- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2006

Outgoing D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp yesterday said she still favors placing only poorly performing schools under control of the mayor’s office, expressing partial support for Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty’s likely bid to take over the District’s public school system.

“I had a very thoughtful, comprehensive plan that I had proposed if I had been mayor,” Mrs. Cropp said in an interview with The Washington Times. “But I am not. He has to propose his, and everyone has to work together for what’s best for our city.”

Mrs. Cropp, 59, lost September’s Democratic primary to Mr. Fenty, who takes office as mayor next month.

Highlighting her 16 years as a D.C. Council member, Mrs. Cropp noted that she opposed Mayor Anthony A. Williams when he tried to take over the city’s struggling school system and that Mr. Fenty did the same during his tenure as the council’s Ward 4 representative.

She said she favors a model used in California that would allow the mayor to have direct control over the District’s failing schools but said she could support the more extensive model likely to be proposed by Mr. Fenty.

The mayor-elect favors the school governance model used in New York City, where Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has full control of the schools.

“If you see a plan that can somewhat assure that there will be positive changes in the school system, people need to be willing to break away from [doing] things the same way and do things differently,” said Mrs. Cropp, who will leave office Jan. 2. “Taking over the school by any one group, one person, will not by itself bring about that positive change. There has to be other things that will make it happen.”

Council member Vincent C. Gray, Ward 7 Democrat, will take charge of the legislature after Mrs. Cropp departs. She declined to say what she will do after she leaves office.

Mrs. Cropp was first elected to the council as an at-large Democrat in 1990 after working as a D.C. school teacher and serving as vice president and president of the school board.

She has been re-elected to the council three times. In 1993, she backed out of a bid to become council chairman after the suicide of John A. Wilson, a former D.C. Council chairman.

In 1997, she was named acting chairman after the death of Chairman David A. Clarke and became the first woman to lead the council after being chosen by voters in a special election later that year.

Yesterday, Mrs. Cropp — a grandmother whose council experience spans the tenures of three mayors — said her biggest accomplishments include arranging legislative agendas to address the various goals of council members.

“We brought the council to an entirely new level of functioning,” she said, adding that the city legislature now is on a par with its executive office. “Others have said [the council] was like a rubber stamp of the executive branch.”

Mrs. Cropp lauded her work to help restore fiscal responsibility in the District, saying her insistence that proposals be supported with multiyear funding helped city officials pass 10 consecutive balanced budgets.

“As chairman, I believe I really had a strong, hands-on impact in helping to make things happen,” she said. “When I first came on as a council member, it was a struggle initially just changing the way business had been done a little bit in the past.”

Mrs. Cropp said her chief regrets include that the public was not well-informed before the council considered bringing baseball to the District.

At first a supporter of Mr. Williams’ plans to rely on public financing for a baseball stadium, Mrs. Cropp later distanced herself from the deal and pushed through a compromise that called for half of the funds to come from private sources.

The ensuing conflict sparked fear that the deal would be killed but also spurred talk that Mrs. Cropp was gearing up for a mayoral run.

Baseball “took such a life of its own,” she said. “It ended up being such a divisive issue and an issue that was so misunderstood by a lot of people in the community because of lack of information.”

Mrs. Cropp said she is considering heading “different programs” and will make a decision next month about her future activities.

However, she said Mr. Fenty — her one-time political rival — has her support.

“Whoever is mayor is obviously going to face challenges,” Mrs. Cropp said. “All of us need to help him to be a good mayor.”

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