- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006

A mayor by another name might not get to sit at the big table, but D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams is tired of the District being “snubbed” at national conferences. He wants his successor as mayor to be called “governor.”

“The reason we are not allowed into the party is because I don’t have the title of governor,” he said yesterday. “For the next mayor, we should consider — and I would support — changing the title.”

The National Governors Association, which lobbies the federal government on behalf of states, includes a member from every U.S. state, commonwealth and territory — but not the District.

When Mr. Williams tried to join last year, the group turned him down, saying its bylaws require that applicants have the title of governor.

Mr. Williams told Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, about the slight. So Mr. Warner, who served as chairman of the group, invited him to attend a meeting in March 2005, but he still did not get a membership.

“You’ve got to be a governor,” said group spokesman Jay Hyde. “The mayor is not a governor, therefore he is not eligible for membership.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California is sometimes called “The Governator,” since he made several movies as “The Terminator.” Other governors are often called something impolite. And the District had a chief officer called governor from 1871 to 1874. But the last one — Alexander “Boss” Shepherd — lavishly spent the District into bankruptcy. The city was then run by a board of commissioners appointed by the president of the United States. That form of government lasted until Congress created the Home Rule Charter in the 1970s.

Several groups have attempted to obtain statehood for the District and full voting rights to its residents, but there is no pending legislation in Congress and it is not clear whether Congress could grant statehood or whether a constitutional amendment would be required.

Changing the mayor’s title will not be easy, either.

The charter states the District must have an “office of the mayor,” and changing the title would require an act of Congress.

Mr. Williams, who is not seeking re-election this fall, said he would consider changing the title to “governor-mayor,” which would assure future mayors continued membership on the National League of Cities.

“We should see that our mayor is represented,” he said, noting that such international cities as Bangkok, Buenos Aires and Tokyo call their mayor a governor.

Mr. Williams said he will continue working on the change after he leaves office in January. He thinks the next mayor should have an official residence. Several D.C. mayoral candidates think calling the mayor “governor” is unnecessary and would confuse residents.

“From what I’ve heard from the people of District of Columbia, they want to see much more energy and lobbying pressure and agitation for full statehood,” said Adrian M. Fenty, a mayoral candidate and Ward 4 Democrat.

Vincent B. Orange Sr., a mayoral candidate and Ward 5 Democrat, said changing the title before giving the District statehood would only confuse people.

“Governor-Mayor? Governor-Mayor Orange?” Mr. Orange mused aloud. “That would be confusing. I don’t think we ought to be confusing citizens of D.C. or doing anything that has to do with being governor before we become a state. I don’t want to play the game of pretend. We don’t live in a fantasy land.”

Mr. Hyde said a new title would still not be enough to get any D.C. mayor a membership to the governor’s group.

“A change … won’t change matters,” he said. “Qualifying jurisdictions must have a certain structure, which is not present in the District.”

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