Interested in renting a house or apartment? Or faced with the need to rent and hoping you'll find a city government that will protect your rights?
If so, you might as well forget about Barre. The mayor there, Tom Lauzon, has made it absolutely clear that he has no use for tenants or tenants' rights, and he doesn't care who knows it.
By now he's got a history. For instance, earlier this year Lauzon drafted a new proposed housing ordinance to fine tenants when their landlords violate the law by not taking care of their property. Oh yes, and he wants to develop a blacklist for tenants, so landlords can share information about who doesn't pay their rent, who might be a bit too assertive in standing up for their rights. You get the idea.
It's just that when the tenants and their advocates got the chance to address the city council, the proposal kind of . . . went away.
But that's not all. For instance, Barre has an ordinance that says that if you're a tenant and your landlord doesn't pay the water bill, your water gets cut off. Not the landlord's water, your water.
My colleagues at Legal Aid are suing the city in federal court to get this policy overturned, and they had a big win this week. The case was filed as a class action, and District Judge Christina Reiss has ruled that the case can proceed as a class action. This is a great step in the march to invalidate the water ordinance.
If you were the mayor and you heard about this policy, your first reaction might be, "What? We cut off tenants' water when they don't owe us any money? How is that fair?"
Not Lauzon, though. Barre is apparently going to defend this to the bitter end.
But you haven't heard the worst of it. It's not just tenants he doesn't like. In fact, just in time for the Christmas season he's apparently found a group he dislikes even more than he dislikes tenants.
Wait for it.
It's homeless people and the people who try to help them.
According to the Times Argus:
It was a surreal session.
At the outset Lauzon described the meeting he personally requested with Kim Woolaver, executive director of Good Samaritan Haven, as “an informal, cozy conversation,” repeatedly stressing he “appreciated and admired” the work of the shelter, its staff and volunteers.
However, the meeting quickly morphed into a Lauzon-led interrogation that seemed to catch Woolaver off guard and had at least one member of the City Council squirming in his seat.
‘Tis the season, I guess.
I don’t live in Barre. I don’t get a vote there. I can be pretty sure, though, that if my mayor had declared war on tenants and homeless people in my town, I’d be pretty unhappy about it.