- The Washington Times - Monday, February 3, 2003

Trouble for Metts?
Prince George's County officials continue to grumble over being undermined by county schools chief Iris T. Metts during last month's annual Board of Public Works "beg-a-thon."
After top county leaders asked state officials for about $36 million for two new high schools and other construction projects, Mrs. Metts stood up to astonished looks and said the actual dollar need is only one-third of that figure.
The meeting came one day after a county council meeting in which County Executive Jack Johnson testified before the council about the amount the county would request. School board Chairman Beatrice Tignor was there and, sources say, agreed with the "unified" approach the county would take in the annual funding request.
Little did they know, one county official was not on board.
"It's unbelievable she would undermine the county that way," said one council member privately. "But then she is probably looking for brownie points with the state since she realizes she will be unemployed soon."
Payback for Reagan
Republican lawmakers' bid to create a Ronald Reagan Day in Maryland has garnered support from at least one black religious leader.
The Rev. Ima Jene Stewart, president of the Prince George's County Women's Clergy, has come out in support of making the former president's birthday, Feb. 6, an official day of tribute to Mr. Reagan.
"We as African Americans ought to be grateful that [Mr. Reagan] signed the Martin Luther King Holiday bill. So it's tit-for-tat," she said. "And I don't care about the circumstances in which he signed it, but that he signed it."
A resolution that would create an annual Ronald Reagan Day was introduced last week with bipartisan support in the Maryland Senate. It would be a day of homage, but not a state holiday.
Flag waving
Which Vietnam flag is the right flag to fly in Virginia?
The House of Delegates has passed a bill that would require the yellow flag of the former Republic of Vietnam to be displayed at public events in Virginia, not the banner of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
The bill passed 68-27 on Friday, the 35th anniversary of the Tet offensive, launched by Vietnamese communist guerrillas against U.S. and South Vietnamese troops in 1968. The bill awaits action by the Senate.
Delegate Robert D. Hull, Fairfax County Democrat, who represents a sizable Vietnamese immigrant population, said most of those people fled South Vietnam when it fell to communist forces in 1975. To those South Vietnamese expatriates, the sight of the current flag a single five-pointed yellow star set on a field of crimson is a hurtful insult, he said.
The U.S. State Department said the bill was the only one of its kind in any state, and sought to have it killed, saying it could damage diplomatic relations.
The State Department also told the House Rules Committee the legislation amounted to Virginia conducting foreign policy, a prerogative the U.S. Constitution reserves solely for the president.
Re-election reel
Virginia's governor is the only one in the nation who cannot seek re-election to a second consecutive term.
That could change. The Virginia House Privileges and Elections Committee voted 11-10 Friday to endorse a proposed constitutional amendment that would allowing the governor to seek re-election. The same committee has rejected the proposal annually for more than a decade.
If approved by the General Assembly this year, the resolution would have to pass the legislature again next year and then be approved by voters in November 2004 before becoming part of the Constitution.
Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, is among the proposal's chief supporters, even though it would not affect him. The amendment would apply only to governors elected beginning in 2005.
Appealing to veterans
Sen. John Kerry said Saturday he will not concede conservative states such as Virginia in his presidential bid because he feels President Bush is vulnerable on his handling of the nation's economy.
The Massachusetts Democrat and candidate for the Democratic nomination spoke to hundreds of Virginia Democrats Saturday night in Richmond at their annual fund-raising event, the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.
It was Mr. Kerry's second visit to the state in the past two weeks. He spoke to several thousand black voters at an event in Richmond on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Mr. Kerry said Democrats can win in Republican strongholds, even Virginia, by pointing out how Mr. Bush's economic and fiscal policies are affecting people.
Shawn Smith, spokesman for the Republican Party of Virginia, said Mr. Kerry's comments were "clearly misplaced."
"At this time of uncertainty, we should stand with the men and women on the front lines and those who served before them and not engage in political scare tactics," Mr. Smith said.
Bottoms up
A dash for cash could mean a dash for the liquor store on Sundays is in Virginians' future.
A House of Delegates committee has endorsed a bill that would allow some state-operated Alcoholic Beverage Control stores to open on Sundays.
"We're trying to see whether or not this makes money," Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican, said of the bill, which would open stores in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Northern Virginia.
Mr. Albo's bill originally would have allowed ABC stores across the state to open on Sundays, but he narrowed its scope after encountering opposition in some regions.
The House General Laws Committee voted 12-7 Thursday in favor of the bill.
Twenty-three states permit liquor sales on Sundays.
Ethics shenanigans
D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, is pushing the envelope regarding the reappointment of D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics member Stephen G. Callas, one of the three-member board that voted to disqualify D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams from September primary's Democratic ballot.
Mrs. Schwartz sent a letter last week to the mayor and her colleagues on the council urging Mr. Callas' renomination. His original reappointment nomination, made in June, was denied because of a council technicality the council forgot to approve the nomination before it expired Dec. 2.
"If you supported Mr. Callas' reappointment in June, then what could possibly have occurred to change that support?" Mrs. Schwarz asked in the Jan. 29 letter. "I certainly do not want to think that this lack of resubmission is a retaliatory action, but the perception could be such."
It is, actually.
Council members quietly call the lack of new renomination political "payback" for Mr. Callas' vote to disqualify the mayor from the Democratic ballot.
City sources close to the issue said the mayor and his backers lobbied against Mr. Callas' reappointment, urging council member Vincent Orange Sr., Ward 5 Democrat and chairman of the Government Operations Committee, to continually delay confirmation hearings.
Mr. Callas was first nominated to the ethics board by Mayor Marion Barry in 1997 and was confirmed in 1998 for a three-year term.
His appointment lapsed in July 2001.
Council members say Mr. Callas will remain on the board for 18 months because the council will block any attempt to appoint someone else to the position. Board rules state that a member continues to serve until the council confirms a successor.
And council members are waiting to see what the mayor will do with the other two board members, Jonda McFarland and Chairman Benjamin Wilson.
Mrs. McFarland's term expired in July. Mr. Wilson's term expires this summer.
Jabeen Bhatti and S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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