Gilligan has been among those spearheading the effort to bring back the type of rent control that existed in Bayonne for decades.
But the group’s effort took a hit on March 12, when the petitions submitted on March 4 were ruled short 121 signatures by City Clerk Robert Sloan, according to Gilligan.
The BTO submitted 1,460 signatures, 350 more than the 1,101 that were needed, but 471 were kicked back, creating a deficit, he said.
“We have identified registered voters who have signed the petition,” Gilligan said. “Many of them are either not registered, they [city clerk’s office] claim, or ‘not sound.’ I’m not sure what that means. I asked city hall to define that please. They said they just couldn’t find them [voters’ names on the register]. We can either add names or register the ones that signed, the ones they claimed are not signed [up to vote].”
The group says it is working feverishly to have the needed number by later this week.
“Logistically, it’ll be easy to add names,” Gilligan said, rather than going back to those who signed the petitions but didn’t qualify to do so. It would be a logistical nightmare to do it that way.”
The group will submit more than 121 names, knowing more names will be challenged, Gilligan said.
“We’ll be dealing more with people we know, people who are registered voters,” he said. “We get 121 more registered voters, and it’ll be on the ballot.”
Does he think that the BTO will achieve its goal?
“Absolutely, absolutely,” Gilligan said. “We’re halfway there already.”
He believes the measure will be approved by city residents.
Hurricane Sandy effect
“I believe it will pass, because we had such a high number of voters last time,” Gilligan said, referring to the November 2012 effort, right after Hurricane Sandy struck.
“Sandy was the problem,” he said. “Because of the weather some didn’t vote in 2012. It amounted to lower turnout for us. We lost some votes because of that.”
Gilligan said 11,000 people still cast ballots on the issue, even with the weather challenges.
If residents vote “yes,” the impact could be immediate.
“If my memory’s stands me correct,” Gilligan said, “we would go back to the rent control we had for 40 years, which will protect the people of Bayonne.”
Council President Terrence Ruane said, “If the petitioners are successful in complying with the law and getting their issue on the ballot, there will be an election in accordance with the law.”
Diverse group of supporters
Gilligan says a broad swath of residents want rent control back, including senior citizens, youth, and homeowners.
“Even many landlords who live in the city have signed the petition,” he said. “They’re the ones who see the value of it. The ones who live out of the city and just want to have income from their investments in Bayonne, they don’t care.”
Gilligan claims that people in favor of the rent control initiative have been harassed because of their support, being urged to move out of their apartments, or becoming victims of lack of upkeep by landlords.
“We’re following in the footsteps of Hoboken,” Gilligan said. “Twice they [rent control proponents] took it to election, twice they won, and twice they were sued by the opposition.” But eventually they achieved victory.
“Vacancy decontrol was a good plan that didn’t work,” Gilligan said, and now is the time to fix it.
For and against rent control
Gilligan said that Mayor Mark Smith is against this rent control effort, and that Police Capt. James Davis, one of Smith’s mayoral opponents, is in favor of it, though Gilligan said he wasn’t speaking for Davis.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.