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February 03, 1977 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1977-02-03

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1ti Iin31i zD
Eighty-Seven Years of Editorial Freedom
420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109

On the rent strikes first

birthday

Thursday, February 3, 1977

News Phone: 764-0552

Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan
Reporters have the right
toshield t their sources

A PROPOSED STATE "shield" law
is a motion in the right di-
rection, we feel. As the Nixon-pack-
ed Supreme Court and assorted pow-
er-mad judges take chunks out of
the First Amendment on a regular
schedule, it is necessary for state
and local governments to affirm their
reliance on the Constitution, to make
freedom of the press , more than a
catchy slogan.'
In a humane society this sort of
law would, of course, be unnecessary.
A decent government would avoid
treating the press like a yoyo: .a qua-
si-legal Investigation unit in some
circumstances, a gaggable source of
interference in others. Under the pre-

sent circumstances, the press must be
allowed to stand apart clearly from
the powers that be.
Members of the press are as much
entitled to protect the confidentiality
of their sources as are the clergy,'phy-
sicians, accountants and lawyers -
perhaps more so, since without an
independent press, everyone else's
trust becomes subject to government
control: instant banana republic.
In addition to enacting an unam-
biguous shield law, which protests
confidentiality of sources but does
not sanction illegal uses of the press,
the legislature should examine the
whimsical use of gag orders and the
cynical use of "press trials" by prose-
cutors with shaky cases.

Congress act, quickly to
remedy natural gas crisis

IN THE FASTEST act of legislation
in recept memory, the House and
Senate quickly ironed out their dif-
ferences and approved President Car-
ter's natural gas bill - giving Car-
ter the power to declare national or
regional natural gas bill -- giving
Carter the power to declafe nation-
al or regional natural gas emergen-
cies and to order gas moved from
state to state to keep homes and hos-
pitals warm.

It is refreshing to find that
95th Congress fully comprehended
urgency of this matter and acted
cordingly. Perhaps they will bet
ferent than the Congresses of

the
the
ac-
dif-
old

Editorial Staf
Co-Editors-in-.Chief
ANN MARIE LIPINSKI..........JIM TOBIN
KEN PARSIGIAN .............Editorial Director
Managing Editors
JAY LEVIN, GEORGE LOBSENZ,
MIKE NORTON, MARGARET YAO
LOIS JOSIMOVICH................ Art Editor
Magazine Editors
SUSAN ADES ........ ELAINE FLETCHER
Photography Staff
PAULINE LUBENS.......... Chief Photographer
ALAN BILINSKY.................Picture Editor
BRAD BENJAMIN..........Staff Photographer
ANDY FREEBERG ...........Staff Photographer
CHRISTINA SCHNEIDER .... Staff Photographer
Sports Staff
Bill Stieg ........................ Sports Editor
Rich Lerner .........Executive Sports Editor
Andy Glazer......Managing Sports Editor
Rick Bonino...........Associate Sports Editor
NIGHT EDITORS: Tom Cameron, Enid Goldman,
Kathy Henneghan, Scott Lewis, Rick Maddock,
Bob Miller, John Niemeyer, Mark Whitney.
STAFF WRITERS: Leslie Drown, Trom Cameron.
Ernie Dunbar, Henry Engelhardt, Rob Evan,
Jeff Frank, Cindy Gatziolis, Enid Goldman,
Mike Halpin, Kathy Henneghan, Geoff Larcomn,
Scott Lewis, Don MacLachlan,'Rick Maddock,
Brian Martin, Bob Miller, Brian Miller, Billy
Neff, John Niemeyer, Eric Olson, Dan Perrin,
Dave Renbarger, Pat Rode, Cub Schwartz,
Errol hifman,'T om Shine, Jamie Turner, Mark
Whitney, Greg Zott.

