An angry crowd of about 170 persons confronted D.C. City Council member William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5) last night in an effort to get him to reverse his position and support a continuation of the city's current rent control law.
Spaulding was among a seven-member council majority that fashioned the new rent legislation, which would lift controls on more property and give landlords the right to higher rent increases than is permissible under current law. The council gave initial approval to that legislation last week and will take a final vote Tuesday.
Spaulding refused to say whether he would change his vote, despite the open hostility of last night's Ward 5 gathering, which met with him at the McKendree United Methodist Church.
"I am telling you very straightforwardly and honestly I am going to do what best meets the needs of you and the city," Spaulding told the crowd.
The audience booed and interrupted Spaulding repeatedly as he attempted to explain provisions of the legislation.
One man reminded Spaulding that he once promised not to vote for vacancy decontrol -- the lifting of rent controls on properties as they become vacant -- and asked Spaulding, "In view of your role, isn't it fair for people of Ward 5 to say you have lost your credibility?"
Another member of the audience, Ward 5 resident John Thompson shouted, "You are not doing your job. You should resign."
After the meeting, Spaulding said that he had found the meeting productive and that he was not bothered by the negative reaction to his position. "That's normal for our meetings in Ward 5 ," he said.
Jim Henderson, who attended the meeting, told a reporter that tenants would concentrate on trying to get Spaulding and Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) to change their votes by the next council meeting.
Henderson also said that tenant representatives were scheduled to meet with Mayor Marion Barry today to ask him to reaffirm his opposition to vacancy decontrol.