Five members of the D.C. City Council and five local ministers declared their support yesterday for Tuesday's rent control referendum and accused referendum opponents of attempting to mislead voters.
The referendum, which was placed on the ballot after a successful petition campaign by a citywide group of tenants and labor leaders, calls for the repeal of four sections of the city's new rent control law that would lift controls on some rental properties under certain conditions.
During a news conference held in Council Chairman David A. Clarke's office, Clarke and council members Frank Smith (D-Ward 1), Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8) and Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large) urged their constituents to support the referendum. John Wilson (D-Ward 2) did not attend but issued a statement supporting the referendum.
"We who say vote yes on Referendum 001 know that vacancy decontrol, which the referendum would remove from the law, has led to skyrocketing rent increases in places where it has been enacted," Mason said.
Other members said that passage of the referendum would prevent the displacement of low- and moderate-income families.
But similar arguments were made on Wednesday at a news conference held by opponents of the referendum, who are backed by Mayor Marion Barry, council member John Ray (D-At Large) and leaders of the real estate industry. Opponents have distributed a flier that says the city's newly revised rent control law would benefit renters because it includes a tenant assistance program and provides economic incentives that would lead to the production of more and better rental housing.
But the proponents at yesterday's news conference sharply disputed the information in the flier.
"I feel that the information amounts to misinformation . . . and has misrepresented what would happen if the referendum failed," said Rolark.
The Rev. J. Terry Wingate, a local minister who was among those who signed the antireferendum flier, identified himself as president of the D.C. chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. However, Henry Silva, the North Atlantic regional vice president for SCLC, said at yesterday's news conference that the District SCLC chapter has been defunct since 1983. Silva also said SCLC has not taken a position on the referendum.