- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2003

Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson has not yet decided whether to lift the county’s 25-year-old property-tax cap to fund human services projects, his spokesman said.

Johnson spokesman Jim Keary noted an article in The Washington Post on Tuesday in which Mr. Johnson was quoted as saying, “Prince George’s County is not paying its way.” The paper said Mr. Johnson is “clearly intent” on cutting the Tax Reform Initiative by Marylanders (TRIM), the 1978 voter-imposed cap on property taxes.

“What the county executive has been saying is that the county needs to have an additional revenue stream,” Mr. Keary said. “He has not actually identified what additional revenue to draw from.”

Former County Executive Wayne K. Curry tried but failed to repeal TRIM in 1996, and opposition to repealing the initiative is still evident.

“I support TRIM. I ran on that,” said Bowie City Council member Douglas J.J. Peters, “and I will make good on my word. I cannot support a repeal of TRIM.

“There was a lot of gloom and doom when it was first passed, and I know that there is a need for money for schools, but we need to come up with more creative ways to do it.”

• No war zone

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Democrat, didn’t take kindly to reports that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld responded to questions about attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq by saying, “If Washington, D.C., were the size of Baghdad, we would be having something like 215 murders a month.”

Mrs. Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative, asked Mr. Rumsfeld in a letter last week to “give the appropriate respect to both the men and women of our armed forces and to the residents of the District.”

“Domestic killings have nothing in common with responses from enemy combatants in a battle zone our men and women are trying to pacify,” wrote Mrs. Norton, a Democrat. “You demean the dangers our troops face in time of war with such a comparison.”

“An offer of regret from you would be a sign of respect for District residents serving in Iraq, and throughout the world, and for the residents of the nation’s capital,” she concluded.

No word yet from the Pentagon.

• Seeking a dismissal

Former Newport News Judge Verbena Askew has asked the Virginia State Bar to dismiss a complaint filed against her by a Republican state senator who says she misled lawmakers while they were considering reappointing her earlier this year.

In a June 17 letter, Miss Askew’s attorney, former state Delegate A. Donald McEachin, says Miss Askew did not mislead the General Assembly when she said she had never been a party to a civil proceeding, the Daily Press reported.

Mr. McEachin said the sexual harassment settlement between the city of Hampton and a former court employee who worked for Miss Askew was an administrative proceeding, not a civil nor criminal matter.

The Title 7 complaint was settled between the employer, the city of Hampton, and the employee, Brenda Collins, before the matter reached a courthouse, he wrote.

Legislators denied Miss Askew a second eight-year term on the Circuit Court bench this year. She then ran for an open state Senate seat but was defeated in the June 10 Democratic primary.

• Wait a minute

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has blocked a high-level U.S. Transportation Department official from taking a second job as a member of the House of Delegates.

James Ports Jr. is a former Republican delegate who hoped to return to the House. He also wanted to hang on to his $112,000-a-year job as an assistant secretary at the Transportation Department.

Mr. Ports says he doesn’t think the governor is comfortable with the idea. And he says that if the governor doesn’t like it, neither does he.

The state Attorney General’s Office says Mr. Ports could legally serve in both positions.

But an Ehrlich spokesman says the governor thought it would be inappropriate for a high-level administration official to also serve in the House.

• Need new nominee

A Bush administration official has decided not to be Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s higher education secretary, citing concerns about the governor’s strained relationship with the legislature.

State higher education officials said in April that Mr. Ehrlich was on the verge of naming Leonard L. Haynes III, an appointee in the U.S. Department of Education, to lead Maryland’s Higher Education Commission.

Mr. Haynes, a former provost of Grambling State University in Louisiana, said Friday that he was tempted by the $120,000 position, which he said Mr. Ehrlich approached him about months ago.

But he said he was not sure that he could win state Senate confirmation in January, a step he says the Ehrlich administration initially told him wouldn’t be necessary.

Mr. Haynes pointed to Mr. Ehrlich’s inability to win confirmation of his nominee for environmental secretary as reason to worry about his own chances, even though Senate confirmation is usually a formality.

Mr. Haynes, 56, said that after discussions with the administration, he also had concerns about whether he would have the freedom to hire the commission staffers he thought were best suited for the job, rather than people the governor’s office wanted him to hire.

Mr. Ehrlich is the state’s first Republican governor in more than 30 years. Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 in Maryland.

Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell declined to discuss Mr. Haynes’ withdrawal, saying the governor’s office doesn’t comment on personnel matters.

It is not clear whom Mr. Ehrlich will select to lead the higher-education commission.

The current secretary — Karen Johnson, who was appointed by former Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening — has indicated that she will step down when Mr. Ehrlich names a replacement.

Mr. Fawell said the governor’s office is looking for candidates.

• Performance criteria

As the mayor and the D.C. Council bicker about a pay increase for the police chief, one council member has a list of goals he wants the chief to meet.

Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, says that before Chief Charles H. Ramsey receives a raise, he should meet three main goals within a year.

Mr. Fenty wants a written plan from every patrol service area lieutenant on how specific crimes will be addressed. He also wants a written plan for managing those lieutenants. And he says the Metropolitan Police Department should meet nationally recognized standards for answering 911 and 311 calls.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams wants to give Chief Ramsey his first raise — an extra $25,000 a year, to $175,000.

But some on the council are resisting. Mr. Fenty says people in his ward are always complaining about a lack of officers on the street and that he feels Chief Ramsey doesn’t deserve more money until such concerns are resolved.

• In defense of self

Some recent news columns have D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams pondering what he’s done — and what’s left to do.

Mr. Williams says he has held to a standard of perfection and that although he has come up short in some areas, he has excelled in others.

The mayor says he has worked to find middle ground on issues such as reorganizing the D.C. Board of Education and took a leadership role on reforming health care in the city.

He also says his work on strategic planning and performance-based management has helped the city gain an edge on economic development.

Mr. Williams says he is not interested in being mayor for life. Still, he plans to make more appearances in the neighborhoods the fall, to give his critics and supporters more time to discuss his record in public and to get his message out.

Robert Redding Jr. contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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