which would have twiddled their
thumbs for months before passing
the measure - only to emerge from
the capital building to find that it
was already too late.
Now, we only hope that President
Carter will act with the same speed
and decisiveness. The bill gives him
the power to force recalcitrant states
to move gas along the inter-state
pipeline system to areas in the North-
east that are struggling to meet their
increasing natural gas needs as this
unbearably cold winter continues to
ravage the nation. Carter must act
immediately to force the Texas mo-
guls who refused to sell their huge
supply of natural gas - because all
states except Texas have price con-
trols on natural gas, these Texans
could make 30 per cent more profit
by- selling in Texas' free market -
to sell it to the needy states be-
fore it is too late.
In a related event, closer to home,
Governor Milliken requested that
Michigan businesses voluntarily in-
stitute a shorter work week, and ask-
ed Michigan residents to lower the
thermostats in their homes to ease
the strain on Michigan's natural gas
reserves. He went on to say that if
the voluntary requests were not ad-
hered to, mandatory energy controls
might be ordered.
Congress' action assures some re-
lief to the emergency- stricken states
that should ease them through the
crisis. Hopefully, the schools and busi-
nesses that were closed will quickly
be reopened, so that some semblance
of normalcy will be restored, to the
weather torn northeast.
Furthermore, let': hope that Mich-
iganders will heed Milliken's advice
and turn down their thermostats and
adopt a shorter work week. If fast
action is taken voluntarily, the crisis
that has hit many neighboring states,
can' be averted here. If not, we have
no one to blame but ourselves.

THE BATTLE RAGES ON.
February marks the first anniversary of the strike
against Edith Epstein's Reliable Realty. And it seems
as if Epstein is conducting a quick retreat - from
the entire rental business. This is not to say, however,
that she is bowing out gracefully; on the contrary, ten-
ants report she is using "illegal and intimidating tac-
tics", including frequent trespassing, verbal hrrass-
ment, and even allegedly taking Tenant Union litera-
ture fron a striking house.
Tenants originally withheld rent from Reliable be-
cause of the dilapadated condition of the houses which
reportedly included: faulty plumbing, leaky showers,
total lack of privacy due to poor soundproofing, broken
windows and furniture, incessant drafts, peeling paint,
infestation, and non-functioning fire doors, among other
things. According to a present tenant, "These oppres-
sive conditions have simply not been corrected since
last year; she's made only 'band-ais' repaids." Ano-
ther tenant added, "Thettoilets are fine now, but you
can't put toilet paper in them."
LAST YEAR THE tenants won an average of 2.4
months' rent rebate with Epstein allegedly paying
out $50 000 in attorney's fees. The original tenants,
however, have long since left and the new tenants
have taken up the fight.
Epstein, meanwhile, is taking action. Her houses are
up for sale despite the liens placed on them by at
least one maintenance contractor whom Epstein alleg-
edly refused to pay. (A "lien" is a legal prohibition
of the sale of property until the case involving that
property is resolved or bond is posted.) On her 736
S. State house, where most of the recent struggle has
focused, a formerly large single-family dwelling has
been converted in'o a boarding house with new walls
erected in the living room to create additional bed-
rooms. Tenants report that the rent on the house has
jumped in the course of the past few months from
$650 to over $1100 per month, with rooms the size
of closets (some are 8'x11') being rented for $115 or
more
The main charge tenants level against Epstein and
her agents is the latter's use of illegal and intimidat-
ing ing tactics. Tenants who -rent from her have
been offered a standardized University lease - how-
ever, according to the University's Office of Off-Campus
Housing, the lease was illegally procured from that
office and is being using without their sanction.
According to a present tenant. "She and her agents
enter ouri house wi'hout permission, they trespass, at
least twice a week." "She screams and harasses us to
the point where it's impossible to study or relax when
she's around." Charlie, a tenant of Asian descent, as-
serts he was told by Epstein's "right-hand man" to "go
back where you came from." Ano her tenant comment-
ed, "Epstein is always asking us 'Why don't you move
Be6rkelej
By JEFF SELBST
Second of Two Parts
WE FINALLY MADE IT to California, to Los
Angeles and thence to San Francisco.
Once there, we did all the standard tourist
things - The Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown,
and Fisherman's Warf. Claudia had to get them
all out of the way, because, having moved there,
she was now officially a native and as such,
could not dare be seen doing them.
It was in the San Francisco newspaper that
we found out what had happened in Amarillo
that night. A fast-food pizza outlet had been
held-up at around 11:30 p.m. and the cashier
had been murdered in gruesome fashion-she'd
been sleeping and the robber had shoved her
head into the whirling dough mixer - osten-
sibly to make -sure she never woke up.
After hitting Albuquerque at 3:00 a.m., we
headed south on I-25 to escape the snow; which
is where we heard reports on the radio of mau-
rading Mexican bandits crossing the border and
harassing travelers.
NOT WITHSTANDING, we made it to San
Francisco (or as the newspaper weather col-
umn breezily lists it "San Frisco). The first
thing I wanted to do was have a look at the
fabled city of Berkely. Claudia's new room-
mate, a very nice girlish-type named Mary,
told us how to get there.
So we stepped off the Bay Area Rapid
Transit (BART) line right into downtown Berk-

