- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2001

In a few days, the nation's capital will be its old self. D.C. and federal crews have worked as fast as they could to dismantle the bleachers and viewing stands, remove the portable potties and trash, the fencing and other security accouterments erected for the inaugural festivities. As you know these things take time and money. Yet D.C. taxpayers are expected to pay more than their share.

Officials have yet to tally precisely how much the festivities cost the federal and local governments. To be sure, though, everyone pitched in. About 1,600 public safety officers from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania supplemented the District's Metropolitan Police Department, which, in turn, followed the U.S. Secret Service's lead for heightened security related to all things presidential. D.C. police also maintained a visible presence during routine neighborhood patrols.

The costs, so far, are staggering. D.C. police overtime costs are estimated at $3 million, yet Congress appropriated $2.3 million. The District owes other state agencies about $900,000. Peter LaPorte, director of the D.C. Emergency Management Agency, says preliminary calculations show the District spent more than $8 million. That figure includes public works crews, which had to follow their trash collection routines as well as special inaugural details, and snow crews, who had to make sure the streets were clear after the snow and ambulance crews and firefighters. (Surely you saw the firefighters, decked in their finest and working overtime, maintaining crowd safety at the many balls?)

All things being equal, the money was well-spent. The District had planned to spend about $6 million on the extra security, special stagings and the cleanup. So this really and truly involves simple arithmetic. Six million minus $8 million equals … well, now you get the picture.

D.C. taxpayers have been in similar predicaments because of special national events. In April, for example, the city spent more than $8 million on overtime, equipment and planning for the massive World Bank/International Monetary Fund protests. The feds reimbursed the city $4.5 million. Now the city stands to lose another $2 million on the inauguration. Two million plus $3.5 million equals nearly $5.5 million.

Fortunately, presidential inaugurations are quadrennial affairs. However, the nation's capital regularly draws huge protests, rallies and celebrations and the city's public safety personnel have always stood at the ready and rarely disappointed. Those circumstances make it easier for the city's congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, to request supplemental funding. Mrs. Norton plans to introduce legislation that would mandate an annual federal reimbursement to D.C. police for handling national events. Such legislation doesn't sound unreasonable unless it involves a predetermined dollar figure.

The long and short of the issue, then, is not an unwillingness on the part of D.C. taxpayers to help pay the price for living in the nation's capital. It seems appropriate that the federal government allot special consideration to the District for these special burdens.


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