacious city councils gone berserk. Under this proposition private property is protected from eminent domain seizure for a private use. For repair or prevention of environmental damage or for public use, private property may be taken by eminent domain with compensation at current market values, of course. This is how eminent domain has always been understood in this country and state, the Supremes’ decision notwithstanding.
Prop 98, on the other hand, not only seeks to extend eminent domain protection from private homeowners to businesses, mobile home parks, and churches, but drags in totally unrelated issues by seeking to eliminate rent control in the apartments and mobile home parks that now enjoy it. By the way, it would also prohibit governments in many cases from repairing or protecting the public from environmental damage.
At a time when everyone is suffering from high gas prices now seeping into every aspect of our economy as higher prices for everything transported from airline fares to lettuce and hamburgers, it seems the wrong time to remove rent control. At a time when the dollar is dropping like a stone raising the prices of imports we have all come to consider as necessities from bed sheets to toys to garage doors, it seems the wrong time to remove rent control. In fact, it’s MEAN, MEAN, MEAN and nasty, too.
Rent control has nothing to do with eminent domain. Property owners who bought their mobile home parks or apartment buildings knew at the time of purchase that rent control was in effect. Releasing these properties would have, of course, not only the effect of throwing thousands of people out into the streets, but would also generate huge, windfall profits for these landlords.
Those supporting Prop 98 should really be ashamed. I am ashamed to note that the California Association of Realtors [CAR] supports it. This week alone I’ve received at least three email “alerts” telling me to urge everyone to vote for it. How truly selfish and shameful of CAR! Only landlords count, I guess. Everyone else, especially renters, should just curl up and blow away. The housing situation in California isn’t bad enough for CAR. We should add to it by dispossessing as many rent-controlled poor people as possible.
Just to note who is supporting Prop 99–AARP representing the many seniors who would be adversely affected by removing rent control; League of Women Voters; California Police Chiefs Association who realize, no doubt, dispossessing renters might well lead to more crime; Consumer Federation of California; California Alliance for Retired Americans; Sierra Club seeking to protect and repair our environment.
Typically, an election held on June 3rd is not going to attract many voters. How sneaky to try and get this past the voters. If you do vote on June 3rd, please vote Prop 98 NO and Prop 99 YES,