I hope Montclair landlords feel the powerlessness that renters know (Letter)
Years of work by scholars and activists has made it clear that our legal system too often operates solely to uphold a suffocating hierarchy. It is usually the case that the only way to shine a light on the injustices of this system is by appealing to a broad, commonly accepted moral standard that almost always runs counter to that hierarchy. We appeal to people’s innate desires for equality and justice, even if many have been conditioned to make exceptions to those desires in order not to upset a system from which one might benefit, as it is too often the only way to make people question that very system.
Because we exist in a society that supposes the defense of an existing structure is akin to rational thought, and that “rational thinking” begets civil excellence, it always benefits the exploiter class to rationalize their stance upholding the status quo, even whilst sprinting to oppose the betterment of humanity. However, once in a great while conditions become so inhumane that those cries no longer hold water and are exposed as wholly untenable in a society of ostensibly “free” men and women.
The precise letter of the law might very well be used in defense of the Montclair Property Owners Association’s desire to squeeze more blood from the pitiable subjects who live inside their decaying structures. Again, the majority of American law is written by and for the owners of property and have made ample room to afford them that avenue. For now, though, their lot is cast and the Town Council and County courts have given a scant reprieve to the renters of Montclair so that they may be saved from a (more) insurmountable rent increase, and/or (more) excessive harassment from their landlords. Things that are still quite legal and enthusiastically utilized by the landowning classes in town, mind you.
Weighing the pros and cons of rent control more often than not benefits the landlord, as it ultimately devolves into a comparison between heavily compromised "studies" by real estate benefactors that would relieve observers the burden of having to contend with critical political theory, and the actual lived experiences of the renter class that would not. I will spare anyone still reading this any pleas for sympathy for the sizable renter population in Montclair but will instead chide the Montclair Property Owners Association for the most cynical, putrid, and spineless campaign to maintain unchecked dominance over the fates of the living and breathing that inhabit their properties. There is nary an insult in the English language fit for print that I can use to defile them sufficiently.
Ron Simoncini, Steven Plofker, David Genova, Suzanne Miller, Paul Weinstein, Brandon McEwen, and anybody else that had the absolute brass to publicly name themselves as members of a hollow cabal of slumlords dedicated to extracting everything but the harvestable organs of their tenants – may you feel for a small moment the powerlessness and lack of agency in the face of the law that the people of our class feel every waking moment of every day. As for the renters in Montclair – do not rest on these meager laurels. The power dynamics at play have not switched. The landowning class still reviles you as an obstacle to their divine rights as investors and do not even feel the need to do so anonymously. Know and remember their names; the struggle continues on course.
(Editor’s note: An Essex County Superior Court judge ruled earlier this month that Montclair’s rent control ordinance can go into effect without first going to voters. The Montclair Property Owners Association has said it intends to appeal that ruling and seek a stay).
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