Petition Circulates for Rent Controls

The Voters' Veto Committee, an ad hoc citizens' group, is circulating a petition which if successful will force City Council either to rescind its recent order ending local rent controls or to submit that order to a city-wide referendum.

Thirteen per cent of the registered voters of Cambridge must sign the petition by January 17, to get action, according to Byrle Breny, a Voters' Veto Committee organizer.

Local rent control was ended December 29 at a stormy lame-duck meeting of the old City Council.

On December 31 four members of the new City Council, two of them holdovers from last year and two of them new council members, filed suit in Middlesex Superior Court contesting the December 29 vote. They alleged that proper voting procedures were not followed at that meeting.

Breny said that the majority of the new City Council members are in favor of rent control, but added that if the Council were to vote to re-establish rent controls, the order would not go into effect until 30 days after the vote.

The Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order last Wednesday that will allow the rent-control administration to continue operation until the Superior Court makes a final decision on the legality of the order to abolish it.

Breny said that, although the courts may declare invalid the order which her organization is fighting, the petition campaign is very important.

The court action could drag out over a long period of time "with appeals and all," whereas the petition would take effect immediately, she said.

"Since law requires that collection of signatures must be completed within 20 days of the old City Council's vote, we must get the signatures now and see how the court action turns out later," Breny said.

Breny said that, although 5000 signatures were needed to validate the petition, she hoped to collect a "few hundred" more than that for security.

"Since January 1, when the campaign started, about 250 workers have collected nearly 2500 signatures," she said.

Breny said that The League of Women Voters was the only organization that officially supported the petition campaign, but that leaders of many civic organizations were involved. "This is a people's movement," she added.

"A large percentage of the people we approach are in favor of the petition," Breny said.