Tuesday, November 6, 2018

"Decisions, Decisions"

It’s “Voting Day In America.”  If you are not “legally prohibited” from exercising your franchise.

Okay, let’s start with that. And be ready to find prejudice.  

Because that’s what this is about.

Etymologically – unless that’s about bugs – the word “prejudice” seems to connote pre-judgment. Wait.  I’ll look it up.


There it is.

“prejudice n & v  preconceived opinion… bias or partiality.”

So random “hypothetical”, related to voting.  (Because I am nothing if not timely.  "Since when?"  Shut up.)

Due to demographic adjustments in this country, you find that the political party you subscribe to has fewer registered voters than the opposition.  

You want to win the election.

What do you do?

Two things you do its you assiduously “Gerrymander” the districts, so the opposition’s voters reside in one area and you enact “Voter Fraud” legislation that, thereby lawfully, limits the other side’s backers from voting.

That’s what you do. There are more of “Them”?  You “pen in” their numerical advantage, and keep a “margin-of-victory” number of them from voting, mitigating the demographic imbalance and providing your side with an enhanced opportunity to win.

The question here is,

“What’s wrong with that?”

(Having leapfrogged the unaddressedquestion, “Is that actually happening?” to which the establishable answer is “Yes.”  Setting “voting district” boundaries is the assigned responsibility of the states – whose legislatures the nationally less popular party had the imagination and foresight to focus on winning.  It should be noted, however, that numerous courts – including “Red State” courts – have found insufficient evidence of “Voter Fraud” to merit the demonstrably one-side restrictive legislation.  

So sure, they are “doing it.”  (And barely denying that they aren’t.)  But isn’t that what you are supposed to do?  Try to increase your side’s chances of electoral success?  Isn’t that exactly what self-interest is about?

“But there are rules!

Are there?  “Vote Early and Often”?  Dead people on the voting lists?  Kennedy-Nixon in Chicago?  “Do I smell garbage?”  “No, it’s just the election.”  

Self-interest decrees, you do what benefits you (and hope you get away with it.)  Because who wants to benefit them? Besides, of course, them.

“Too theoretical”, you complain?  Okay. 

A personal example.  (Where I appear to be the “Bad Guy” but it’s the only example I’ve got.)

One of this year’s California propositions – referenda (Latin, neuter plural) decided directly by the electorate – is “Proposition 10”, concerning the allocation of authority related to rent control decisions.  

“Prop. 10” goes something like this:  (Actually, it goes exactly like this):

“Repeals state law that currently restricts the scope of rent control policies that cities and other jurisdictions may impose on residential property.”

A “Yes” vote on “Proposition 10” allows “cities and other jurisdictions” to administer their areas’ rent control policies.  A “No” vote means that the state does it.

Thought ExperimentYou decide on that proposition.  Perhaps you already have, having processed the contrasting positions.  Maybe you feel, like the “No on 10” commercials angrily proclaim, “The rent is too damn high.”  Or maybe you think local communities should determine local concerns.  Or you’ve had a terrible landlord who was a ruthless moneygrubber. Or you’re a renter and you identify with wanting to pay less.

On top of that, imagine finding an article on the front page of today’s paper, revealing that eight of California’s top apartment owners, many with publicly traded, nation-wide real estate companies – I mean, these guys are big– have raised – Yikes! – 74 million dollars to defeat “Proposition 10.” 

So there’s them.

And then there’s me.  

Or, more accurately, our family.   

Full Disclosure: We own a four-unit apartment building in Santa Monica, including two “two bedrooms” and two single-room studios.  

I shall dispense with the adjectives and emphasizing italics, which will betray my position, as I do not want to be prejudiced, although I am, which is even more reason to try not to be.

In Santa Monica, the assessment of annual rent increases is inflexibly determined by “local ordinance.”  My daughter Anna, who administers the property, tells me the last annual rent hike amounted to $9 a month.

The thing is, Santa Monica once mandated a restriction against “Vacancy Decontrol.”  That meant that if somebody moved out, the landlord was prohibited from raising the rent on the vacated apartment to “current market value”, but had to instead retain the assessed “rent base” paid by the previous tenant. The prohibition against “Vacancy Decontrol” was later rescinded, possibly due to state overruling, though I am frankly unclear about the reason.

When we bought the apartment in the early 80’s, there was a man living in one of the “two-bedrooms” who subsequently turned the place over to his daughter. 

Consider the consequence.

Because the man’s apartment’s “base rent assessment” was originally set back in the 70’s, his daughter (and her husband) are currently paying one third the amount the tenant living in the other two-bedroom apartment is paying, due to the fact that the prohibition against “Vacancy Decontrol” had, in the interim, been rescinded.  

Objectively speaking, does any of that sound fair to you?  Or are the daughter (and her husband) enjoying an unjustified windfall?

The revived concern is,

If “Proposition 10” passes, will the City of Santa Monica reinstate the prohibition against “Vacancy Decontrol”?  They could do it.  That is precisely what the proposition allows.

I believe in reasonable rent regulations.  But I do not believe in that one.  

As a result, as Anna accurately observed,

“We are Republicans on one thing.”


Today, it’s “Decision Time.” 

What will it be?

Reasonable self-interest? 

Or “The rent is too damn high.”

Tell me,

Do you think it’s wrong to really, really want to win?

1 comment:

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I assume that the reason they passed the rule is so that landlords would not harass rent controlled tenants into leaving so that they could raise the rent to market rates. Fairly sure that's been a problem in various places. Note: I am sure you would not do this.