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Proposition 1-2-3 wording at center of dispute

By Andrea Lamberti

The dispute over the wording of Proposition 1-2-3 continued this past week as two Democrats on the city's board of election commissioners sought to overturn an August 10 motion to reconsider the ballot question's language, according to the Cambridge Chronicle.

Proposition 1-2-3, which is scheduled to be voted on by Cambridge residents on Nov. 7, would allow tenants to buy their rent-controlled units under certain circumstances. The proposition's original language was modified on July 6 by the board in an effort to address some of the complaints of the proposition's opponents.

The two Republicans on the four-member election commission both support Proposition

1-2-3 and have been trying to replace the July 6 modifications with the referendum's original language. They succeeded on August 10 -- when Democratic commissioner Sondra Scheir was absent -- to have the commission vote 2-1 to reconsider the ballot question's language.

This vote violated commission rules, according to Scheir and Darleen Gondola Bonislawski, the other Democrat on the commission.

Scheir and Bonislawski appealed to City Manager Robert Healy to block the reconsideration, claiming that commission rules state members may only reconsider their votes up to one meeting after a motion is first passed. Commissioner Artis Spears' motion to reconsider occurred three meetings after the original language was approved.

The proposition has three main components. The first would allow tenants who have lived in their apartment for at least two years to buy it from the landlord, with the agreement of tenant and landlord.

The second section of Proposition 1-2-3 would allow any condominium or single-family home that has been owner-occupied for two years to be exempt from rent control, if it is rented out by the owner or owner's family. The third would allocate two thirds of the higher real estate tax revenues, resulting from the conversion of apartments to condominiums, to a trust fund for needy citizens.

The difference between the propositions' July 6 wording and the original wording involves whether to use the phrase "changing rent control" to describe the resolution, and whether the proposition should state that its third part (the one creating an affordable housing fund) is non-binding.

City Solicitor Russell Higley will determine whether or not the vote to reconsider was valid. If he rules that the reconsideration was invalid, then the July 6 language will appear on the ballot. If the reconsideration is upheld, the commission will have to agree on new wording for the proposition to appear on the ballot.