- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 6, 2001

D.C. leaders yesterday proposed a bill that would create an independent chief financial officer and put the city on its way to self-rule.
D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp introduced the measure that allows the mayor to appoint a CFO subject to confirmation by the council. That appointee would be charged with calculating revenue estimates and hiring and overseeing all deputy CFOs. In this scenario, the mayor could only fire the CFO with the approval of two-thirds of the council.
The current office of the CFO is independent and reports on financial matters to the D.C. government, the financial control board and Congress. Both the office of the CFO and the control board were created by Congress to closely monitor budget and revenue issues. The mayor currently nominates the CFO and the control board confirms the choice.
"This is another step to restoring home rule following the control board period," said Mrs. Cropp. "We believe elected officials can oversee our fiscal matters and continue to conduct the necessary analysis and oversight to keep the District moving in the right direction. This bill recognizes the valuable role of the CFO [in this]."
City leaders also hope to pre-empt any attempt by Congress to create a shadow control board, while preventing any return to the disastrous financial situation four years ago that led to the control boards creation.
U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella, Maryland Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform District of Columbia subcommittee, suggested a shadow control board, an independent chief financial officer and a revenue commission. Mrs. Morellas remarks drew strong objections from D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
The legislation introduced by Mrs. Cropp was created with the help of the control board, Mayor Anthony A. Williams and current CFO Natwar Gandhi.
"This legislation will protect the independence of the CFO while making sure of responsibility to the public," said Ward 2 council member Jack Evans. "I believe it will do everything and then some to keep the city on firm ground now and in the future."
Council members are hoping this action is welcome by Congress and will testify on Friday as to why Congress should relinquish its oversight role once the control board sunsets in September.
"It is very important that the local leadership be the deciding force in how the [office of the] CFO should look," Mr. Evans said.
Meanwhile, congressional sources said there is likely to be strong congressional support for the initiative to create an independent CFO.
One congressional staffer, who declined to be named, said that members of Congress who oversee the District are currently "trying to define the post-control board era and the role of the players" and would be "inclined" to support such an initiative.
Paul Welday, spokesman for Rep. Joe Knollenberg, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District, called the process "evolutionary."
"We are moving in a way to help D.C. stand on its own two feet wherever possible," he said.
He added that the congressman is "leaning toward" self-rule, but declined to comment more specifically.


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