Rent Control Petition Has Enough Signatures; Convention Backs Bill
The Cambridge Rent Control Referendum is virtually certain to have enough valid signatures to get its petition for rent control onto Cambridge's November 4 ballot.
Though the City's Election Commission has not finished checking the signatures on the petition, Robert Burns, secretary of the commission, said yesterday that "It looks like they'll have more than enough." Another of the signatures counters said, "They're going to have enough. They'll have plenty of signatures."
Approximately 3300 valid signatures (eight per cent of 'Cambridge's registered voters) are needed to put the petition on the ballot. When the 1776 petition sheets were submitted to the City Clerk last Monday, organizers of the referendum estimated that they bore the signatures of 9000 voters. By state law, each signer's name and address must be just as it appears on the voting lists, and it was anticipated that some of the 9000 signatures would be thrown out for failing to meet this requirement.
The rent control ordinance which the petition supports would freeze rents in Cambridge at January, 1968 levels, although rent increases of up to eight per cent to meet increased costs could be made with the approval of a rent control board.
The signature count should be completed by this afternoon, Burns said. After that, the petitions will be validated by the City Clerk and sent on to the city council.
If' within 20 days, the council does not pass, without amendments, the rent control ordinance proposed by the initiative petition, the ordinance is then automatically put to the others, who can either pass it into law, or defeat it.
The council will probably meet Monday, August 11 on the rent control petition. Since Mayor Walter J. Sullivan is out of the country, city councillor Alfred E. Vellucci who serves as the City's vicemayor, will preside at the meeting.
It seems unlikely that the council will pass the ordinance at that time, since they have twice refused a request from the Cambridge Housing Convention to pass a similar rent control bill.
There has been speculation in the City, but no confirmation from any councillor, that the council would ask the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth for an advisory opinion on whether passing a rent control ordinance is within the powers of the City of Cambridge, or its voters under the state's provisions for home rule.
If the rent control bill does get onto the November ballot, it must then leap two hurdles in order to become law: a simple majority of those voting on the bill must vote in favor of it, and one-third of all registered voters in Cambridge must vote for the bill.
By the time of the election Cambridge is likely to have around 42,000 registered voters. In the City Council elections two years ago, about 31,000 voters turned out. Thus, if the turnout is the same this time, and all voters in the council election also vote either "yes" or "no" on the rent control bill, the required simple majority of those voting would be about 15,500, which would also be more than one-third of all the registered voters in the City