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Not the battle to win it, I don’t mean. Just the battle to understand it.

I hope we’re going to try again to repeal the Costa Hawkins Act, and when we do, we’re going to make it clear that that’s what we’re doing and what it means. I did a lot of work for Prop 10 and definitely noticed people’s misconception that it would “pass rent control,” but I didn’t realize how widespread it was until I read my FB newsfeed.

Supporters and opponents, I am sorry we didn’t get this across to you before, so I’m trying now: Proposition 10 would NOT have instituted rent control. Not for a single property anywhere in the state.

What it would have done was REMOVE the strict limits on rent control that are currently in place and keep towns and cities from making the decisions that work for them.

The response to its defeat (whether happy or sad) tells me that not only do people not know what Prop 10 was about; they didn’t know how limited their town or city’s choices are made by Costa Hawkins. Single family homes cannot be subject to rent control, which is weird because renters of single family homes have the same needs as renters of apartments. Nothing built since 1995 (the year Costa Hawkins was passed) can be subject to rent control. That’s 23 years ago, in case you’re like me and still think of everything in the 90s as approximately ten years back. (The rule in LA, under Costa Hawkins? 1978. In any building that is less than *40 years old,* there’s no limit on rent increases.)

Rent control is like fire, a powerful tool that can turn destructive if not carefully employed, and Prop 10 was smart about rent control. It would have kept the ban on rent control on new builds, because without that rent control tends to suppress development, but it would have redefined “new” as, well, new. It would have guaranteed landlords a reasonable rate of return, so that people who wanted to be decent landlords wouldn’t just quit the rental business altogether.

I don’t know if these misunderstandings are why it didn’t pass, but I have a guess. Only a minority of the state wanted statewide rent control. But I am pretty sure a much higher number would have been willing to have city-by-city rent control, instead of the statewide restrictions on local decisionmaking that we currently have.

File under: Reasons why ballot propositions are a bad way to make laws.

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Or want to do something more useful for Spirit Day?  Here are five things you can do to make it better for LGBT teenagers and non-teenagers.

Sign the Defense of All Families pledge.

Write a letter to the editor saying that, although suicides of LGBT teens are not making the headlines right now, you haven’t forgotten that there’s an epidemic of deadly bullying underway, and urging everyone to ask their Congressperson to co-sponsor H.R.975, the Anti-Bullying and Harassment Act of 2011.

Write your Congressperson, yourself. (It’s easy. Put your zip code in here. “E-mail me” or “Contact form” will be on your representative’s webpage.)

Come out as a supporter of LGBT equality. Tell one person who’s never heard it from you before how you feel.

Find an LGBT youth support center or Gay Straight Alliance near you
and send them a check.

Our district has been grappling with a painful situation: the firing of our District Executive, Cilla Raughley. Many (all too many) Unitarian Universalists of the Pacific Central District, including the congregation I serve (the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, a.k.a. UUCPA), don’t even know that we’re part of a district, nor have any idea what services to expect from–or responsibilities to assume towards–the district. However, some of our members are paying attention, especially since Cilla was a member of UUCPA until she became DE. (A District Executive may certainly belong to a congregation, but some decide that it is best not to belong to any one district church, preferring an option such as membership in the Church of the Larger Fellowship.)

If you’ve ever been in an organization whose leadership went through a crisis, you’ll know it raises pastoral issues and issues of communication. One of the skills of community-making is knowing how to act when we have incomplete or conflicting information about matters of concern to the community. So I used my most recent newsletter column to share what I’ve learned from hard experience.

UUCPA is in a tender position because so many of us know and love Cilla. She and her husband Andrew have played important roles in our congregation, chief among them friend to many of us. Unitarian Universalism was not only Cilla’s employer, but her community, and she and Andrew must be feeling very alienated from their community. I hope you will extend them all the comforts of friendship. We need not know what happened, or what position we take, in order to express our support and affection.

Since employment decisions (with all their necessary secrecy) create strong feelings, conflict, and confusion, I want to urge us all to be mindful of what words and actions help build community in such a time. I have seen the damage done in these situations when we fill the gaps in our knowledge with gossip and speculation. We do it because we want to know what really happened; we have our theories and loyalties; we try to stitch a coherent story out of many and conflicting versions; but in rushing to replace our uncertainty with firm statements for which we have no real support, we do harm to real people. It is best if we:

* assume good intentions of everyone involved;

* remember that behind abstractions such as “the District Executive,” “the UUMA chapter,” “the PCD Board” and “the UUA” are ordinary people who, like us, love our tradition and are doing their best to make the decisions that will benefit it;

* ask ourselves, before we speak, whether what what we are about to say is true; if it is necessary; and if it is kind;

* remember that we are all Unitarian Universalists seeking to build a community together based on the principles we share.

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