Questions surround Mayor’s Rent Stabilization panel

Saint Paul STRONG Media Alert

After observing the first two meetings of Mayor Carter’s 41-member Rent Stabilization Stakeholders Group, Saint Paul STRONG (SPS) is concerned that it will neither be effective in (1) involving the public in this important discussion, nor (2) coming up with recommendations for the City Council and the Mayor on how to move forward.

Based on the meeting discussions, there is no clarity about what this community group is supposed to do.  The Mayor has made it clear he wants to proceed with his amendment to exempt new construction from the ordinance without input from this group.  But at least four members of the City Council have indicated they want the group’s input.  At the group’s first meeting, City Council Member Chris Tolbert, a stakeholder group member, said, “The Council wants to hear from this group before taking action.” 

At the group’s second meeting, another stakeholder group member and former City Council Member Jay Benanav, made a strong push to have the group address the proposed new construction exemption.  In both instances the group’s co-chairs, Tony Sanneh and Phil Cryan, strongly opposed the Tolbert/Benanav notion, paraphrasing Sanneh and Cryan:  “We’re going to stay the course – stick to the Mayor’s charge.  If you have concerns, we encourage you to visit the Mayor.”  

SPS is also concerned with the group’s lack of transparency to date.  The reason for having to paraphrase the co-chairs – in the paragraph above – is because, although live-streamed for the public, the video is not archived on the City’s web site, and the posted minutes do not include quotes.  Moreover, much of the work of the group is done in small groups (not being live-streamed) or in chat rooms (not available to the public) or in “The Office,” a non-public place just for the 41 members.  Furthermore, how the group makes decisions is unclear.  Can there be motions and a vote?  Is a quorum required?  So far, voting is being done by “polling” (again not visible to the public) with no announcement or record of  how members voted.  Compare this to the city’s trash advisory task force, whose meetings are livestreamed AND archived on the city’s website for future public viewing.

Finally, SPS is very concerned that the design of our City’s new rent stabilization ordinance and rule-making process is all happening behind closed doors.  The Mayor originally announced there would be three groups designing how the ordinance would work: 1) the aforementioned stakeholder group; 2) the mayor’s executive project lead for redevelopment Melanie McMahon is working on getting the new construction exemption amendment before the council, and 3) the city’s planning and economic development director Nicolle Goodman and the city’s office of financial empowerment director Muneer Karcher-Ramos, and an assistant city attorney, are working on implementation processes and procedures for the ordinance, which takes effect on May 1.  

Most recently, reports from City Hall reveal that the City Council will soon be asked to adopt a series of additional related ordinances, including ones to create and fund six staff positions to administer the rent stabilization program:  three in the Department of Safety and Inspections, and two in the City Council offices.

Who are these project leads meeting with?  Who is informing their work? Why convene a group of experts: developers, landlords, renters and advocates, and not seek their counsel and advice? 

How this rent control ordinance ends up looking and working is not just important for renters and landlords, but also for homeowners and property taxpayers.  We all need to be in on the discussions for every Saint Paulite, present and future.  We need more transparency.                                                                                        

For more information contact:

Andy Dawkins (612) 237-9924

John Mannillo (651) 338-0804