- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 19, 2000


The D.C. Council is considering legislation that would establish an official residence for the mayor of the District of Columbia. The bill was introduced by Council Chairman Linda Cropp and Ward 6 representative Sharon Ambrose. Previous councils have discussed such a proposal before, but the idea never really generated public interest or support before. That could change.
One property under consideration is a Civil War-era hospital on Capitol Hill. Still owned by the federal government, it has been leased to the city for social service programs. Though aged, its high ceilings, brick facade and convenient location make it an excellent choice for both official entertaining and the day-to-day comings and goings of the mayor.
The neighborhood itself is classic Capitol Hill, within walking distance of eateries, the popular Eastern Market and House and Senate office buildings (and Metro, should the mayor choose to use public transportation). And, if the mayor is summoned to the White House, he could be pulling into the gates there in less than 15 minutes.
Now, the politics of all this will not be lost on the community at large. Some of the council's other seven ward members are bound to balk, and some residents will surely complain about the use of tax dollars and location. They needn't, however. Mr. Williams has said he wants no say in the location, and Chairman Cropp says she wants the private sector to step up.
She's right. There are numerous non-profit and philanthropic organizations in this city that could make such a proposal a reality. And here's a thought: Why not engage students at the University of the District of Columbia to make architectural and landscaping changes? Why not lobby such multi-billion corporations as Fannie Mae? Or seek grants from the Red Cross. Those groups and many, many more get special tax breaks, and here's an opportunity for them to give back to the community in a visible and substantial way.
This city, which has been given a boost of pride under Mayor Williams, needs an official residence. Where Mr. Williams and his wife, Diane Simmons Williams, buy their family home is of no real public consequence. Marion Barry has lived in Southeast for many years now. Yet, he too used to live on Capitol Hill. His and the Williams' decision are personal choices that must be left to their discretion. Selecting the site for a mayoral mansion is a public matter, and one that ought not be rejected out of hand.

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