- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2004

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams says the city is working to solve several problems and he expects the new year to bring improvements in health care, education and law enforcement.

“I’m happy that we’re moving in the right direction now,” Mr. Williams said last week in an interview on WUSA-TV (Channel 9).

The Democratic mayor cited a 6 percent decline in the annual homicide rate — noting a quick turnaround in just a few months. In May, the homicide rate was pacing more than 25 percent ahead of 2002 levels. The Metropolitan Police Department has said there were 246 homicides in the past year, compared with 262 in 2002.

Mr. Williams also noted that overall violent crime is down in the city. He has set a goal of reaching the police’s authorized strength of 3,800 officers. There currently are about 3,670 officers on the force.

He touted economic gains made in the past 12 months as among the greatest accomplishments of his administration. During the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the D.C. government helped finance more than 2,700 housing units through a trust fund established to subsidize affordable housing in the city.

In the five years since he took office, Mr. Williams says, residential development has risen from as few as three units per year to more than 35,000 now planned or under construction. Commercial construction, including the new Washington Convention Center, totaled more than 10 million square feet for the calendar year.

“The greatest investment site internationally is Washington, D.C., and I’m proud of it,” Mr. Williams said.

He said he also is working with the D.C. Council to pursue an agreement with Howard University to build and operate a new hospital to serve residents of the city living east of the Anacostia River.

“It will be a full-service hospital” on the grounds of the old D.C. General Hospital, strengthening the overall provider network, Mr. Williams said.

The mayor reduced D.C. General to an outpatient community health center in 2001, leaving Greater Southeast Community Hospital as the main hospital for the poor east of the river. Greater Southeast has since had several problems, including revoked accreditation and bankruptcy.

The mayor also expressed confidence that a federally funded voucher program pending before Congress will help provide educational choices for about 1,700 low-income students in the coming school year. The measure also provides more funding for the city’s public and charter schools.

“That will help education in our city, which is the cornerstone of everything we’re trying to do,” Mr. Williams said.

• Gator Bowl bet

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. bet a dozen steamed crabs that the University of Maryland would prevail over the University of West Virginia in the Gator Bowl on Thursday.

West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, Democrat, wagered a 10-pound case of farm-raised rainbow trout.

“I appreciate Governor Wise’s generous wager, which I’ll be collecting after a resounding Terps victory on New Year’s Day,” the Maryland Republican predicted Wednesday.

• Court Marylanders

Maryland state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who is a U.S. Senate candidate, wrapped up a statewide tour last week that included stops in all 24 Maryland counties, his campaign office announced.

Over 60 days, the Republican crisscrossed the state to build support for his campaign and get to know Marylanders, he said in a news release.

The Queen Anne’s County senator has raised about $120,000 for his bid against Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Democrat.

This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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