D.C. City Council candidates Susan Truitt and Paul Hays say they favor phasing out the District of Columbia's present rent control law.
Candidate James Clark says Council members who have sponsored such a phase-out "should be stoned in a public square by the poor people in the District."
Candidate Hilda Mason says she is not sure about the phase-out bill but is studying it closely.
Candidata Barbara Sizemore says she favors not only retaining rent control but would strengthen its enforcement provisions.
This range of commentary on a single city issue reflects a startling diversity in what has otherwise been a ho-hum election camat-large Council seat made vacant by the death of Julius Hobson Sr. last March. The paign among the 10 candidates seeking the special election is set for July 19.
The 10 candidates responded in telepone interviews with The Washington Post to a series of prepared questions on basic social and economic issues affecting the city.
The candidates are Mason, 61, Statehood Party member appointed to fill Hobson seat until the July 19 election; Truitt, 40, an independent candidate and former television news reporter; Sizemore, 49, education consultant and former D.C. School superintendent, who is also an independent; Hays, 31, the endorsed candidate of the D.C. Republican Party and an assistant bill clerk in the House of Representatives; James Clark, 38, a pharmacy technician running as an independent representing the Jill Lunaa or Poor Peoples Party; Richard R. Clark, 40, an attorney running as an independent; Leo A. Murray, a Federal City College student who is a Statehood Party member; Wade H. Jefferson, 48, independent candidate and employee of the D.C. Human Resources Department, and Susan Pennington, 35, a candidate and worker for the U.S. Labor Party and Frank E. Sewell, a 23-year-old apartment complex resident manager and Statehood member.
Some of the issues discussed by the candidates follow:
Gun control: Truitt, Mason, Sizemore, Murray and Sewell said they support the concept of the present gun registration law, though with some qualifications. The law bans possession of newly acquired handguns except for police officers and imposes strict qualifications for ownership of rifles and shotguns. All firearms, except those of merchants in retail stores, must be kept disassembled or secured with a locking device when not in use.
"I'm not sure (the law) is effective." said Sizemore. ". . . and I'm conducting a study into that."
Truitt said the law should clarified to make certain that qualified private security guards may legally obtain new handguns - a cloudy point in the present language of the law.
Mason said the law should be evaluated in one or two years "to see if it can be improved and strengthened," while Sewell said he supports the present law, but wishes it was not necessary.
Both Clarks and Pennington expressed opposition to restraints on gun ownership. "I think (the law) should be modified to allow the average citizen to have access to firearms," said Richard Clark. "The gangster is going to have them anyhow."
James Clark, echoing the view of City Councilman Douglas E. Moore, said gun control is "illegal and white man's law" calculated to disarm urban blacks.
"Blacks should be allowed to keep guns to protect themselves in case the Ku Klux Klan comes in from Maryland or Virginia and tries to take over," he said.
Jefferson said, "I'm opposed to guns all the way, but I haven't given (the gun control law) very much study at this time."
Hay said he did not have a position on the issue.
Proposed convention center at Mount Vernon square: Only one candidate, Richard Clark, uniquivocally endorsed the convention proposal. Truitt, Hay, Sizemore Mason, Murray and Jefferson said they favor the general concept but questioned either its economic validity or it location.
James Clark and Sewell were flatly opposed with Clark saying the money for it should be used "to build free housing for black people without homes," and Sewell saying "it's ridiculous" when we have "so many (other) problems in this city." Pennington said she would rather see a "science facility . . . something with cultural and social impact on the city."
Decriminalization of marijuana use: The candidates were again divided, with Hays, Mason, Truitt, Jefferson and Sewell saying they favor lessening the penalties to one degree or another, and Sizemore, the two Clarks and Pennington adamantly opposed to relaxing the laws.
Murray said the effects of marijuana should be studied more before a decision on its decriminalization is made.
It should be decriminalized." said Truitt, "in the sense that use of marijuana would be like a serious traffic ticket. It should be put on the same basis as use of alcohol."
I'm against decriminalization," said Sizemore, Marijunan is injurious to the body like alcohol."
"I favor decriminalization," countered Hays, "Nunber one, the penalties are too high for the crime, and number two, since it is a flagrantly violated law, it engenders disrespect for all laws."
"There is a lot of medical evidence that marijuana does substantial mental and reproductive damage." said Pennington. The Carter administration, she said, reiterating a common U.S. Labor Party contention, has undertaken a national policy of encouraging use of marijuana to "dull people's minds, depoliticize the labor force, destroy their congnitive abilities and make them sunbmit to rote work."
Taxes: The candidates outlined a variety of proposals to ease the tax burden on home owners and stimulate new business in the city through tax incentives.
Many urged such familiar step as the commuter tax and inearsing the U.S payment, put there were some uncommon suggestions, too.
"Declare a moratorium on all futher taxes until after the City Council conducts a study and bring in experts to overhaul the entire system," said Pennington. "There should be a generation of wealth through new industrial development as an alternative to tax increases."
Sizemore urged a site valuation or "ground tax" under which property owners would pay "only on the true value of the land" irrespective of the buildings or other improvements on top of the land. "This would end housing speculation, attract business and create jobs," she said.
Murray called for a reduction in inefficiency in government .
Truitt, Hays and Jefferson said the growing burden on homeowners in the city should be relieved by attracting new industries to the city and transferring some of the burden to them.
"I would give initial tax incentives to encourage service industries to come in," said Truitt. ". . . I would also impose a limit on the amount that real estate taxes on private homes could be increased each year."
Mason said she supports a bill currently before the City Council that would give an automatic tax credit of $109 each to most of the city's 100,000 homeowneres and Sewall called for a reduction in the property tax. "The property taxes are too high," he said.
Sizemore, who is a former D.C. School Board, both urged greater autonomy for the school system.
"The City Council should give complete suthority over education to the School Board," said Sizemore. "I favor having the School Board submitting its budget directly to Congress . . .but I would put this issue to a referendum first."
Mason said. "I will continue to work to have bothe the School Board and the board of the District of Columbia obtain independent power to manage their own educational affairs and direct how their funds are appropriated and how they will be expended."
Sizemore said there also is a need to establish a city lobbysit in Congress in addition to Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D. C.) since Fauntroy claims he has no bargaining power to get support from other members of Congress on legislation affecting Washington.
Sewell called for a return to the old system of "tracking" students by ability. "I'm a product of the track system," he said. "Bring back the track. It kept many of us in line and gave us the right incentive." He also called for the appointment of a "management qualified superintendent and educationally qualified vice superintendent" of schools.