April 2008 – Prop. 98’s Hidden Agenda: Abolish Rent Control

By Paul Hogarth

To learn about Proposition 98’s agenda, look no further than Dan Faller, President and Founder of the American Owner’s Association (AOA) – the largest landlord group in California. In a nine-page essay published in the association’s magazine, Faller complains heatedly about rent control, calls pro-tenant elected officials “terrorists” and “suicide bombers,” compares the effort to pass Prop. 98 with World War II, says that renters “choose not to provide for themselves,” and – with rhetoric that channels George Bush – tells landlords: “you are either for us or against us in this fight for your freedom and property rights.”

We cannot dismiss Faller as just another right-wing kook, for his organization has already contributed $325,000 to the “Yes on 98” cause – and the AOA has plans to raise even more money in the coming weeks. With voter turnout in June expected to be very low, Faller’s fringe beliefs might actually become public policy in California – if we don’t act now.

While proponents want voters to think it’s about eminent domain reform, Prop 98 is the most dangerous right-wing initiative to hit the California ballot in years. It would abolish rent control, gut the most basic tenant protections, repeal sensible environmental laws and endanger public water projects. 

In the post-9/11 world, calling someone a “terrorist” is a serious accusation – but Faller refers to pro-tenant elected officials who oppose Prop 98 as “terrorists” or “suicide bombers” at least seven times. “The bombs and explosives they are throwing at us,” he writes, “are rent control, eminent domain, inspection laws, building codes, requiring 60-day notices so tenants can steal more time from you, eviction laws that allow tenants to live rent-free for several months, relocation fees, inclusionary zoning that drives up the price of housing so they have another excuse to justify even more laws. These elected officials are dangerous.”

Urging his fellow landlords to fight this “war” on the “terrorists,” Faller says the solution is to hit them with the “big bomb”: Proposition 98, which would invalidate all these existing laws and then some. “Help to permanently take away their weapons that allow unfair eminent domain and rent control,” he writes before asking for campaign contributions. 

But it’s not just the “terrorist” politicians that Faller has a bone to pick with. He demeans people who can’t afford to buy California real estate as lazy and ineffectual. As he urges landlords to “join this war” to pass Prop 98, Faller says “you’ve worked hard providing housing for others who chose not to provide for themselves. You gave up a lot of weekends to make it possible – something others were not willing to do.” Apparently, it’s okay to berate the state’s 14 million tenants because they “obviously” did not work hard enough to buy property themselves.

Does the fight over Prop 98 match the battle against Nazis and fascists in World War II? Dan Faller seems to think that it does. “There were big signs and advertisements that read ‘Uncle Sam Needs You!’ during WWII,” he writes. “There’s a big AOA sign today that says ‘Freedom Loving Americans Need You!’ We need your support to win this War to protect your property rights!”

Dan Faller is the president and founder of the American Owners Association – a national trade association of landlords that boasts more members in California than any other group. The AOA’s monthly newsletter – which printed his “Yes on 98” screed – is the most widely read landlord publication in the country.

Under Faller’s watch, the AOA has provided crucial seed money for Prop 98 to get on the ballot. The group has already put $325,000 towards the effort – and Faller has urged members to give even more. 

With such a fundraising appeal, the “Yes on 98” campaign should have plenty of funds to hoodwink voters into thinking that their extreme ballot measure is about eminent domain. Opponents of Prop. 98 must be vigilant, fundraise and get out the message to expose it as the Hidden Agendas Scheme that it really is. Only by doing so can we save such essential programs in California that 14 million renters rely on. 

Was Faller joking when he called pro-tenant elected officials “suicide bombers,” accused tenants of being lazy, and compared the fight to pass Prop. 98 with fighting the Axis in World War II? Apparently not. That should give us all pause about how dangerous Prop. 98 really is.

Paul Hogarth is the Managing Editor of Beyond Chron – http://www.beyondchron.org – an alternative online daily newspaper.

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