- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said Fire Chief Ronnie Few's job performance will be reviewed monthly after an internal report on problems in the department is delivered later this week.
"I will look at the report that John [Koskinen] is going to do and with that look, in light of how [Chief Few] is doing overall, and make a judgment month to month," Mr. Williams said in a luncheon meeting yesterday with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
Mr. Koskinen, the city administrator, told The Times he would complete his internal report by tomorrow.
Mr. Williams said he will not make any decisions on Chief Few's job status or those of the chief's three top appointees until he reviews the report.
The Times reported in March that three of Chief Few's top appointees Assistant Chief Gary L. Garland, Assistant Chief Marcus R. Anderson and Deputy Chief Bruce A. Cowan inflated their professional and educational credentials on their resumes and employment applications.
The three said on their resumes they each held the rank of chief at the East Point, Ga., Fire Department. But none ever rose higher than lieutenant, said East Point's city attorney and a former fire chief in the department.
Chief Few apologized for an "oversight" in his resume last week after reports surfaced that it contained discrepancies.
Mr. Williams would not acknowledge that he had lost confidence in his fire chief, but he did say, "As mayor, I am concerned with any resume issue, and I take that very seriously.
"I also want to see that as people make top hires in their departments that they are making them with the kind of judgment and discretion and prudence I would expect from high Cabinet officials."
Mr. Williams, Mr. Koskinen and D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democat, who all attended the luncheon at The Times, talked at length about the city's $5.5 billion budget, the gaps, and income-tax cuts that were put on hold.
"We are not saying repeal the [income] tax cuts," Mr. Williams said. "We simply want to defer them until we can get the federal payment we need."
Mrs. Cropp said the budget pressures coming from D.C. Public Schools and Medicaid, in addition to the faltering economy after September 11, resulted in the council pushing back parity on income taxes.
She and Mr. Koskinen said the schools, which will receive $100 million more than last year, and Medicaid will have to be funded despite overspending in upcoming budgets.
"The council agreed that we should allow the tax parity on the business side to go forward because small businesses employ the majority of residents in this city and they needed help," Mrs. Cropp said.
But, "We did not want to take our existing budget and make cuts to our programs," she said.
"You have to realize that cutting taxes is spending money, too, and once you give it, you can't get it back."
The city has capped property-tax increases at 25 percent for all residents. In addition, taxes are capped for properties owned by seniors and for low-income residents who have owned their homes for seven years or more. Mrs. Cropp said the property-tax caps probably will be in the 2003 budget and perhaps the 2004 budget as well.
"But even after we made the $40 million in cuts and pushed back the tax parity for income taxes, there still may be a gap," Mr. Koskinen said.
But Mrs. Cropp pointed out that the city's economy was making a strong recovery.
Still, the mayor is continuing to look for new revenue-generating opportunities. Visitors and residents parking downtown, for example, may want to check their meters more often.
Mr. Williams is looking to "raise fines for expired meters from $15 to $35."
"When you compare our meter fines with the region, we are far lower," Mr. Williams said.
Mr. Koskinen said, "People are taking a gamble, parking on the street and either getting no ticket or opting to pay a small $15 fine."
The mayor said revenue from photo-radar and red-light cameras will not be used to solve the city's financial problems.
"The cameras are driven by safety. If citizens call for more cameras, we may see them," he said.
Mr. Williams and Mrs. Cropp both are facing September primaries.
Mr. Williams, who has been running unopposed, said he welcomes a challenger.
"As a politician, you want to be challenged, and I have a strong record. I want to see anyone come challenge me and stand up against it."
The mayor said he won't speculate who his opponent will be.
"But I don't think I will run unopposed for much longer," Mr. Williams said.

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