A mayoral veto and heavy lobbying from landlords have dealt a possibly fatal blow to the Common Council's plan to regulate the city's landlords.
The Council approved the legislation two weeks ago by a 10-3 vote. But Mayor Griffin vetoed it Friday, and at least two former supporters changed their minds over the weekend.
At Monday's Council caucus, Majority Leader Eugene M. Fahey said he no longer could depend on the nine votes needed to override the veto and recommended the legislation be sent to committee for review.
South Council Member Brian M. Higgins and Council Member at Large Clifford Bell said they no longer support the law, which would require landlords to buy licenses and pay for inspections of their apartments every two years. Only owner-occupied doubles would be excluded.
Niagara Council Member Carl A. Perla Jr., who also voted for the law, now has questions about it.
Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk, the bill's principal sponsor, said he fears the legislation may die in committee. He called it vital in tackling the problem of dilapidated housing in the inner city.
"It's unfortunate and it's sad that a councilman can be beat up and intimidated by the absentee-landlord lobby," Franczyk said.
Higgins and Perla said they received numerous telephone calls from opponents after the mayor's veto was publicized. Higgins said he received a dozen calls and several letters.
Landlords argued the law was too broad because it lumped responsible property owners with slumlords, Higgins said. He said the city could deal with irresponsible landlords more effectively through better use of its building inspectors.
"I support David Franczyk and his attempt to bring slumlords into compliance," he said. "I just don't agree that all absentee landlords are slumlords."
Higgins said he also agreed with the mayor's contention that landlords would pass along the costs of the law to their tenants.
Perla said his callers prompted him to doubt whether the 34 housing inspectors in the Department of Inspections and Community Revitalization could inspect thousands of apartments each year.
He added that he still is willing to consider licensing landlords and requiring inspection fees, but he wants to hear more from both sides during the committee meetings.
Bell said he also welcomes the committee hearings but, nonetheless, has dropped his support for the Franczyk proposal. He said he is concerned landlords would be treated unfairly and the city lacks the staff to enforce the law.
"I voted for it to give my colleague a boost," he said. "I also voted for it because I wanted to make sure the mayor would have to veto it and give us his rationale."
Masten Council Member David A. Collins, who co-sponsored the bill with Franczyk, said he will try to convince Ellicott Council Member James W. Pitts and Council President George K. Arthur, who both voted against the law, to reconsider.