- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Inauguration Day cost the District of Columbia at least $1 million more than Congress allocated, and that deficit will surely climb higher as the final tally is calculated, D.C. officials said yesterday.

Metropolitan Police Department overtime costs alone were about $3 million, well over the $2.3 million Congress appropriated in the city's budget, D.C. police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday.

The shortfall leaves the city in a lurch over how to repay some 1,600 suburban police reinforcements. The department owes police from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, and even the Pennsylvania State Police, about $900,000, the chief said.

City officials are still tabulating the exact numbers, "but I don't expect we'll have any balance," said Peter LaPorte, head of the D.C. Emergency Management Agency.

"We were very conscientious about trying to keep our costs down," Mr. LaPorte said. "But the security and staging requests made our expenses over $8 million, and we had only $5.9 million."

Saturday's inaugural events mark the second time in less than a year that the District may be shortchanged on costs for a major public event. The Metropolitan Police Department mobilized its entire force to handle the World Bank/ International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings in April. Officers worked 12-hour shifts or longer to keep protesters from shutting down the gathering.

After that event, Chief Ramsey won accolades from local, federal and even foreign officials for containing the massive demonstrations, but in the end the District was shortchanged by $3.5 million.

Saturday was a massive test of city services. Coordinating all that goes into an inauguration such as street closings or extra police patrols is a daunting task in itself. Adding to that, several inches of snow fell on the District Saturday evening, which meant snow-removal crews had to be dispatched.

The inaugural parade attracted the largest number of protest groups in 25 years, so police overrun costs were not a surprise, Mr. LaPorte said.

"Given the extraordinary security precautions that had to be put in place, we expected that to be exceeded," he said. " … And the snow we had, that required additional city services to be deployed."

D.C. agencies Fire and Emergency Medical Services, Public Works, the Office of Property Management, the Department of Health and others contributed to the inaugural in a less public, but just as important way, city officials said.

Their work and costs, when they're calculated, likely will put the District further in the hole for handling the federal event, officials said.

The $5.9 million for the District's part in the inauguration was up $200,000 from last time, and the police department used $1 million more this year than in 1997, Mr. LaPorte said.

"I think the city shined," he said. "It sent a really good opening message to the administration there's been changes in the city in the last two years, and they were on display the last couple days."

Chief Ramsey said he's "optimistic" the Justice Department will cover what the city owes its neighbors, but "we'll still come up a little short."

Overtime, equipment and planning costs for the IMF protests were $8 million, and the federal government's reimbursement afterward was $4.5 million, Mr. LaPorte said yesterday.

He said the $3.5 million shortfall in April doesn't count costs to other agencies, such as the Department of Public Works, whose workers cleaned up a pile of animal manure activists dumped on the street, among other duties.

Chief Ramsey noted the IMF shortfall on Friday during WTOP radio's "Ask The Chief Program," saying: "I went to public schools in Chicago, but even I know that's bad arithmetic."

"We handle a lot of events that have nothing to do with the city of Washington, D.C., but because the [federal] government is here," Chief Ramsey said during the show. "It's a burden I don't think the District ought to pick up."

A reimbursement request for the inaugural costs won't be sent to Congress for some time. The city may ask the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to verify and analyze the city's expenditures, Mr. LaPorte said.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting congressional representative, plans to introduce a bill when the U.S. House of Representatives reconvenes that would provide an annual federal reimbursement to the D.C. police department for handling national events.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide