- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Like all good politicians, Mayor Anthony Williams is a people-person. So much so, in fact, that in his second inaugural address, the mayor announced plans to increase the city's population by 100,000. "It's very, very important," Mr. Williams said last week of his No. 1 priority. "I analogize it to President Kennedy saying we are going to get someone on the moon." How does Mr. Williams propose getting there? With a plan that doesn't make any sense.

The mayor plans to lower the homicide rate and fix the schools, hoping to draw more middle-class families. However, his focus is way off base.

As it stands, the District not only can't attract middle-class families, it doesn't want them. Middle-class families with schoolchildren are a net loss for the District, taking more in government services than their taxes put in.

What is good for Washington's coffers are more singles and married couples without children. The possibility of being murdered is a concern for everyone, including these potential residents, but improved schools are not. What singles and childless couples do care about is taxes.

And the District's taxes are brutal. According to yet another study, this one by the liberal Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the District's taxes on the middle class far outpace those of the neighboring Virginia and Maryland suburbs. If Mr. Williams is serious about raising the tax base, the course would seem clear. By cutting taxes, the mayor can lure residents who don't strain social services, and thus watch the coffers fill. Then, city hall could actually afford the mayor's social-service proposals.

In fact, though, it isn't so much the people that Mr. Williams wants as their money. During 16 years of abysmal governance by Marion Barry, the District's fleeing residents left a hole in the city's tax base larger than the former mayor's potholes. Now, Mr. Williams hopes to turn the tide, with a special emphasis on luring back the middle-class black families that took refuge in Prince George's County. And the way to accomplish that, according to Mayor Williams and his minions, is to lower the homicide rate and improve public schools?

Less killing is always preferable to more, and there's no question that the District's schools could do with improvement (though we think the emphasis should be on the learning side of things rather than the facilities). But these initiatives take money, which is something the District doesn't have.

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