New Bedford City Council Favors Mayor Mitchell’s Ballot Question Vetoes
The New Bedford City Council Thursday night failed to override Mayor Jon Mitchell’s vetoes on three nonbinding ballot questions for the municipal election in November.
The questions would have asked voters if they wanted the council to implement rent stabilization, reduce the mayor's four-year term to two, and repeal the Community Preservation Act (CPA). Mitchell vetoed the questions on March 23.
The council voted 6-5 on the rent stabilization and mayoral term questions and voted 3-8 on the CPA-related question. Eight councilors are needed to override a veto.
City Councilors at Large Brian Gomes and Shane Burgo, and City Council President Linda Morad, voted in favor of overriding Mitchell’s vetoes. Burgo argued that New Bedford residents should have a say in how the city should address unaffordable rents.
“Let the people vote,” Burgo said. “We need to act, and that’s what this ballot question is designed to do — to give people a voice.”
Gomes said he heard from constituents who were unable to afford rent. He criticized Mitchell’s veto and said he did not provide relief quickly for renters.
“I don’t support rent control but I support rent stabilization,” Gomes said. “This is not an empty proposal.”
Prior to the vote, more than 50 people attended a rally organized by Erik Andrade and the Coalition for Social Justice in front of City Hall supporting rent stabilization. Those attending said the cost of living is unsustainable and called on elected officials to provide relief and low-income housing.
“Win, lose or draw, we will continue to fight,” Andrade said. “Those who vote against this will be voted out.”
Councilors who voted against the override, including Councilor at Large Naomi Carney, expressed concerns over a lack of a comprehensive plan if the voters approved the measures.
Carney said while she heard concerns from her constituents for and against the proposed questions, she felt unsure how she would vote.
“What does stabilization look like?” Carney asked. “We still don’t have anything tangible that we can look at.”
Carney, Councilor at Large Ian Aberu, Ward 1 Councilor Brad Markey and Ward 5 Councilor Scott Lima voted no on all three questions.
Some councilors, including Ward 2 Councilor Maria Giesta and Ward 6 Councilor Ryan Pereira, voted to override the rent stabilization question but sustained the other two questions.
Pereira said he voted in favor of the stabilization question as voters did not previously have a chance to cast their ballot for or against the issue.
“What makes the first one different from the second one is that voters did vote on the term question,” Pereria said. “There is a big difference.”
Giesta said her ward relied on the CPA, which creates affordable housing. She said despite the 1.5% surcharge on annual tax assessments, the CPA benefits her ward and her constituents.
“I like the CPA,” she said. “There are a few items I disagree with, but I am going to sustain the mayor’s veto.”
Ward 4 Councilor Derek Baptiste voted in favor of overriding the rent stabilization and term limit veto but voted to sustain the CPA repeal question.
Ward 3 Councilor Shawn Oliver voted to sustain the first and third vetoes but voted to override the second.
“I appreciated the opportunity recently to have productive discussions with the city councilors about the three referenda before them tonight, and that they were willing to take a fresh look at the merits of each item,” Mayor Mitchell said in a statement following the meeting. “I look forward to working with the council in the same cooperative spirit on the major challenges and opportunities facing the City in the days ahead.”