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Vote no on B-17 

If you reside in the city of San Luis Obispo, you have a stake in the outcome of the current special election. If you don't vote, you may regret not making the effort should the ballot's single initiative go into effect.

SLO residents have until Aug. 22 to vote no on the misleading and subversive special election Measure B-17. Paper ballots were mailed earlier this month, but replacements can be obtained by calling or stopping by the clerk-recorder's office.

Measure B-17 is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Proponents have been pushing the initiative as an anti-discrimination in housing measure, when the hidden intent is to further stratify power in favor of wealthy landlords—and against renters.

Affordable housing advocacy groups asking for a no vote on B-17 include: Habitat for Humanity, People's Self-Help Housing, Housing Authority SLO, Friends of 40 Prado-Homeless Foundation, and the SLO Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Heidi Harmon and the other four City Council members also ask for a no vote.

The text of B-17 is profoundly deceptive. Hidden in a long list of legally protected and historically oppressed classes of people are special protections for landlords. The measure codifies privilege and expressly transfers even more power to the powerful. Here is the text of the proposed measure:

The city of San Luis Obispo shall not discriminate against any person based upon age, income, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity, or inability or ability to own a home, by imposing any compulsory program, policy, intrusion or inspection applicable to any residential dwelling unit. No determination to conduct an inspection of any dwelling shall be based substantially on any occupant's age, income, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity or status as an owner or renter of such dwelling.

Aside from the sloppiness, lack of definitions, and legalese, the text is deceitful in its use of "income" instead of "low income." The phrases "ability to own a home," and "status as an owner" are sneaky, too. The choice of those particular words is no accident.

If B-17 were to pass, here is what I would argue in a lawsuit against the city if I were a heartless landlord who wanted to keep my rental houses decrepit and rat-infested so that I could skim more profits from renters:

"With all due respect, your honor, Measure B-17 prevents the city of San Luis Obispo from inspecting my rental house, because, by requiring a safety and habitability inspection, the city is discriminating against me on the basis of my high income, ability to own a house, and/or status as an owner."

And that, folks, is the true motivation behind Measure B-17. Disgusting.

If B-17 passes, the city would need to spend taxpayers' money to litigate each case. As a result, rents and taxes would go up to cover legal costs on both sides. Renters in SLO would bear the brunt of both parts of the equation.

The power elite ordinarily scream "big government" every time a new rule is introduced. Now, they're coming to government for help. Something must be scaring them. Measure B-17 is a big, fat admission that landlords are worried their illusory "free market" and its imaginary side-kick "trickle down" aren't fooling us anymore.

One commenter in a SLO Tribune opinion piece had this advice for residents struggling to make ends meet: "Keep affordable housing in Guadalupe and San Miguel where it belongs. Who are these entitled people that think they have a right to houses?"

To which a teacher responded: "I'm definitely not going to commute from Guadalupe every day to teach your children just because you think my job/income isn't worthy of living in your utopia. If we can't work here, we won't work here. So get ready to drive your own garbage to the dump, cook all of your own meals, mow your own lawn, cut your own hair, and nanny your own kids."

What we are seeing here in SLO's special election is playing out nationally. The wealthy have already skewed government to benefit themselves. Codifying that power is next on their agenda.

For the first time in history, real income for the middle class decreased during an economic upturn (2009-present). Profits disproportionately flowed to the rich because they are the ones making the rules. It's no surprise the power elite is getting nervous. They are a minority and they've seen the protests, the marches, and the online outrage.

Are they selfish? Sure. But they're not dumb. They brand their power grabs as social issues—often using totems of religious freedom, equal dignity, and constitutional rights—and hide behind the chaos while hording resources and power. Working people are sick of opening that shiny package and finding nothing inside.

Measure B-17 is designed to protect landlords' perceived property right to subjugate renters. Anyone who says otherwise has skin in the game. The good news is that we are the majority. We have the power to create communities that are fair for everyone.

Start by voting no on Measure B-17 in the SLO city special election. Δ

Kristine Hagen is a member of the SLO County Democratic Party and the SLO County Progressives Democratic Club. She is a lawyer and lives in San Luis Obispo. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a letter for publication to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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