- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 8, 2004

Hecklers forced Mayor Anthony A. Williams off his script only once during the annual State of the District speech Thursday night. For the rest, he has only himself to blame.

Call it revision, improvisation or just a change of heart, but key lines in the mayor’s 70-minute speech changed from the script to the podium, and rarely for the better.

For example, during a passage decrying youth violence such as last Monday’s shooting of a student at Ballou Senior High School, Mr. Williams altered the line: “Every time a child dies in our city, I die a little.” He replaced it with, “Every time a child dies in this city, all of us die a little bit.”

A notable revision, given the mayor’s reputation for aloofness. Perhaps the mayor lost sight of the TelePrompter as he slouched casually over the podium during most of his address. Perhaps Mr. Williams was reading a fresher script than the one his communications staff gave to reporters in the darkened Lincoln Theatre after his speech had commenced.

Or maybe the jeers he and his Cabinet were greeted with at Ballou a day after the shooting were responsible for a change in the scripted line, “No one, except the killer, is to blame.” Mr. Williams actually said, “None of us, except the killer, are to blame.”

In another portion of the speech, Mr. Williams expressed outrage that 8,000 criminals, including violent offenders, are on the streets because they have ignored their court dates.

“If they don’t show up at court, we should find them and bring them back immediately. That’s the U.S. marshal’s job. But they aren’t getting the job done,” the printed version of the speech reads.

But that statement was blunted when Mr. Williams added the unscripted phrase “because they don’t have sufficient resources.”

Resources are pretty important. Mr. Williams promised “resources” to the Metropolitan Police Department to help them round up criminals. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey probably would have rather had the “funding” that was noted in the script.

Other pronouncements on education and public safety were diluted by the inclusion of conversational clauses — “to me …” and “Now, I don’t know about you, but I can tell you …” and “In my mind …”

Maybe those clauses were appropriate, given the number of D.C. Council members who lined up after the speech to announce that the mayor’s boldest proposal — that he would seek council authority to hire a new head of schools — was dead on arrival.

And even that carefully leaked announcement wasn’t safe from an impromptu edit.

All but one of five scripted references to a schools “chancellor” were deleted, in most cases replaced with the more familiar “superintendent.”

mEverybody’s favorite

Members of the Virginia House of Delegates adjourned Friday with a bit more excitement than usual. The House had passed a resolution honoring Miss Virginia, Nancy Amanda Redd of Martinsville.

Delegate Ward L. Armstrong, Henry County Democrat, introduced Miss Redd by belting out a hearty rendition of “Here she is, Miss Virginia.” He was greeted by boos and groans from his colleagues.

Mr. Armstrong read Miss Redd’s long list of accolades, including that she is a 2003 cum laude graduate of Harvard University and that she won several thousand dollars on the TV show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

He went on to boast of her making the top 10 in the Miss America Pageant, and told his fellow lawmakers he tried to convince her to wear her swimsuit into the General Assembly.

Miss Redd, 22, was unfazed and strolled up the House floor to greet a blushing House Speaker William J. Howell, Stafford County Republican. She wore a bright red dress.

Fellow Democrat Kristen J. Amundson of Fairfax County later chided Mr. Armstrong, asking him to keep his day job.

mComeback kid?

He’s thinking about it.

Former D.C. Mayor Marion S. Barry says he may run for the Ward 8 D.C. Council seat now held by Sandy Allen.

Barry attended two funerals Saturday — one for Jahkema Princess Hansen, a 14-year-old girl who was shot after apparently witnessing a killing; the other for James Richardson, the 17-year-old football star who was gunned down inside Ballou Senior High School. After services, several mourners urged Barry to run. He says with comments like that, he has to at least consider the idea. He says he has lived in Ward 8 since 1992.

Matthew Cella and Christina Bellantoni contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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