- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2000

Mayor Anthony A. Williams' staff spent a good part of yesterday playing with the alphabet so that a defiant phrase will fit on a proposed new city license plate.

The new plate would place the words "Taxation without Representation" where "Celebrate & Discover" are now positioned. The new phrase is 11 letters longer and would be partly obscured by the two bolt holes that are drilled to the left and right of the old phrase.

The staff is working against a deadline: Mr. Williams is expected to testify today before a D.C. Council committee about the change.

Mr. Williams, who was out of town yesterday, hasn't said publicly whether he supports legislation that would change the phrase, his spokeswoman Peggy Armstrong said yesterday.

"We're trying to work out all the logistics right now including what it would take for the mayor to change the motto under an executive order," Miss Armstrong said. "It's such a good idea and it's caught on. Our office has heard from a lot of people who like the new motto very much."

Miss Armstrong said yesterday afternoon the mayor's staff, at that moment, was working on proposals that would change the look of the license plate, which has blue lettering and a red and white city flag in the middle of the tag number.

One of the problems they must face is fitting the new phrase, which is 29 letters long, into the same spot where the current motto, which has 18 characters, now sits, between the two bolts that fasten the plate to the car, Miss Armstrong said.

"That's what we're struggling with right now," she said.

All members of the D.C. Council officially have backed the new slogan. They said the proposed motto represents the frustration of many city residents with paying federal taxes without having a voting representative in Congress.

"This is going to be a good educational tool," said council member Carol Schwartz, a Republican. "Most people do not know that city residents pay federal taxes and do not have a vote in Congress. This is a way to let people know that we have, here in our nation's capital, taxation without representation."

"It's always good to have all the facts out there," said council member Kathleen Patterson, a Democrat. "This will show residents from other jurisdictions that there is a huge inequity that has been there for a very long time."

The council wants the new plates to be introduced April 15 when the next tax returns are due.

At today's meeting before the city's Committee on Public Works and the Environment, the mayor will find out what process his office needs to follow to change the wording, Miss Armstrong said.

The mayor can pass legislation or do it using an executive order, which will allow the mayor and the council to bypass the lengthy legislative process that includes two readings and a congressional review for the change to take place.

The council is urging the mayor to use his executive order privileges to make the proposed change into law, said Mrs. Schwartz, who also heads the public works committee. Today's meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in council chambers.

Mrs. Schwartz suggested that once the new slogan is approved, city officials should hold a contest in the city school system that would let students come up with a new license plate design.

"Why hire a professional when we have tremendous talent in our school system?" Mrs. Schwartz asked.

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