By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
Activists in support of lifting the ban on rent control protested against State Rep. Curtis J. Tarver II (25th) for switching his position on rent control and voting against house bill 255, which would repeal the Rent Control Preemption Act of 1997.
On April 10, about 40 protestors from the Lift The Ban Coalition and Tenants United gathered at Nichols Park, 1355 E. 53rd St., and walked to Tarver’s office, 1303 E. 53rd St.
As cited by members of the coalition, in a January 2018 article published by the Herald, Tarver said he supported repealing the ban on rent control. He made his statement during a candidate forum held by the People United For Action and the United Working Families.
By voting against the bill, local activists see Tarver’s vote as ignoring the wishes of constituents who voted in favor of lifting the ban on a referendum during the midterm election in 2018. After realizing that he switched his position after being elected to office, many saw it as a betrayal of trust.
“When he was campaigning for the seat that he now holds, he stated at a public candidate community forum that he was in favor of repealing the ban. Two weeks ago Tarver went back on his word when he chose to vote along with Republicans on the subcommittee to uphold this ban,” said Helena Duncan, a member of the Lift the Ban Coalition.
“With that one vote, he told us he was unwilling to do the bare minimum for rental protection in this state by simply repealing the ban. He could have taken a stand against the big corporate money that dictates our public policy, but he chose not to.”
In a recent interview in the Herald and through social media posts, when questioned about his vote Tarver doubled down saying that, “I’m not in favor of rent control. I think my vote is clear on that.”
Frank Avellone, a constituent in the 25th district and a member of the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, mentioned during the protest that lifting the ban does not grant rent control. Municipalities throughout the state will have to define what rent control will look like in their communities.
“The people have spoken, Mr. Tarver. Your constituents wanted you to lift the ban. Let’s be very clear; if we lift the ban on rent control by passing house bill 255 [we are] not getting rent control. We are simply getting permission to talk about it,” Avellone said.
While the protest took place, Tarver’s district office was closed, and he was in Springfield. The general assembly will be on break for two weeks after April 12.
Duncan said that “[The protest] was to make a public stand. We couldn’t wait for him to be here.”