- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday dismissed criticism that he is not "black enough" to be the District's mayor, saying he should be seen as an example of black success.
"I say to mothers and fathers all the time, 'Think about all the work you put into your family. If you are able to look back and say my son or daughter went to Yale or Harvard and people criticize them for being too removed and too middle class that is success for you as a parent, your family and our community,'" Mr. Williams told reporters and editors at The Washington Times.
"The fact that I could come [from] adoption and be where I am, I should be seen as a success."
The mayor, who is seeking re-election as a write-in candidate in the Sept. 10 Democratic mayoral primary, noted a disconnect between his efforts to improve life for all residents and the perception that he ignores the poor.
"I am proud of the fact that investments this government has made and the strategy we have used has been undertaken regardless of politics," Mr. Williams said. "Ward 8 is not my bastion of support. But if you look at my record, I've given much of my focused time and attention to Ward 8 because I think it is the right thing for the city."
He said that there are plans to build two supermarkets in the predominantly black wards east of the Anacostia River, and that a contract is in place for one at Camp Simms in Southeast. Funding and other arrangements have been set for the Anacostia Gateway, an urban improvement plan for attracting business in Ward 8, he added.
The Rev. Willie F. Wilson, whom the mayor called a "serious" challenger, has attacked Mr. Williams on closing D.C. General Hospital and creating a school board of both elected and appointed members. Mr. Wilson, a Baptist minister, also is running a write-in campaign for the Democratic primary.
"I've made some tough decisions for which I don't get enough credit for, such as restructuring the health care and school systems," Mr. Williams said yesterday.
The newly privatized health care system allows for more "preventative care" that will address diseases such as "diabetes, HIV/AIDS and hypertension" that have disproportionately affected black residents for decades, he said.
Under his administration, schools are opening on time and providing enough books for students, he said, adding that the new school board has had a lot to do with the improvements and with creating "the largest, fully-funded charter school" system in the nation.
"D.C. General and the school board were the toughest decisions I had to make," Mr. Williams said. "They both have these historical, cultural and racial connotations."
D.C. General was the only recourse for health care for blacks during segregation, and the school board was the first elected entity in the District, the mayor said, adding that his decisions hurt his image among some blacks with regard to home rule.
"But the durability of home rule depends on people seeing that there is a mayor willing to make difficult decisions," Mr. Williams said.
He cited his administration's successes, such as its work in increasing business investment and providing affordable housing. But he also noted trouble spots, such as the city's rising homicide rate and a shortage of police officers.
"We set up a new deployment plan trying to get more uniformed people out in the districts, while building up the authorized [3,800-officer] strength of the department," he said.
"I am worried that the new initiative by the National Transportation Safety Board prompted by the events of September 11 to use police officers to patrol airports will undercut the city's ability to attract more officers," Mr. Williams added.
He said he doesn't disagree with the D.C. Council that more officers are needed on the street; Mr. Wilson has criticized the mayor for rejecting a bill passed by the council that would have put more officers on the street.
"This goal that we've set is very important, and I meet with Chief [Charles H.] Ramsey every week and he knows that," Mr. Williams said.
The mayor said his recent campaign woes a $250,000 fine for forged signatures on his nominating petitions and his removal from the Democratic primary ballot have taught him the value of "cutting out the middle man" and talking to residents directly.
"There is a difference between being out in the community as mayor and being out personally," Mr. Williams said.
"I think people feel more comfortable with the mayor being struck low out there as public servant [as] opposed to a mayor running unopposed, cruising at high altitude and occasionally waving to the crowd."

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