Tom Butt
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  RPA Resorts to Paid Signature Gatherers to Get Rent Control Initiative On Ballot
May 19, 2016

The Richmond Progressive Alliance, initiator of the “Fair and Affordable Richmond” coalition, has for years been routinely critical of the use of paid signature gatherers to circulate petitions to place initiative on the ballot is now using that same method to circulate its Rent Control initiative. In September of 2015, the RPA criticized the use of paid signature gatherers, “… the system of allowing paid signature gatherers already biases the initiative/referendum process in favor of wealthy persons or corporations

At other times the RPA argued that paid signature gatherers, in their zeal to make money, couldn’t be trusted to provide accurate information: “In a statement Thursday, the group said it believes some paid canvassers are offering residents misleading statements about the petition, such as asserting it supports Richmond’s rent control ordinance approved in July (

In any event, Rent Control petitions are now being circulated by paid signature gatherers funded by an RPA Steering Committee member and affiliate organization, as confirmed by RPA Coordinator Marilyn Langlois, who requested I copy her statement in its entirety:

Hi, Tom,

Thanks for asking.  Here's my response to your question, and if you choose to publicize this information, I would request that you include my statement in its entirety.  

Because the Fair and Affordable Richmond coalition had to spend a lot of time gathering broad input to craft the best possible rent control ordinance, with protections for both tenants and homeowners, we were left with little time to gather signatures and still make it on the November ballot.   After Councilmember Myrick declined to support a city council vote to put it on the ballot, our only option was to work as hard as possible to gather signatures in a very short timeframe (10 weeks).

The workers who are members of SEIU 1021 feel very strongly about protecting tenants and stabilizing neighborhoods, since housing is one of their top priorities, so that union offered to contribute to Fair and Affordable Richmond to cover the cost of having some paid signature gatherers to supplement our widespread volunteer signature gathering effort.

We do not think ballot initiatives are the best way to handle complex policy issues that the city council is elected to address, but this issue was forced to the ballot by the apartment owners association's deceptive petition drive done by highly paid and poorly informed signature gatherers last fall, which undermined our effort to enact rent control at the city council.  We've lost precious time since then, with tenants being displaced by steeply rising rents.  Community members who support our coalition are pursuing all avenues to enact a fair and just ordinance as quickly as possible.

Marilyn Langlois
Fair and Affordable Richmond steering committee member
Richmond Progressive Alliance co-coordinator

SEIU is an RPA “Allied Organization” and holds a seat on the 17-member RPA Steering Committee.