- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2003

The D.C. Council adjourned yesterday, leaving behind several pieces of legislation introduced belatedly on behalf of the mayor, two important confirmations, the police chief’s retirement package and a lease agreement for the old Convention Center.

During the final legislative hearing this week, council members put on hold until the fall the confirmation of John R. Heller III to the board of directors of the National Capital Revitalization Corp.

“The NCRC is an agency with eminent-domain powers and basically has control over all development in the city,” said council member Kevin P. Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat.

“Are we supposed to confirm his appointment to an agency of this magnitude in one day? No, it doesn’t work that way,” Mr. Chavous said.

The council also refused to transfer control of the old Convention Center site to the Washington Convention Center Authority (WCCA). The council handled nearly all other D.C. business in a 12-hour legislative session last week, including a pay raise for Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp said during that session there were “192 agenda items to be voted on.”

The council narrowly approved a $25,000 raise for Chief Ramsey in a 7-6 vote. Adrian M. Fenty, Sandra Allen, at-large Democrat Phil Mendelson, Kathy Patterson and David Catania voted against the raise. Miss Allen, Ward 8 Democrat, and Mr. Catania, at-large Republican, reneged on promises to Mrs. Cropp, Democrat, to vote in favor of the raise.

Mrs. Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, refused to move the chief’s upgraded retirement package — which would increase his $44,000 annual retirement to $60,000 a year after 10 years — out of the judiciary committee, which she chairs. She said she would revisit the matter next year.

Mrs. Patterson said she wants Chief Ramsey to make significant strides in hiring more officers and bring the department to its optimum strength of 3,800, and to improve the 51 percent case-closure rate for homicides.

Several pieces of legislation were tabled intentionally in the two sessions either because of short notice from Mr. Williams or political opposition to his agenda.

The council already had decided to hold up a confirmation of Yvonne Gilchrist, who was appointed by the mayor as director of the Department of Human Services.

Miss Allen, chairman of the health and human services committee, said she was forced to table a recommendation to confirm Miss Gilchrist. She said Mr. Williams submitted Miss Gilchrist’s name for the job on June 11 — five days before she took office — leaving the council member with only a month to make a recommendation to the council.

The confirmation hearings are expected to start in October, and council members have until Nov. 18 to vote or the appointment takes effect automatically.

Two bills presented to the council by Mr. Williams on Friday were too late to be considered, said Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat.

“There are a lot of questions here. … We’ve been talking about this for eight months; why send this to us at the 11th hour, 59 minutes?” Mr. Evans asked, referring to the tardiness of the bill to transfer the old convention center and lease it to WCCA.

Mr. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, was particularly concerned about absence of details on the lease agreement.

The bill, introduced by Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat, at the behest of the mayor, only mentions that WCCA would take control of the property to lease to a parking vendor.

“With all that we’ve gone through with leases in property management in the past month how can you expect us to approve a lease without even seeing the agreement,” Mr. Fenty said.

“Are we supposed to just trust [the WCCA] — a quasi-government agency that refused to help us with our budget when we were going through a fiscal crisis last year?” asked council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican.

Mr. Brazil finally withdrew the legislation, as he did with the bill to confirm Mr. Heller.

The council resumes on Sept. 16 and will spend the summer recess doing research and polling the community in drafting its next legislative agenda.


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