- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2006

D.C. Council members yesterday gave final approval to pay raises for themselves and for the city’s next mayor, authorizing the increases just days before the current council period expires.

The salary measure was one of a number of bills passed during the council’s final legislative session before it recesses Saturday. Three new council members and a new council chairman will be sworn in on Jan. 2.

With little fanfare or debate, members approved their own 24 percent pay raise — meaning incoming and re-elected council members will earn $115,000 next year if Congress does not object to the increase.

The increase means council members will earn more than their counterparts in cities like New York, where members will earn $112,500 next year.

“There’s no question that we’re near the top,” said council member Phil Mendelson, an at-large Democrat who introduced the bill and amended it to include cost-of-living increases. “But there’s company.”

The median household income for the District last year was $47,221, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bill, which passed on a 7-3 vote, will raise the mayor’s salary 31.6 percent from $152,000 to $200,000 and will raise the incoming council chairman’s salary to $190,000.

Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat and incoming mayor, and Vincent C. Gray, Ward 7 Democrat and incoming council chairman, recused themselves from the vote.

The bill will also create a commission to review the salaries of council members, the council chairman and the mayor.

Voting against the measure were Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat; Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican; and Kwame Brown, at-large Democrat.

“I felt that there wasn’t enough public discourse,” Mr. Brown said. “The public has a right to have a little more input in what the salaries are.”

Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat, was absent because of illness.

The council yesterday also approved a $3.5 million grant to help the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) acquire land to move its headquarters from Baltimore to the District.

Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, who introduced an emergency bill authorizing the funds, hailed as historic the organization’s planned move.

“We have a wonderful opportunity to make history here in the District of Columbia,” Mr. Barry said. “It’s wonderful to have the NAACP in the new Ward 8, which will bring some hope and help for all of us.”

The move had been announced by Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, on Monday, but was contingent in part on the council approving the land-acquisition funds.

The civil rights organization, which has been located in Baltimore for the past two decades, was originally founded in New York City in 1909. The group is expected to move into a building in the Anacostia Gateway development project on the 1800 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast.

The council also gave final approval to anti-crime bills authorizing the use of neighborhood surveillance cameras, the detention of some offenders until trial and the sharing of juvenile criminal records with police.

One bill that did not make it before the council was an emergency proposal to build a new central library at the site of the old convention center in Northwest.

Mrs. Patterson was expected to introduce an emergency bill authorizing construction of the new $275 million library on behalf of Mr. Williams.

“The mayor withdrew it,” said Mrs. Patterson, chairman of the Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation. “I think the public interest has not been served, and I’m sorry for that.”

Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat, closed the session by presenting the council’s outgoing members with crystal bowls engraved with their names and their dates of service.

Mrs. Cropp, who gave up her seat in an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic mayoral nomination, choked back tears while thanking her staff and colleagues.

“This has been an outstanding council,” Mrs. Cropp said. “I thank you all so very much for working with me and giving me the opportunity to serve the District of Columbia.”

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