Voters preserve Boston City Council 8-to-5 majority
against rent control. Another SPOA victory.

 

Another SPOA victory against rent control

We did it! In the November 8, 2005, Boston municipal election, we beat down rent control once again, almost as well as in our Cambridge victory against rent control two years ago. We showed that a majority of Boston voters, if educated about rent control’s impact, do not want it.
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Despite predictions that Boston’s burgeoning new minority population would tip the Boston City Council to a leftist pro-rent-control majority, an 8-to-5 majority that voted down rent control a year ago was preserved, thanks in large part to SPOA.

SPOA ran an intensive phone-calling campaign for six weeks prior to the election, describing in recorded messages how rent control would affect the various classes of owners and informing voters of the candidate positions on rent control. In the election, SPOA’s impact was to bump every anti-rent-control candidate up a notch and bump every pro-rent-control candidate down a notch in the stack of candidates from what political pundits and polls had predicted before the election.

Who’s up, who’s down

Councilor Felix Arroyo, who promised to sponsor a rent control measure next January and hoped to top the race and position himself to be mayor one day, fell to a second-place position far below anti-rent-control Council President Michael Flaherty, who won top place by a record-breaking margin.

Anti-rent-control Councilor Stephen Murphy, who everyone felt was on the edge of losing his seat, kept it by a comfortable margin over John Connolly, who flipped from anti-rent control to pro-rent control in the middle of the race, probably the single cause of his downfall. Everyone was predicting Connolly would win.

Sam Yoon, a newcomer representing Boston’s new minority power, won a seat on the council by an easy margin of victory. Yoon strongly favors rent control, but so did Maura Hennigan, who had to leave her Council seat in order to run against Mayor Thomas Menino. She failed in her effort. The Yoon-Hennigan swap does not change the Council make-up regarding rent control.

Despite the odds

Nor can anyone blame the anti-rent-control outcome on other factors. The weather was perfect for a large turnout, which typically brings more leftist voters to the polls. Moreover, turnout was heavier than normal in areas that typically lean more to the left: Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury. The lesson, as it was in Cambridge two years ago, is that voters who otherwise want progressive policies do not favor rent control once they have been educated about rent control’s effects.
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SPOA’s message to Boston’s single-family homeowners (17,000 households) and other owners not likely to be under rent control was that their property taxes would go up if rent control comes in and devalues all controlled buildings for tax purposes. The next largest owner group – condo owners at 12,000 households – were told the effects rent control would have on condo association finances just as soon as one unit in a building became rent-controlled. For controlled owners, the message was easy, but we had to alert them that rent control was the hidden issue in this election.

The battle ahead

One would think this anti-rent-control victory would teach Boston politicians to drop the issue of rent control. No such luck. Councilor Arroyo can be expected to push his rent control proposal before the Council to reinvigorate his pro-rent-control voting base. Even with the prospect of an 8-to-5 vote against the proposal, one of those eight votes is wobbly, and all the councilors need to hear from their constituents to reinforce their opposition to or their doubts about rent control.

Meanwhile, SPOA is financially in debt from this recent campaign and needs to build up a war chest for the likely spring battle. Members needs to donate generously at this time.