- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 19, 2005

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams used his final town hall meeting yesterday to tell residents he will continue working on such pressing concerns as youth development and the city’s aging library system.

“There’s a number of issues to be dealt with for the next 14 months or so and for the next mayor,” Mr. Williams, who is not seeking re-election, said at Citizen Summit IV.

Mr. Williams was joined at the Washington Convention Center by hundreds of residents, municipal employees and government officials, including several mayoral candidates. He said they will contribute valuable information to developing future budgets.

Residents gathered in roundtable discussions, then used laptop computers and keypads to vote on questions about the library system, employment, affordable housing and other key issues.

Mr. Williams, who put together a task force to address the library issue, has said he wants a central library at the former convention center site.

He also said the summit would not be residents’ only opportunity to comment on revamping the system.

Shirlee Hoffman, a Ward 5 resident who frequently visits the Martin Luther King Jr. and Lamond-Riggs branches, said public parking is a safety concern, particularly at the King library.

“The libraries should also have updated materials,” said Ms. Hoffman, a retired assistant librarian at Newsweek magazine.

Richard Crutchfield, 74, a resident of Ward 4, said the system is already adequate, but he would like to see a program that helps children with their homework.

“That should be the number one priority,” he said: “Getting them ready academically and intellectually for the job market.”

Organizers said about 3,000 people registered for the summit, scheduled every other year since 1999, but numerous tables were empty and many were occupied with event facilitators and government employees.

Mr. Williams said he took exception to assertions that the lower turnout was due to his preoccupation with the National League of Cities, of which he is president, and not promoting the event enough.

“Maybe I’m the only person who believes that me [heading] the NLC has been good for the city,” he said of the organization, which represents 18,000 cities nationwide. “To be honest, I’m happy with the turnout.”

Among the D.C. Council members in attendance were Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat; Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat; Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat; Vincent C. Gray, Ward 7 Democrat; Vincent B. Orange Sr., Ward 5 Democrat, and Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican. Mrs. Cropp, Mr. Fenty and Mr. Orange are mayoral candidates.

Mrs. Cropp said crime and the public school system were among residents’ major concerns.

“For me, education is always a hot-button issue, and that was validated by many of the people that I talked with,” she said.

City Administrator Robert C. Bobb said many residents who spoke with him were also concerned about education — along with affordable housing.

However, Mr. Bobb said he was disappointed with the lack of participation from Ward 8 residents, who made up just 5 percent of those in attendance.

“For all of the outreaching we’ve done, maybe we could’ve done a bit more,” he said.

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