For the past several days, the City officials and residents were wondering who was behind a controversial referendum petition. Now, it has finally found its source.
“Yes, PGPOA (Prince George’s Property Owner’s Association) is responsible for initiating the petition drive to get the two proposals on the City ballot” – said PGPOA member William Chicca in an email to me.
“Many of the members of PGPOA are residents of the city and are very concerned about the direction the city government is going in trying to impede and even suppress rental of single family homes” – Mr. Chicca said in explaining the reason why PGPOA initiated the petition drive.
It appears that PGPOA has hired Petition Partners, an Arizona company, to circulate two charter amendment petitions in the City. The City has denied any affiliations with Petition Partners in any way.
The petition drive has left City officials understandably concerned – so much so that it has recently warned residents on City’s website with the consequences of the petition if it gathers enough signatures.
According to the notice, the City warns its residents by saying that the passage of the petitioners’ demand will eradicate rent control ordinances and requirement that the landlords pay a trash collection fee. It also says the petition would prevent residents from claiming the Homestead Property Tax for owner occupants with a principal residence in the City and prohibit the City from licensing and making annual safety inspections for rental properties.
But Mr. Chicca disagrees with these allegations.
“The petition is to uniformly apply the rent control program to ALL rental units in the City, other than those actually owned by the State of Maryland at the University. ” – said Mr. Chicca.
“The basic issue is equity and fairness. If rent control is good for the single family homes and the small apartments – why isn’t it equally good for the high rise rentals? Why should the high rise rental buildings receive an unfair advantage in setting rents when compared to single family homes?” Mr. Chicca added.
Pointing to the City’s position on the petition, Mr. Chicca said: “As usual, the City is blowing smoke to distort and confuse the issue and saying the sky will fall if the initiative passes. They certainly do not want political backlash and opposition from the owners of the high rise units, and don’t want to appear unfriendly to new high rise development, which rent control will do.”
The second amendment in the petition would cap the amount of money that can be raised by City taxes to the amount collected as taxes in fiscal year 2011, forever.
“This is about the tax cap – similar to the County tax cap. Government has an insatiable appetites for money and experience dictates that it will raise taxes as high and as often as they can. The initiative is intended to put city government on a monetary diet – controlling how high they can raise taxes. ” – said Mr. Chicca.
Earlier, some City Council members expressed their frustrations with the group or person initiating the petition.
“This (petition) is basically being run by a group of cowards who don’t want to reveal who they are,” said District 4 Council Member Marcus Afzali in an interview with the College Park Patch.
“We know those behind the petitions will not come out in public and have the courage to claim responsibility for their actions and explain their intent in supporting these petitions.” – Afzali added further with a prediction.