As a hotly contested campaign for mayor heads into the final weeks, an explosive example of government indifference and neglect has emerged as a pivotal issue.
Since 1983, city tenants have been protected from high housing cost increases but that rent control ordinance was invalidated because the mayor and council appointed no members to the Rent Control Board in at least 12 years.
One of the six candidates who filed petitions — Trump supporter Justin Maldonado — has been reportedly disqualified by the City Clerk for havingan insufficient number of signatures.
Incumbent Mayor Wilda Diaz, Councilmen Helmin Caba, Joel Pabon Sr. and Fernando Irizarry, are seeking the mayorship, along with Joesph B. Vas — who is the only contender that did not have a hand in invalidating the rent control law.
“The Diaz Team in City Hall betrayed Perth Amboy tenants by invalidating our Rent Control law!,” said attorney Joseph B. Vas in an email to voters. “The Diaz Team never appointed members to the Rent Control Board, which means that they deprived everyone of ‘due process’ and invalidated the law that protects the 70 percent of our city’s families from exorbitant rent hikes.”
Tenants comprise 70 percent of the city’s residents and they are hopping mad to discover that officials neglected their vital interests by allowing the rent control law to be nullified.
The race was almost certainly be decided in December because if no mayoral candidate wins a majority of votes on Nov. 3, the top two vote getters go to a Dec. 8 runoff.
Now Vas has an advantage among 70 percent of the city’s residents and he could be positioned to win outright on Nov. 3.
Apparently Vas knew it was coming and he prepared to fire up voters once the issue was raised at a council meeting and the press caught on.
Vas addressed the problem with an email blast and a mailing, in addition to his remarks during the public comments section of the council meeting.
The political establishment is clearly worried and frustrated by the success Vas is having. Council President William Petrick and others have been scurrying to find out who is advising Vas while Pabon, Caba and Irizarry are learning how difficult it is to raise money for what appears to be a hopeless campaign effort.
Diaz has been silent on the issue although she ultimately bears responsibility for the debacle, since she has had the power to appoint Rent Control Board members.
Council members share culpability because while they have not received nominations, they took no action to prod the administration or devise an alternative arrangement.
Vas is the only candidate to state his position, which is firmly in support of local rent control and favoring additional tenant rights, such as a state law permitting eviction only ‘for cause’ and providing legal counsel to individuals who may lose their homes.
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