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SIMMONS: ‘Fiscal hawk’ faces mayoral color barrier

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jack Evans wants to be mayor of the nation's capital, and to do so he has to break a racial barrier, persuade stakeholders that he can govern as well as he legislated and, perhaps, take on an incumbent.

The stakes are high for voters because Mr. Evans is a white man who ran this race before and lost, and post-home rule voters have yet to elect a white mayor.

So it's best that voters be informed as to where he stands and has stood on certain issues.

First things first: "I'm still a fiscal hawk," Mr. Evans, chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee, said over breakfast Wednesday, 24 hours after incumbent Mayor Vincent C. Gray, a fellow Democrat, announced that most of the city's $417 million surplus would be saved for a rainy day.

It's a position Mr. Evans has staked out since 1991, when he replaced Democrat John A. Wilson, a municipal-finance expert and civil-rights activist, on the council dais.

In a city flush with questionable spending practices for health, education and welfare programs, and long-standing ineffective and inefficient employment and housing programs, Mr. Evans went on the record Wednesday regarding several issues, and he did so in the style of the now-deceased Mr. Wilson, a man of the people who often bristled at the thought of spending money for spending's sake.

Mr. Evans is proposing legislation that would place music, art and physical education teachers and librarians in every public schoolhouse.

"Some schools have them; some don't," Mr. Evans said. "All our children should have access."

A strong proponent of safe neighborhoods and schools, Mr. Evans also said "our first responders deserve a pay raise and retroactive raises."

Police, fire and ambulance personnel haven't had raises in six years, and "we need to stop talking about it and show them the money," he said.

When?

"This year," he said.

Mr. Evans also is a champion of tax cuts and giving the business and nonprofit communities a break if they deliver, reasonable positions since his ward includes central downtown, Georgetown and some of the city's most popular commercial corridors.

And while some conservatives may cringe at the thought of housing subsidies and the like, the fact is that Mr. Evans helped create the Housing Production Trust Fund, which aids in helping first responders, teachers and other members of noble professions find affordable homes in the city. He also backed such hospitality-industry and tax-rich projects as the Nationals' ballpark, the Washington Convention Center and the Verizon Center. And he supports job programs that actually employ D.C. residents and wants public library doors open seven days a week.

When table talk turns to social services, he rests his fork, raises both hands from his breakfast plate and rubs both eyes.

"The human-services cluster consumes $4 billion," Mr. Evans said, "and there are about 120,000 customers who are really in need. The same number every year.

"We might as well give everybody a check or build them their own home."

He's got a point there.

It's a vicious spending cycle city hall should question.

The mayors — yes, mayors plural — "can't justify writing those checks," Mr. Evans said.

Aware that his council colleagues Muriel Bowser of Ward 4 and Tommy Wells of Ward 6 are also possible Democratic contenders next year, Mr. Evans said he is looking forward to oversight hearings and budget talks that begin in earnest after the mayor's State of the District address on Tuesday, when lawmakers and agency directors start acting like crabs in a barrel.

Mr. Evans, who in February will become the city's longest-serving lawmaker, said the actions of legislators and mayors speak far louder than words.

"I'm all about results," he said.

See for yourself by visiting dcclims1.dccouncil.us/lims/searchbymember.aspx and plugging in Jack Evans.

You'll learn he's been no slouch.

And even if you don't agree with the positions he's taken, he deserves credit for channeling John Wilson, who, bless his heart, as an activist, ward politician and council chairman walked loudly and carried a big municipal stick until the day he died.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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