Knock, Knock – Who’s There? Contentious Petition Seeks to Put it to the Voters

A petition being circulated by the Political Action Committee ‘Protect Culver City’ has allegedly been misrepresenting the goal; while several canvassers have been quoted as saying it was “for rent control,” the language of the petition seeks to overturn the city council’s decision on rent control and put a proposition on a future ballot for voters to decide.

Contentious? Anyone can push a petition, well, anyone with enough time, interest, money and/or volunteers. The two main issues that have been discussed in many forums all over the community are whether or not the canvassers are being honest about what they are asking people to sign, and the issue of why someone would be seeking to overturn a decision by the city council that is still in process.

In August of 2019, the Culver City City Council passed a year long rent freeze, capping increases at 3%. The freeze was deemed to be prudent to protect renters from the possibility of  retaliation or rent hikes while the council took a year to formulate what exactly rent control would entail.

In October of 2019, the state of California passed the Tenet Protection Act, capping rent increases at 5%. Whatever the Culver City city council decides on rent control might already be a moot point.

The pushback against the local legislation has built momentum over several months, and the door to door petition campaign uses both paid canvassers and volunteers to gather signatures.

Mike Plewa, a Carlson Park resident, recounted being canvassed at his front door by a young woman with short blonde hair, noting “She asked if I supported rent control, and I said I did, and she said, oh, good, you should sign this petition, this is for rent control. I signed, but then as I was reading over the language of the petition, it became clear to me that this was about canceling rent control, and I pointed this out to her.”

He crossed his name off the petition, and confronted her about her misleading tactic. She claimed to have misunderstood, and apologized. Plewa recommended she clarify with her group what the petition was about before she knocked on any more doors.

He said her saw her out knocking on doors in the his neighborhood less than half an hour later.

Lucy Scardino, another resident of Culver City, spoke about being canvassed. She answered her door, and was asked “We are looking for people to sign our petition to have everyone vote on rent control.”

Scardino replied, “I already voted on rent control. I voted for people on the city council to do that.”

When the canvasser reiterated “We just want everyone to be able to vote on it,” Scardino offered that she had attended many meetings, felt she’d been through all the political process that was needed, and was just fine with the rent control the city had passed. The canvasser left.

The fact remains that there is rent control in California whether or not there is specific local ordinance in Culver City; it seems to be a great deal of noise around a 2% difference. But there is speculation that Protect Culver City is also using the petition to drive a focus for fundraising. While the cost of printing petitions and hiring canvassers may be low, there are some deeper currents running into larger issues.

Protect Culver City Renters is an informal group that began to organize in 2015, and asked for the city council to agendize and pass the rent freeze. Protect Culver City is a registered political action committee dating to July of 2019.

The nearly identical moniker could lead people to think that the actual goal is to confuse voters, and things get even more complex upon investigation.

As ever, reading anything before signing it is the best defense.

You might agree completely. You might not.

Judith Martin-Straw

This article is the first in a series that will be exploring the social and political issues of rent control and housing in Culver City. Check back later this week for more on “Knock, Knock – Who’s There?” 

 

 

 

 

www.culvercitysymphony.org

5 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this, Judith. We just sent someone away with a clear message that we did not appreciate the duplicity of this proposal.

  2. I was approached tonight by someone who was polite, friendly and knowledgeable- she stated exactly what was on the petition and offered to let me read exactly what it says – very appropriate

  3. I kindly disagree with the writer. There is nothing hidden in this petition. We live in a democracy – this is how democracy works. People have the right to challenge a rent control ordinance by letting the populace decide. Nothing is misleading about that.

  4. I thought the left believed in democracy and the popular vote. I guess when it comes to an issue that could distort the rental market and thus harm the long term quality of housing in Culver City, the left thinks otherwise.

  5. It’s only contentious because people do not listen. The citizens supporting this petition have the right to be heard through the ballot box.

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