A bill to grant city landlords emergency automatic rent increases ranging from 2 to 10 per cent was withdrawn yesterday by its sponsor, City Couincil member Arrington Dixon (D-four).
During the same meeting, the Council also gave final, unanimous approval to legislation to provide citizens a method of removing from office any of their elected officials except the congressional nonvoting delegates, to repeal most City Council-passed legislation and to initiate legislation on which the Council has refused to act.
Mayor Walter E. Washington is expected to sign the so-called initiative, referendum and recall bill that is similar to others now in effect in 23 states. The bill would be placed on the November ballot and if approved by city voters, would become the first amendment to the city's home rule charter.
Dixon abruptly withdrew his controversial rent increase bill - to the obvious disappointment of landlords and the delight of tenants seated in the audience - during an acrimonious debate among Council members on the legislation that had been introduced last Friday.
Dixon said he wanted the emergency rent increases to carry out the recommendations that the city's Rent. Control Commission made in March. That commission and Dixon said landlords needed inceases to help pay sharp increases in operating costs.
he withdrew the bill after Council members Nadine Winter (D-six) and Douglas Moore (D-at large) distributed an opinion of the corporation counsel that held that the commission did "not recite any specific evidence" to support the recommended emergency increases.
A few minutes later, Dixon sarcastically and angrily chastised his fellow Council members for speaking out against his legislation and for what he said was questioning of his integrity and stamped out of the meeting. He later returned.
After the meeting, Dixon said he would work with Winter, chairman of the Council's housing commission, in fashioning another bill.
Winter already has introduced a rent control bill that includes rent increases similar to those proposed by Dixon but her bill is not an emergecny one. Emergency legislation goes into effect immediately without congressional review but expires after 90 days. Winter's bill would have gone to the Hill and been permanent, if approved.
Michael Moorehead, chairman of the Rent Control Commission, told the Council the rent increases were needed to stem a growing backlog of rent-increase requests from landlords that were engulfing the agency. Without the legislation, he said, the commission "will be effectively crippled." The current backlog is 380 petitions, he said.
Raymond Hower, one of three landlord members on the commission, said he recently had received a rent increase approval that he requested seven months ago for one of his buildings, and the increases were not contested by tenants.
The Council's bill to provide for recall of elected officials who, citizens conclude, are not performing satisfactorily, would involve the mayor and at-large members of the Council ,who would be subject to recall if 10 per cent of the voters in each of five of the city's eight wards petitioned for their removal.
The requirement for signatures of 10 per cent of registered voters in five wards is designed to prevent any bloc from a single ward from recalling an official elected citywide. Signatures from 10 per cent of the voters of any one ward would trigger a recall vote on any official elected from that ward, including members of the school board.
After the required number of signatures were obtained, the issue would go on the ballot in the next scheduled election, or in a special election within 114 days, whichever comes first. Ward issues would be decided by voters resident in that ward only.
The legislation also would authorize citizens to initiate all except tax legislation and to obtain a referendum on most Council-passed bills by gathering signatures from 5 per cent of the voters in each of at least five wards. Emergency acts, tax legislation and the city's operating budget would not be subjected to a referendumvote.