Opinion

Sacramento housing advocate won a big victory, then stabbed City Council in the back

Bad faith.

We expect it from a certain greedy and unscrupulous breed of landlord, but it’s a bit unusual coming from those who righteously advocate on behalf of increased protections for Sacramento’s renters.

Yet the Sacramento City Council is learning that not everyone in our community can be trusted to keep their word when it comes to making high-profile public agreements.

Earlier this year, the council made a deal with a group of citizens who demanded new rights and protections for renters. The council rushed to approve a new rent control ordinance to protect renters from outrageous rent hikes and unjustified evictions. The ordinance was part of a compromise with tenant advocates who planned to put a similar but more aggressive measure on the 2020 ballot.

The proponents who had signed the ballot measure agreed to formally shelve it if the council acted first.

Opinion

The council made good on its end of the bargain in August, voting 7-1 to approve the Sacramento Tenant Protection and Relief Act. It caps rent increases on older properties, prohibits landlords from evicting tenants without cause and creates a process by which tenants can report landlords who violate the rules.

Two of the ballot measure’s original signers, Margarita Maldonado and Omega Brewer, followed through on their pledge to withdraw the ballot measure.

But a third signer, Michelle Pariset, has apparently reneged on the deal, according to a story by The Sacramento Bee’s Theresa Clift.

Despite lavishing effusive public praise on Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Councilman Steve Hansen after the council passed the ordinance, Pariset now says that she has no intention of keeping faith with Sacramento’s elected leaders and will move forward with a 2020 ballot measure.

Pariset works as a policy adviser at Public Advocates, a Sacramento organization that describes itself as a “nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination by strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible legal victories advancing education, housing, transportation equity, and climate justice.”

It’s a noble mission, and winning swift action from the council to protect renters certainly qualifies as a tangible victory for housing. Yet by breaking faith with the council, Pariset sets a terrible example of how advocates should conduct themselves in public affairs.

“I am the third proponent of the rent stabilization initiative,” said Pariset during the council meeting in August, according to a transcript. “I am so excited to be here. I can’t … I can’t believe we’re here. It’s been a long road.”

Pariset expressed support for the ordinance. She thanked Steinberg and Hansen for their leadership.

Then she stabbed them in the back.

“The City Council adopted rent control and just cause eviction protections in good faith after extensive negotiations with the proponents of the rent control ballot initiative,” Steinberg tweeted on Tuesday. “We have lived by our word. Others who gave their word should do the same.”

Nobody likes a bait-and-switch. When people make promises and deliberately fail to keep them, they lose the right to expect trust or respect from their community. At a time when tenants need all the political support they can get, Pariset’s betrayal sends a terrible message.

It says, loud and clear, that you can’t necessarily trust certain advocates to honor promises and uphold compromises.

This amateurish and unethical move will hurt, not help, the cause of tenant protection. It’s unlikely that the three groups pushing for the ballot measure – the Alliance of California for Community Empowerment, Democratic Socialists of America and the Sacramento Tenants Union – have the resources to win an expensive ballot battle. That’s why they should seek to maintain a productive working relationship with the City Council. This dishonest strategy kills any chance of that.

Pariset should do the right thing by keeping her word and removing the measure from the 2020 ballot.

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