In a letter to the Star of May 16 ("Vote no on Measure F") Ferenc Brunner states that the City Council is being “sly and deceptive” and has “put the community of Saint Helena in the position to vote on something they know nothing about” and that “this intrusion” is “manipulating our lives.”
I attended the Feb. 26 meeting of the City Council at which the vote was taken to authorize the special election on June 4. I do know about the issue. This vote was in response to a referendum petition submitted to the council. An outside PAC had paid several young men to collect the 579 signatures on the petition, 82 of which were from Vineyard Valley residents. The purpose of the referendum petition was to reverse the council’s previous decision to establish a rent stabilization ordinance for Vineyard Valley. The idea of such an ordinance originated in 2014, and in 2017 it was listed as a study item for the council as part of a housing plan for the city.
Last fall the ordinance was recommended to the council as part of a “white paper” study of housing in St. Helena. The council voted in favor of the ordinance last October. All of these discussions were open to public participation.
As a result of the referendum petition, the council had a choice either to repeal the ordinance or to call a special election. In the interest of fairness to all the residents of Vineyard Valley, the choice was made on Feb. 26 to hold the special election. However, it was very clear that the council members did not relish spending the money it would cost to do so.