If you voted on Hoboken Public Question No.2 (HPQ No. 2) this past November, be aware that Mile Square Tax Payers Assn. is trying do in the courtroom what they were unable do at the ballot box.
This past election, just days after Hurricane Sandy struck, was a day many Hobokeners felt justifiably proud of their community. In spite of everything we saw a robust election turn out with over 20,000 residents casting votes. Ultimately 16,444 residents cast votes on HPQ No. 2, the initiative exempting, temporarily or permanently, certain buildings from rent control. On the machines, a clear majority rejected the measure by 560 votes.
But, this is Hoboken; machine votes don’t really matter. It’s the absentee vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots that decide elections. And, due to the storm the period when VBM ballots could be mailed was extended. We waited until November 22 to learn that the tenants’ victory shrunk to 52 votes, but the final result was unchanged.
So what’s a well-funded, developer/professional landlords group to do? Go to court to get the results overturned, of course. What are their reasons? Among other flimsy complaints filed with Superior Court: “the Hudson County Clerk has rejected more than 53 valid ballots that voted in favor of Hoboken Public Question No. 2.”
How do they know how people voted? Have they seen these absentee ballots? How could they possibly have access to confidential ballots? Do they know because they know how many ‘yes’ votes they bought and the math isn’t adding up?
Hoboken voter, tenant activist and campaign manager for the Hoboken Fair Housing Association, Cheryl Fallick, attempted to intervene in this case pro se with a brief so well written that Judge Farrington complimented her on it and her arguments, and then dismissed the case and denied her a place at the table because, in the judges view, Ms. Fallick had no unique stake in the legal challenge. That Ms. Fallick was essentially providing the certified winners a seat at the table was irrelevant.
The reason Ms. Fallick attempted this action pro se is because HFHA lacks the money to pay an attorney. Unlike MSTA we don’t keep one on retainer. Maybe we need to look on this as the fight to Rebuild Hoboken’s Democracy. If we’re honest, we’ll admit it’s a fight that’s a long time coming. This case offers an opportunity to expose what everyone suspects about VBMs in Hoboken. But, in order to do that we need to have a seat at the table – and that costs money.
Regardless of how you voted this situation should concern you. With the end of run-offs VBM’s will become even more contentious in our elections and with it the accompanying legal action. It’s rent control today; next time - who knows? For more information and ways in which you can help, please go to http://hobokenfairhousing.com.