- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2006

It was supposed to be a meeting of the mayors to honor a mayor — but it was one mayor short.

Last week, the District held a ceremony to rename the 400 block of T Street Northwest “Home of Walter Washington Way” in honor of the late Walter E. Washington, the city’s first mayor under home rule.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams and former Mayor Sharon Pratt attended the event, held on the street in front of Mr. Washington’s former home, but former “Mayor for Life” Marion Barry was conspicuously absent.

Mr. Barry’s name was on the morning’s program as a speaker, and he was scheduled to make remarks after Mr. Williams and immediately before Mrs. Pratt.

Several speakers, including Mrs. Pratt, said during the ceremony that they were sure Mr. Barry would come before the ceremony was over.

He never did. Mr. Barry later said he could not attend because he was at the hospital with his 89-year-old mother, Mattie Cummings.

Working it

Kelvin J. Robinson, Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ former chief of staff, has been barred by federal officials from working for the D.C. government.

So he has found a new job lobbying his old colleagues.

Mr. Robinson is nearing the end of his two-year ban from city employment, which was imposed when he settled with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. The office’s probe found he violated the federal Hatch Act by asking subordinates to work for Mr. Williams’ 2002 re-election campaign.

Mr. Robinson resigned on July 7, 2004, and agreed not to seek or accept a city job for two years, starting Aug. 1, 2004.

Still, he’s been in frequent contact with his former colleagues in recent months.

According to recent filings with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, Mr. Robinson earned $45,000 during the first half of 2006 from A-1 Construction and Consulting to lobby for “Greater Southeast service expansion.”

A-1 Construction is owned by prominent lobbyist and political fundraiser Kerry S. Pearson, who has earned hundreds and thousands of dollars in lobbying fees in recent years from Greater Southeast Community Hospital.

Pro-rated, Mr. Robinson would have an annual salary of $90,000 from his new A-1 Construction job. But it’s a far cry from D.C. government work. As chief of staff, Mr. Robinson made $132,395.

Rallying for Israel

More than a dozen Maryland officials in Baltimore last week signaled solidarity with the state’s Jewish community at a rally in support of Israel in its war with Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

Some politicians in tough election contests this year — including Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican seeking re-election, and his Democratic opponent, Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley — condemned Hezbollah and were rewarded with enthusiastic cheers from the more than 350 people gathered at the city’s Holocaust Memorial.

“Hezbollah is as much America’s enemy as it is Israel’s enemy,” Mr. Ehrlich said. “This is a terror group. They must be engaged. They must be taken down. It is not that complicated.”

Mr. O’Malley told the crowd of his visit to Israel last year. He called the country a “shining beacon of freedom that survives to this day based on the strength and the dedication of people who put God and country and security and the future of their children ahead of everything else.”

The conflict, which was sparked when Hezbollah fighters staged a cross-border raid July 12 and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, continued to escalate last week with Israeli bombings and Hezbollah rocket attacks.

U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate who is not known for stirring oratory, delivered an impassioned speech to his fellow Jews.

“Israel not only has the right to defend itself against terrorism, it has the responsibility to do it,” Mr. Cardin said. “We stand united today with Israel in a common mission to root out terrorism wherever we will find it. We will not compromise in our fight against terrorism.”

He said Middle East peace will only be won when the international community follows the United States’ lead and enforces sanctions against Iran and Syria, cutting off their support of Hezbollah and other terror groups.

Several people in the crowd said they appreciated the show of support for Israel, but the speeches likely would not win their votes, especially in the governor’s race where both major candidates voiced strong support for the Jewish state.

Mr. Cardin’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination, former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People leader Kweisi Mfume, did not attend the rally, which was sponsored by the Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and the Baltimore Jewish Council.

The Mfume campaign did not return a call seeking comment.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the Republican front-runner in the Senate race, also did not attend. Mr. Steele was touring Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, an event that was scheduled months ago, a Steele campaign official said.

Democratic leaders at the rally included Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.; Baltimore County Executive James T Smith Jr.; Baltimore City Council member Keiffer Jackson Mitchell Jr.; state Sens. Paula C. Hollinger and James Brochin, both of Baltimore County; and Delegates Dan K. Morhaim and Robert A. Zirkin, both of Baltimore County, and Delegate Samuel I. Rosenberg of Baltimore.

Mayor interrupted

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ weekly press conference had a surprise interruption last week when the president of a city civic association, who had been invited as part of an announcement about National Night Out, commandeered the microphone.

“My name is Betty Newell, and I’m president of East Central Civic Association,” she told reporters and the mayor. “There’s money out there, I understand. I have a youth-against-crime program that I’m working with, and I need some money.”

Mrs. Newell’s move took the mayor by surprise. Mr. Williams exchanged a look of bewilderment with his spokesman, Vincent Morris, but neither men seemed to know how to stop the 59-year-old activist from giving her speech.

