MSTA’s Bogus Challenge to the HPQ#2 Tenant Win


To all of you who support real democracy as well as rent control protections

This past election day—with a full ballot of candidates from U.S. president to local school board, an array of state and municipal questions and a rent-control ballot question cynically worded to deceive voters into thinking a “yes” vote was a vote for rent control when in fact voting “yes” was to vote against it—the pro-rent control forces prevailed, by 560 votes “on the machines,” as they say.

We won Hoboken Public Question Number 2.

Of course the “machine votes”—that is, the votes of you and I who go to the polls—really don’t win elections.  The absentee votes, the vote-by-mails (VBMs)—hundreds, sometimes thousands of them—harvested from employees, seniors and subsidized-housing tenants—these are what decide elections.

And in the election of November 6, 2012, once those votes were counted, the pro-tenant lead had mysteriously slimmed from 560 to just 52 votes.  Close, yes. 

But we still won.

But MSTA is nothing if not a bunch of very sore losers.  Mile Square Taxpayers Association (Hoboken’s notorious big-landlords group) has taken—yet again—to the courts (here is a PDF of their embarrassingly shoddy brief) to attempt to do there what they couldn’t do at the polls—even after having been granted the gift of an extended deadline for submission of VBMs by an extra thirteen days, until Friday, Nov. 19th.

MSTA’s attorneys—Sean Smith and Charles Gormally—now contend that the vote should be overturned because (1) the sample ballots were sent out too late; and (2)  the Hudson County Clerk improperly rejected, they say, more than 53 valid VBMs that supposedly voted in favor of Hoboken Public Question No. 2.

We say, “bull.”

HFHA’s position is simple:

No. 1 is plain insane because if it were found to be true it would invalidate the entire election.

There’s always a small percentage of VBMs that are rejected, for various reasons.  MSTA insists that 53 of these votes were rejected unfairly, and that those 53 votes are “yes” votes—anti-rent-control votes—on HPQ#2.

We have to ask:  How does MSTA know how people voted?  Have they seen these absentee ballots?  And if they have—why, how have they been given access to voter’s confidential ballots?

Maybe they know because they recognize the names and they know what they paid—X number of dollars for X number of “yes” votes—and the math isn’t adding up. Oh, but wait—that sort of thing could never happen in Hoboken, could it?

How many times will they get away with trying to steal this election?

First they word the ballot question so that people would think it protects rent control rather than destroys it.

Then they manipulate the timing of the court proceedings on the subject of the wording so as to ensure that the tenants don’t have a real voice in the matter.

Then they hand out flyers urging tenants to vote yes on question 2 because it supposedly protects them (even though it puts them in extreme danger of losing their homes).

Then, after they lose the election, they go to court to try to undo the democratic process.

In an attempt to defend the votes of 8,248 resident Hoboken voters, tenant activist and campaign manager for Hoboken Fair Housing Association, Cheryl Fallick,  filed, pro se, a motion to intervene and dismiss (PDF) this ridiculous case with a brief so well written that Judge Christine Farrington actually complimented her on it and her arguments, but then dismissed her motion and denied her from having any presence at the next hearing because, in the judge’s view, Ms. Fallick had no “unique stake” in the legal challenge.

Matt Shapiro of the New Jersey Tenants Organization had this to say about the Judge’s ruling:

“Consider, if you will, the analogous situation of a losing candidate for office who files a legal challenge to the election result. Would any judge even think twice about allowing the winning candidate to become a party to the case? Not in a million years.  Prohibiting Ms. Fallick from becoming a party in this case is a clear miscarriage of justice.”

The reason Ms. Fallick filed a motion to intervene and dismiss pro se is because HFHA didn’t have the money to pay an attorney for this action.  Unlike MSTA, we don’t keep attorneys on perpetual retainer.

In order for us to fight this assault on one of our most basic constitutional rights, we are appealing to everyone reading this to please join Hoboken Fair Housing Association as a member for $30, or donate whatever you can toward the hiring of an election-law lawyer.

Just five or ten dollars from several of you is everything to us. If you are capable of larger amounts, consider the importance of this cause, and contribute accordingly.

Every single one of the 8,248 residents who voted to maintain rent control protections for themselves and their neighbors will have their vote reversed, abused and disenfranchised by this insulting, frivolous litigation.