ely, and the first impression I was struck with
was that it looked a lot like Ann Arbor ("the
Berkely of the East," though I am rather more
inclined to call Berkely "the Ann Arbor of the
West").
They have a van waiting outside the BART
terminal, a free shuttle to campus winsome-
ly named "Humphry Go-BART." We hopped it
and away we went.
THIS WAS U C-BERKELY, alright. But un-
like the city atmosphere of Ann Arbor, Berke-
ly's campus is a large grassy square, set off,
from town by gates. They have their own cun-
ning roads, and a spot that passes for a Diag,
but the first impression one gets is of aca-
demic sobriety.
The second impression is of militancy's
last stand. Like the Diag on warm days (and,
annoyingly, Berkely really doesn't have any
cold ones"), all kinds of card tables with lit-
erature were set up, plugging uncountable mi-
nority alliances, gay rights groups, petitions
to sign proclaiming the fourth of July "Zam-
bian Rights Day," and whatnot.
Claudia and I walked around campus quite
a bit; she was planning on taking a class there
next term and wanted to familiarize herself
with it. Both of us, I think, had the same
feeling - that it tried too damn hard to be
Berkely, with all the traditions of non-tradi-
tion.
WHAT WAS AMUSING THOUGH, was that
all these originals have their counterparts in

The

wes tern

out?' and she threatens to call the police at every mo-
ment."
RECENTLY, HER threats concerning the police have
in fact materialized. On Friday, January 7, the Ann
Arbor police accompanied Epstein to 736 Sou h State
and arrested the person sleeping in the basement. The
house was originally rented with the basement to be
considered a bedroom; then the city declared the base-
ment an illegal permanent bedroom and prohibited
its use as such. The guest was arrested, however, not
on the charge of occupying an illegal bedroom, a
charge that probably would not have held up, but rath-
er for an outstanding traffic ticket. The guest was
released the same day upon paying his $25 fine.
On Saturday, January 15, Epstein's agent was
again accompanied by the police reportedly in a search
for the same guest. The agent, not finding the person
in the basement, then proceeded to use his key to a
tenant's room, entered, and departed, leaving the door
wide open with the tenant's valuables in full view. Ac-
cording to the resident manager, the police recognized
that the agent's actions were illegal and informed the
agent that they (the police) would have to corro-
borate the fact of an illegal entrance if a tenant filed a
complaint. The agent repor edly left soon after.
TENNTSRISINGE
by RICHARD DUTKA
kL
The same day the resident manager was informed
that he wa# fired and was ordered out by the follow-
ing day or else face the police. The agent is reported
as telling the manager, "I sent you over here for one
specific job and one specific job only." That "specific
job" was, according to the manager, to remove all the
strikers from the house. Epstein had also allegedly
ordered the manager the week before the bodily remove
a specific tenant. Both tenants, and the manager have
stated that managers for Epstein have been offered
$60 for each striker evicted and $60 for each new non-
striking tenant.
The police never showed up the next day but they
did come with Epstein later that week, allegedly to
finally evict the manager. The- manager reports that
he came out of his room with a letter from his attorney,
Jonathan Rose, which explained the legal implications
of the situation. The polic reportedly acknowledged
the letter and requested that he phone the police sta-
tion to advise them of the circums'ances. The police,
according to one tenant, then advised Epstein not to

