- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 22, 2006

Bill Rice, the former public voice of the District Department of Transportation, is again trying to become the voice of the people.

Mr. Rice — political pundit, former journalist and agency spokesman for the past six years — officially began his campaign yesterday for the Ward 3 council seat by hosting a luncheon at Guapo’s Restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest.

He told a crowd of about 60 residents and supporters he would upgrade subpar schools and keep seniors from being priced out of living in the ward.

“I’m the Democratic candidate, upholding democratic values — good schools, a government that answers the concerns of the people and a ward where families who live here can afford to stay,” said Mr. Rice, who resigned from the agency earlier this month to focus on the race. “I believe in solving problems one at a time and making myself accessible. I believe in staying active, attending meetings and listening to individuals.”

Mr. Rice, a D.C. resident for 30 years, is a former contributor to the Washington City Paper and the Northwest Current newspaper and known for attending countless community and political meetings.

However, he is best known as the person newspaper reporters often quote on city transportation issues, or the man dutifully answering a TV reporter’s question about salt trucks during the region’s first big snowstorm.

It didn’t take long yesterday for residents to begin lobbing concerns and complaints at Mr. Rice, who lost an at-large bid for the council in 1998.

Immediately following Mr. Rice’s speech, Tenleytown resident Samuel Dendy questioned him about reopening the Tenley-Friendship Library, which closed in December 2004. Mr. Rice assured him that it was on his list of priorities.

“The library was a very convenient place for seniors in this area,” said Mr. Dendy, 82, an eight-year resident of Ward 3. “We have to go another 10 or so blocks to Connecticut Avenue to get books or work on computers. It’s been a hardship on us.”

He expressed full confidence in Mr. Rice that he could get the job done.

“[Council member Kathy] Patterson has been very helpful in trying to get the library [reopened], and I feel that Mr. Rice will be, too,” Mr. Dendy said.

Bryan de Boinville, a longtime friend and colleague of Mr. Rice, said the candidate’s tenacity and working knowledge of the city government gives him an edge against the competition.

“He is very intelligent and understanding, and he’s been involved in D.C. issues for so long that he offers a special candidacy,” Mr. de Boinville said.

Five others have also filed declarations of candidacy for the Sept. 12 Democratic primary for the council seat, now held by Mrs. Patterson.

The candidates are Erik S. Gaull, a former staffer for Mayor Anthony A. Williams who ran against Mrs. Patterson in 2002; Cathy Wiss, commissioner of Advisory Neighborhood Commission-3F; Sam Brooks, who ran for an at-large council seat in 2004; Mary Cheh, a George Washington University law professor; and Jonathan R. Rees.

Mrs. Patterson, a Democrat, is running for council chairman, which will be vacated by mayoral candidate Linda W. Cropp.

“I’ve known Bill for about 20 years, and I know that he’s so passionately involved in the city and understands the issues,” said Benni Kane, who has lived in the ward for 10 years. “He knows his neighborhood, and he knows the people.”

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