- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2005

When Tony Williams first ran for mayor in 1998, the capital was in the dumps. Yesterday Mr. Williams said he will seek a “new chapter… new challenges” but not a third term, and he challenged those who want to replace him in City Hall. His heretofore legacy and his straightforward advice should be heeded.

Mr. Williams’ turn at mayor is virtually unmatched in the city’s short history of home rule. While his first few years in office can easily be compared to the first terms of Walter Washington and Marion Barry, Mr. Williams, unlike Messrs. Washington and Barry, devised a plan to restore fiscal integrity and move the city beyond urban stereotypes and racial monikers — and, most importantly, he implemented that plan.

It was CFO Tony Williams, hired by then-Mayor Barry, who first showed his hand at demanding that only skilled and professional employees would work in his budget and finance shop. It was CFO Williams who worked in tandem with the congressionally established Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority — or control board, as it came to be called, sometimes disparagingly — to stem the city government’s red ink and restore fiscal integrity. With the D.C. Council, the mayor sent balanced budgets to Capitol Hill, and the consequences led to dormancy for the control board. The most remarkable results, though, are that Congress has loosened its grip on the city’s pursestrings and the District’s creditworthiness went from junk status to an A rating — no small feat for a government whose slothful ways meant that 10 years ago, the city couldn’t even meet its payroll obligations.

As for economic development, the Williams administration has thousands of new homeowners and other residents thanks to new housing online in the poorest quadrant of the city, and still more in the pipeline elsewhere. The cranes and bulldozers are a testament to the streamlining of a regulatory bureaucracy that once strangled itself. To be sure, the mayor considers the return of Major League Baseball one of his most noteworthy feathers (we just wish his plan to build a new stadium didn’t depend on public coffers).

It’s worth noting that with Mr. Williams, one of our favorite Democrats, stepping aside, lame duck status is likely to be foremost on the minds of lawmakers and some of the mayor’s own senior advisers. We urge Mr. Williams to continue to push policies that move the city forward, and we hope that includes investing more political capital on improving the academic results of school-age children and combating adult illiteracy.

To those with mayoral intentions, Mr. Williams said he didn’t “want his future plans to cloud the landscape,” and he challenged the candidates to develop and offer stakeholders “concrete ideas” on how to continue the forward movement. As the mayor said, “We should be proud” of where the capital of the free world is at this juncture. We are, Mr. Mayor, and you should be, too.


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