After a 22-day wait, Hoboken’s election results were made final Wednesday, and reflected the same results as the machine vote on Nov. 6. The results were largely delayed due to extended deadlines in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Three vacant Board of Education seats will be filled by candidates who ran on the Kids First slate and were endorsed by Mayor Dawn Zimmer: Tom Kluepfel, incumbent Ruth McAllister and Jean Marie Mitchell.
These are the same winners projected after the Nov. 6 machine vote. But a close count between Jean Marie Mitchell and Liz Markevitch of the opposing Move Forward ticket could have overturned the results.
“This is far from over” – Ron Simoncini
Three public questions were also decided, and remained in line with the machine vote results. The most controversial was Public Question 2, which would have allowed removal of rent control from apartments upon tenant vacancy. It was ultimately defeated by a 52-vote margin. The final vote count was 8,248 “no” votes and 8,196 “yes” votes. Thus, rent control laws will remain as they are, until the next challenge.
As suspected, public questions 1 and 3, which sought to move municipal elections from May to November and eliminate runoff elections, were approved. The totals on Public Question 1, to do away with runoff elections, were 9,191 “yes” to 6,702 “no.” A staggering 10,419 voters said “yes” to Public Question 3 to move municipal elections from May to November. Only 3,446 voters disapproved.
The big winner was Mayor Zimmer, who endorsed the winning school board candidates and winning public questions. The results mean in 2013 she will also remain in office until at least next November, when she faces re-election.
“I am very pleased with the results,” Zimmer said. “Hoboken voters emphatically expressed their support for the great work of the Kids First school board team. With regard to election reform, the people have now decided and made their support for November elections resoundingly clear. Now that the elections are over it is time for all Hobokenites to work together to help rebuild our city during these challenging times."
Kids First Campaign Manager for Kids First Deirdre Wall said Friday, “We are proud of the fact that we ran a positive grassroots campaign that focused on the issues and the track record of Kids First. We are looking forward to continuing the progress of the last three years and supporting Superintendent Dr. Mark Toback.”
How it all came down to 52
A tenants’ group called the Hoboken Fair Housing Association (HFHA) faced off this year with a property owners’ group called the Mile Square Taxpayers Association over potential changes to the local rent control laws. When a successful petition drive by the landlord-backed MSTA forced the issue to a referendum, the two groups waged intense campaigns to sway local voters.
The measure sought to decontrol units upon vacancy, temporarily in buildings with five or more units, and permanently in owner-occupied buildings or condos with four or fewer units.
The MSTA argued that property owners cannot update their buildings on the low rents they collect. The HFHA maintained that decontrolling upon vacancy will give landlords the incentive to force their tenants out by soft bullying, neglect, or harassment.
A mere 52-vote defeat saved the existing rent control rules in town.
Ron Simoncini of MSTA says the group will contest the election results.
“We have very legit grounds for an investigation and are developing a legal strategy,” he said. “There were all kinds of irregularities in this particular election.”
Simoncini also feels that a lack of endorsements from elected officials hurt the referendum’s chances. Mayor Zimmer publicly opposed the measure.
“The political will in Hoboken said let’s not lose the tenant vote,” Simoncini said. “But they also told property owners that they don’t care about them.”
“What is absolutely clear is if there had been just one more condo building in Hoboken, we would have won,” he said. “There will be more condos built. We may just have been a little early.”
HFHA activists Dan Tumpson, Cheryl Fallick, and Mary Ondrejka expressed their elation to the public at a City Council meeting on Wednesday once the vote was final. President of the NJ Tenants Organization Matt Shapiro said in a phone interview, “This victory is the most important rent control victory in 30 years. It stops landlords pushing to end rent control in their tracks. Hoboken is the most important rent control market in the state. It is a very sweet victory.”
Shapiro also said he felt that MSTA ran a “campaign of deception.” But Simoncini disagreed.
“There was no greater lie told in this campaign,” he said, “than telling public housing and senior residents they would be evicted if this passed, when they would not.”
Amanda Palasciano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.