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Today, voters will decide the fate of a ballot initiative that seeks to bring rent control back to Cambridge.
But the initiative faces long odds—and rent control is a long way from enactment, even if the initiative is passed.
A 1994 statewide ballot initiative rescinded rent control measures in the whole state of Massachusetts.
If Proposition One is passed, the city would generate a so-called “home rule” petition and send it to the state legislature. Before rent control could become a reality in Cambridge, the legislature would have to pass a law exempting it from the statewide ordinance.
A simple majority isn’t enough to pass the measure—one third of the registered voters in Cambridge would have to vote yes on the proposition before passing it along to the legislature. Only about a third of the city’s voters usually show up to vote.
Before 1994, rent control was the central, divisive issue in Cambridge politics—and some of the old players are back.
Lenore Monello Schloming, president of the Small Property Owners of America (SPOA)—which has led the charge against rent control in the past—is running a phone bank again, leading a campaign to inform small owners of what rent control would mean for them.
“It’s just confusing,” she says. “Unfortunately, it was written by lawyers, and they speak their own language, which is not common sense.”
“We can’t kill it once and for all, maybe for 5 or 10 years,” Monello Schloming said.
Mike Turk, a member of the Committee for Cambridge Rent Control, which drafted Proposition One, said he thinks the initiative would do better than most home rule petitions, which are often rejected by the legislature.
“I think this is unlike any other home rule petition,” he said. “If we do succeed at the ballot tomorrow, the petition will be sent forward by the people of Cambridge and not the City Council. I think that makes a bit of a difference.”
Monello Schloming said that the measure is unlikely to come out of the legislature, if it even gets that far. “It probably depends on what the actual vote was,” she said. “If the split was just about even, then it might not pass. It would probably die in the legislature. But the bigger the majority the other side has, the more dangerous we feel the other side is.”
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