- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Every chairman of the D.C. Council has attempted to leave a mark on the city's legislature, and for the most part Linda Cropp is no different. The new assignments and structure appear to be a hodgepodge of misguided racial politics, seniority and a toss of the coin.

The Democrats, who control the legislature and everything else of importance in this city, are big winners. Each one of them, and there are 11 on the 13-member council, heads a panel except newcomer Adrian Fenty.

Thanks to the council, and Mrs. Cropp's "leadership," health-related agencies will remain under the purview of the massive oversized Committee on Human Services. The committee, which oversees all health and welfare and social service programs, including adoption and foster care, is one of two favorites for political grandstanding (the other is education).

Jack Evans, whose tax-writing legislation has endeared him to both Democrats and Republicans, will stay put as chairman of finance and revenue. Others who plan to run against Mr. Williams will remind voters over and again that it is the mayor who must end the financial hemorrhaging at D.C. General Hospital and provide managed health care programs for the indigent without closing the hospital. Fully one-third of the city's budget is spent on social service programs yet real reform remains on a dead-end street.

Consider other losers as well. Mrs. Cropp created two subcommittees just so two more Democrats could gain chairmanships. Jim Graham, who is gay and represents neighborhoods densely populated by Hispanics and poor immigrants, is chairman of the panel on human rights, Latino affairs and property management. At-large member Phil Mendelson, a longtime tenants' rights advocate, is a member of that panel and also chairman of the new Subcommittee on Labor, Voting Rights and Redistricting.

There were other changes as well. Vincent Orange replaced Kathy Patterson as chairman of government operations, and Mrs. Patterson is now chairman of judiciary. Harold Brazil is the new chairman of the Committee on Economic Development. Those are ideal places to be for the 2002 elections. Carol Schwartz, the senior of the two Republicans, kept the panel on public works, mayoral wannabe Kevin Chavous is still chairman of education, recreation and libraries. Seniority pretty much predicted that lineup.

However, Human Services remains the obvious trouble spot. Chairman Sandy Allen is black, and some members of the council believed replacing her with a white lawmaker, any one of them, would have created a sore spot in mostly black Washington. Such racially motivated maneuvering is unfortunate. So don't be at all surprised if the most the D.C. Council accomplishes between now and the 2002 elections is campaign fodder, because that's about all the new committee set up can deliver.

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