- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has become the coach, quarterback and head cheerleader of efforts to return the city to business as usual following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He has raised his profile significantly in recent weeks after having weathered criticism from city leaders, including himself, for being slow to address residents in the immediate aftermath of the suicide airplane assault on the Pentagon. These days, he seems to be everywhere exhorting residents and visitors alike to resume their normal activities in the District.

The Democratic mayor has stood arm in arm with Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican, to push for the reopening of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which occurred yesterday. He has dined with President Bush to encourage out-of-towners to return to downtown restaurants. He has offered words of support at the Pentagon.

Yesterday, Mr. Williams successfully flexed a little political muscle to persuade the Metro board to approve free subway and bus rides Oct. 12-14 to entice suburbanites into the city to spend some money. The board unanimously approved the mayor's plan during an emergency meeting.

"We've all been challenged, the citizens, city workers, and myself included, in a way that we never have been before," Mr. Williams said last night. "But this city, historically, has always risen above [crisis situations]."

Yet he has not fared well in comparison with his Republican counterpart, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who quickly took to the streets to calm residents and direct recovery efforts after terrorists crashed airliners into and collapsed the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

"You can't compare New York with D.C. If we had the type of internal-border catastrophe they had, our mayor would have been in a different light and I am confident he would have met that challenge," said D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat.

Mr. Williams, he said, will be "the champion next weekend" when the city, with 30 regional public-private partners, begin the "Be a Tourist in Your Hometown" campaign aimed at coaxing residents out of their homes and into area shops, restaurants, museums, theaters and other entertainment venues.

"I think it is remarkable to have the degree of cooperation in the region that we are having, and it is a testament to Mr. Williams bringing the people and the leadership together," said Metro General Manager Richard A. White.

Some officials in the days just after the attacks suggested the mayor was too vigorous in addressing the needs of business over emergency needs of residents.

"My concern was that the mayor did not articulate his emergency preparations to the people. The chaos that took place on September 11th is unacceptable," said council member Vincent B. Orange, Ward 5 Democrat.

Citing coordination problems between the federal agencies and the Metropolitan Police Department, Mr. Orange said "our emergency broadcasting system and communications systems were a complete failure."

Mr. Williams has been focusing on the business and tourism industries hit hard economically by the closure of Reagan National Airport, "and he should be," Mr. Orange said. "But the city also needs address emergency services and evacuation plans for government officials and residents if need be."

But the council member's tone softened this week, when Mr. Williams announced the agenda for the city's third Neighborhood Action Summit, scheduled for tomorrow.

"While I accept criticism from the council, I think they're wrong about me not addressing the citizens." Mr. Williams said last night. "I've been to numerous community meetings, radio addresses, and on Saturday we're going to talk about everything, the whole issue post-September 11th."

More than 1,800 people are scheduled to attend the summit "to further help me turn the city into their vision of what it is supposed to be like we've done at the previous summits," the mayor said.

On Sunday, Mr. Williams, with Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Democrat, and governors from five other states, paid his respects to those who died and served at the Pentagon.

The group then took a commercial flight to New York, where they ate, shopped and saw a Broadway production of "The Lion King" to promote American travel and tourism.

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