“All I want to say is people in the community are there, and they see hear and know,” she said. “And I just had to get up here and make my point.”

On the calendar

House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. announced last week that he will hold a hearing in September on the District of Columbia Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said he has already been in contact with Mr. Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican, and has asked him to support the bill.

“I’ve talked to him, I’ve urged the chairman to strongly support the bill,” Mr. Williams said. “He did not make a commitment but he is open, which I think is headway.”

The hearing will be Sept. 14, officials with Mr. Sensenbrenner’s office said.

“I would like to be able to at some date before the hearing sit down with him and urge his general and strong support,” Mr. Williams said.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, would give the District one vote in Congress.

Ladies’ day

The ladies of the D.C. Council are sticking together.

Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat, last week officially endorsed Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, in her run for council chairman.

The endorsement did not come as a surprise as the two have been close friends since 1994 when Mrs. Patterson took the Ward 3 seat from incumbent Jim Nathanson, a Democrat. Mrs. Ambrose also unofficially endorsed Mrs. Patterson in March when her chairman campaign was announced.

“I hope this event means people in Ward 6 will sit up and notice Kathy,” Mrs. Ambrose said at a party held at Marty’s on Eighth Street in Southeast.

Mrs. Patterson said the event should add some spring to her campaign.

“It’s just to energize workers more than anything,” Mrs. Patterson said.

Stepping down

The top public health administrator for Washington County, Md., announced his retirement amid charges he sexually harassed women and created a hostile work environment.

William G. Christoffel’s retirement Oct. 1 will resolve those complaints and end years of turmoil over his efforts to curb teen pregnancy by expanding sex education in the county’s public schools,

Mr. Christoffel, 64, gave no reasons for his retirement in a letter he and his attorney, Arthur Schneider, sent last Monday to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the Washington County Commissioners. County health officers are DHMH employees.

Mr. Christoffel has been on paid administrative leave since June 9.

County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the retirement would resolve charges recently documented by a state investigator with the DHMH that Mr. Christoffel had “engaged in sexually harassing behavior” and created a hostile environment for health department workers and employees of a Johns Hopkins University research center housed in the same county-owned building.

Mr. Christoffel has denied making any offensive comments to his staff.

Mr. Christoffel has said that other sexually charged comments and actions attributed to him in the investigator’s report such as placing condoms on the table while having lunch with a school board member were taken out of context.

He said he often used humor and lighthearted banter to promote contraception.

Mr. Snook praised Mr. Christoffel’s work during nearly six years in the position, including a campaign against teen pregnancy that Mr. Snook called a “hot button” for the county Board of Education.

Mr. Christoffel repeatedly has asked the schools to do more to prevent teen pregnancy. He advocated having the schools counsel teenagers about condoms and birth-control pills to help reduce a teen birth rate that was fourth-highest in the state in 2003, with 45 pregnancies per 1,000 teenage girls.

School board member Bernadette Wagner said some members felt slighted by what they perceived as Mr. Christoffel blaming the schools for a problem the entire community should address.

“Mr. Christoffel did play the blame game, and that’s the part that was controversial,” Miss Wagner said.

In April, Sandra C. Hoffman, assistant director of the Hopkins research center, complained to DHMH about Mr. Christoffel’s behavior, the county commissioners temporarily blocked $134,000 earmarked for the health department’s teen-pregnancy prevention program.

They released the money July 11 after assurances that the department’s expanding number of “wellness centers” in middle and high schools wouldn’t discuss contraception but would instead refer students to agency offices off school grounds.


James H. Webb Jr., the Republican turned Democrat running against incumbent Sen. George Allen in Virginia, provided another example last week of why he decided to switch political parties.

At the first debate in the U.S. Senate race, Mr. Webb, former secretary of the Navy, told the lawyers, journalists and political junkies that five months before the Iraq invasion he met with Mr. Allen to warn him that the United States needed a defined exit strategy if the invasion went forward.

Mr. Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran, supported Mr. Allen in 2000 when he defeated Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb, a former Marine.

“I expected strong leadership in foreign affairs in particular,” he told the audience.

But after his prewar conversation with Mr. Allen, he felt shortchanged and picked up the telephone.

“After that meeting, I called Senator Robb’s people, and I said straight up in 2002 that the Senate would be a better place if Senator Robb were in it with these issues that confront us,” Mr. Webb said.

To which, Mr. Allen, known for his folksy charm, responded, “Well, I wish Jim was still endorsing me. I’d buy you a beer. It would be a Virginia beer, either Coors or Budweiser.”

Whatever the outcome, Mr. Webb said that the two men will still share a beer after the election.

He did not say what type, but perhaps they will opt for one of Old Dominion’s 31 beers that are brewed in Loudoun County.

Amy Doolittle, Jim McElhatton, Seth McLaughlin and S.A. Miller contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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