Published: Sunday, July 22, 2012, 12:26 PM | By Rafal Rogoza / The Jersey Journal
BAYONNE — Bayonne rent control advocates are hoping third time’s a charm as they mount another effort to overturn a city ordinance that allows landlords to move some units out from under rent-control protections.
“We are currently circulating petitions asking registered voters in town to agree to allow all of the people of Bayonne to make the final decision on this matter,” Douglas Wasama, chairman of Keep Bayonne Rent Control, said in a press release. “That’s the democratic way.”
The dispute began in November 2011, when the city passed a vacancy decontrol ordinance that allows landlords to remove an apartment from rent control restrictions if the tenant willingly moves or is legally evicted. Prior to the change, the units would remain under rent-control guidelines forever.
The first petition to repeal the ordinance was submitted on Dec. 5 but was declared invalid by City Clerk Robert Sloan because the petitions did not have each name of the five-member committee listed on every page of the petition.
A second petition submitted March 9 came up 73 signatures of registered voters shy of the 845 needed to force the City Council to either withdraw the ordinance or schedule a special election to resolve the issue.
In their latest effort to repeal the vacancy decontrol measure, the pro-rent control advocates are collecting signatures on petitions entitled “Keep Rent Control Ordinance.”
“The purpose of this act is to establish a method to protect tenants in rent controlled apartments,” reads the ordinance’s declaration of purpose, “which is deemed necessary and proper for the good government of the municipality.”
“We are pursuing this petition drive under the initiative process provided by state law,” said Wasama, who said dozens of volunteers have joined in the campaign.
“We’re optimistic that we’ll get the required amount of signatures,” he added, saying the group planned to submit the petitions to the City Clerk’s Officer before Aug. 1 and have the initiative placed on the November ballot.
City attorney Charles D’Amico said last week he wasn’t aware of the petition drive and declined to comment until he had more information.