call the police again regarding these matters and to,
instead, use her a torney and the court process, as do
the tenants.
ALTHOUGH IT SEEMS as if Epstein won't have the
support of the police in the near future, tenants don't
expect her actions to level off. Ye the striking tenants
are all extremely confident of victory. Each action by
Epstein, they feel, strengthens their case in court and
the potential for recovering an extraordinary award
of back rent and for inconveniences suffered (to say
the least). They are. however, also willing to negotiate
and avoid the court hassles.
There are those who feel that the Tenants Union
(TU), the organizer of the strike, and tenant activists
are merely defea ing their own objective. By driving
landlords from Ann Arbor, they say, the TU is also cut-
ting down on the already severely limited housing.
This, is a misconception. There should be no lament-
ing the "loss" of Edith Epstein. Epstein wasn't "driven
out of town" - she is driving herself out by refusing
to nego iate and provide decent and peaceable living
conditions. Moreover, tenants are, not organizing to
attract more landlords to Ann Arbor; they don't have
to. Given the existing housing set-up, Epstein's exit is
simply a signal for another landlord's entrance. Hav-
ing won their case against Epstein, the TU and ten-
ants in general, are in a far stronger position to secure
livable housing from future landlords.
The argumen' against tenant actions can be stated
another way: Uniting tenants are, in effect, making
the housing market less attractive and thus deterring
developers. The fact is however, there has been no
significant rental housing construcion in Ann Arbor
since 1967 (a reflection of the critical housing shortage
nationally), despite the-sky-high rents and the rapid
turnover of the student population ( he higher the'turn-
over rate, the more opportunity to raise the rent). The
solution to the problem thus must be a submissive ten-
ant population suffering the indignities and degradation
of, poor housing. This, needless to say. is no'solution at
all.
Tenants niust unite to fight a struggle on two fronts:
1) for more housing, and 2) for decent existing hous-
ing. One struggle given up for the other will mean
either some high-priced decent housing on an even more
limited scale than at present, or else - plenty of hov-
els.
Given this awesome task, it is a tribute to tenants that
they are still uniting; in fact, they're uniting quite
rapidly. Trony Associates recently gave in to all TU
demands on the new bargaining agreement, while else-
where three new rent strikes cropped up in the past
few weeks with more in the offing. And so the battles
rage on.
'One year of "Reliable" striking this month - Happy
Birthday!

group was out playing for everyone and had
attracted an enormous crowd. The crowd it-
self was jaded - this sort of thing apparent-
ly happens every day - or often enough, not
to attract special notice. That must be some-
thing at least. Ann Arbor has its Diag music-
ians, but it seems to me they rarely sound
like much. It must be the climate. While ev-
eryone in Ann Arbor is hunched over fight-
ing the wind, Berkely is green, and I may add,
growing.
Enough of that. Ever since we left ,Kan-
sas City, I had the feeling that we were pass-
ing boom towns. Certainly one thinks of the
Old West in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New
Mexico and Arizona; but more than that the
communities all had a special transitory feel-
ing about them. Certainly the West and South-
west are established, and have been for a cen-
tury. But both in regards to Berkely and the
rest of,, California, there is a kind of tenta-
tiveness, a lingering, linguistic, regional, inse-
curity.
I WAS TALKING with Claudia's roommate
Mary, and she referred to Ann Arbor as "back
East." This took me for a moment - I am un-
accustomed to thinking of Ann Arbor as east
of anything (what anything? you ask. New

York? Aha!). Mary has lived her entire life
on the West Coast and she said that she'd nev-
er been as far east as Michigan. Why 'then
"back East?" I told her that we called any-
thing from Colorado to The Coast "out west."
So it works both ways. Linguistically, the
East regards the West as foreign, possibly not
legitimate; the West regards the East as es-
tablished, possibly decadent.
Which,- to me, accounts for some of that
Berkely bravado, which really goes too for the
rest of the state. If I say that I'm moving to
New York, somebody's sure to wrinkle their
nose and say, "Why don't you try living here?
You may find you'll never want to go back."

A2

ARROGANCE. I
I found at Berkely,

think it was arrogance
and that may be what

I

made my fhair stand on end.
I had revenge, though. In mid-afternoon
it began to rain on campus. No one hurried
to get under cover - they stood, horrified,
eyes staring straight at the sky, wondering,
on such a lovely day, how the elements dared
to turn on them.
I laughed quietly as we boarded the bus
back to BART. We're from Ann.Arbor, I smirk-
ed, and we're used to that.

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