- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 16, 2006

Let’s face it: Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol is crammed with statues — two from each state, in fact.

But D.C. officials think the hallowed hall of Congress has room for two more — and are willing to spend $200,000 from city coffers to prove it.

They are planning to commission two sculptures to join those already on display in Statuary Hall.

The only problem: Statuary Hall is reserved for the states, and Congress long has barred the District from adding to its collection.

Nonetheless, Mayor Anthony A. Williams last week asked residents to nominate on the city government’s Web site, www.dcarts.dc.gov, famous Washingtonians who could be depicted in the statues.

Thirty nominees — including Frederick Douglass, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall and Langston Hughes — are listed, and there is a write-in option.

Write-in nominees must be U.S. citizens who were born or lived in the District. And they must be deceased.

• Money race

The push for funds is on in Maryland’s governor’s race.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has initiated an e-mail campaign asking for money, even though the election is more than 200 days away.

Meanwhile, Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley’s running mate — Delegate Anthony G. Brown, Prince George’s Democrat — has announced a major online fundraising effort to counter Mr. Ehrlich’s effort.

This campaign blitz comes after a 90-day ban on fundraising that expired at midnight last Monday, as the General Assembly drew to a dramatic and partisan close.

Several campaign themes already have come out of the session.

Mr. O’Malley has sent out a release that criticizes the governor for “four years of failed leadership,” while an Ehrlich mass e-mail says the Annapolis lawmakers are “the most partisan and petty in the country.”

As of January, Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, had raised about $8.4 million, Mr. O’Malley about $4.2 million and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a Democrat, $1.4 million.

• Plowing for votes

Southwest Virginia authorities have had to deal with charges of vote-buying involving beer, cigarettes and pork rinds.

Now there are complaints about something new: plowing for votes.

Several Washington County residents have called law enforcement and election officials about a classified ad that offers: “Free plowing when you vote for James Crabtree, mayor of Glade.”

But the scandal could turn out to be just a practical joke.

A county supervisor whose phone number appears in the ad says it was all a hoax, apparently by an unknown prankster. The paper pulled the ad after being notified about the apparent prank.

Prank or not, authorities say they are taking the case seriously.

• ‘Fees,’ not ‘taxes’

Barrie Parsons Tilghman, mayor of Salisbury, Md., has proposed a budget she says would hold the line on taxes, but includes new fees to help cover an anticipated revenue shortfall.

Mrs. Tilghman, a Democrat, is calling for a $25 licensing and registration fee for each of the city’s 7,000 rental units. It could generate $175,000.

The budget includes a proposal for billing motor vehicle insurance carriers for all traffic accidents and rescues. Mrs. Tilghman said it is unfair that city taxpayers have been paying for rescues of people who don’t live in the city.

She said the city’s initial revenue forecast was based on incorrect growth estimates, leaving the city with a $1.4 million shortfall.

• Old man river

Three members of Congress from Southeast Virginia are seeking to highlight the historical importance of the James River.

Reps. Jo Ann Davis, Robert C. Scott and Thelma Drake have introduced a resolution that would designate the waterway as “America’s Founding River.”

They hope Congress supports the resolution, which will help mark next year’s 400th anniversary of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America.

The James River Association, a group that monitors the river’s health, hopes the accolade spurs more interest in protecting and improving the river’s water quality.

• Labor and lobbying

National labor union leaders are criticizing U.S. Senate candidate Harris Miller, Virginia Democrat, for what they regard as opposing workers’ rights as a lobbyist for the high-tech industry.

In a letter to the Virginia AFL-CIO, the national union ripped Mr. Miller for his support of outsourcing jobs and importing foreign guest workers.

Miller spokesman Taylor West downplayed the importance of the letter and said Mr. Miller will be courting union voters by stressing the need for better education and training so Virginians can compete.

The letter was the latest example of Virginia’s two Democratic Senate hopefuls having problems with their party’s base voters.

This month, several prominent black politicians criticized Mr. Miller’s opponent, former Navy Secretary James Webb, for statements he made about affirmative action.

• Rallying for Metro

Northern Virginia transportation leaders gathered at a commuter lot in Prince William County last week to rally for legislation that would provide more money for Metro.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission supports a proposal that would allow five Northern Virginia localities to raise their local sales tax by a quarter of a percent.

The increase would generate $50 million annually if applied in the counties of Arlington and Fairfax and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax.

But Prince William delegates have voiced concerns about dedicating more money to the troubled transit system, and have voted against several Metro funding measures in Virginia’s General Assembly.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission said it is trying to get the attention of Prince William voters because more than 10,000 of the county’s residents use the Metro system daily.

Amy Doolittle contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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