Updated with statement from MPOA
The Montclair Property Owners Association [MPOA], after obtaining resident contact information from the township, filed its petition with the Town Clerk to put the Council’s Rent Control Ordinance up for a referendum vote. However, the group has initially failed to gather enough signatures, says The Tenants Organization of Montclair (TOOM) in a joint statement with the Montclair Citizens for Rent Control coalition. MPOA does have 10 days to “cure” their petition.
According to TOOM, Montclair Town Clerk Angelese Bermudez Nieves found only 914 petition signatures to be acceptable out of 1,528 submitted. A minimum of 1,020 signatures from legal voters of the Township of Montclair is necessary for a successful ballot petition. That number is equal to 15% of the ballots cast in Montclair in the 2019 General Election.
“The Montclair Property Owners Association conducted a disinformation campaign online and in print since last April, and even went so far as to get the courts to force the township to deliver residents’ personal email addresses and text numbers six weeks ago,” said AhavaFelicidad and Toni Martin of TOOM.
“The landlord effort in Montclair is being orchestrated by a public relations professional who represents real estate companies, and makes his living off efforts to prevent and erase rent control in towns across New Jersey,” the TOOM statement said.
“We note that 200 signatures were rejected because the signers were not registered in New Jersey. Another 139 signers were not residents of Montclair. And the signatures of 168 more voters did not match the signatures on record in the state registration system,” says TOOM.
Montclair’s first-ever rent control ordinance was adopted April 7, 2020 after the push by a grassroots group, TOOM, formed in April 2019 and more than three decades of efforts by affordable housing advocates in the township of Montclair.
Recently, a coalition of supporters that includes property owners, clergy, community groups, senior advocates, the Montclair NAACP, and others was created as the Montclair Citizens for Rent Control. It maintains a website with information about rent control at montclairrentcontrol.org.
Ron Simoncini, MPOA Executive Director, sent this statement late Thursday:
“This rejection is an attempt to frustrate the petitioners for political purposes during a tie when the burden of signature collection is unthinkable and the processes around review are being made up as they go along.
The preponderance of our signatories were reached email or text message with a link to our online petition. They then signed with their mouse, mostly, or a stylus or a fingertip. When people go to the grocery store and they sign a screen pad with their finger or the stylus, that signature bears scant resemblance to the signature they would use on a check. The Municipality knows that, and to apply a stickler standard to their signature or insignificant absences or portions of their addresses ignores that the intent of the voter was to sign the petition and the signature should therefore be honored. The fact that we now have to disrupt 168 signatories because the clerk didn’t like their signature and an additional 55 people whose addresses were incomplete despite that they were all verified as registered voters in order to ask them to reverify their signature – or worse yet, mount another email and text message campaign to augment the signature count – is an intentional nuisance. But this action, like others related to this rent control ordinance, is going to backfire on the Council politically: no person sincerely interested in good government and the specific policies at issue here is going to like the idea that Petitioners were treated shabbily.
This is Montclair’s version of the Hanging Chad, and it is an embarrassing episode to be sure.”