- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006

The D.C. Council begins next week in earnest its public hearings on Mayor Tony Williams’ budget plan for the next fiscal year. Actually, the mayor’s is a spending plan, proposing to raise taxes and fees to pay for entitlements and other give-aways, as well as to cover the costs of fulfill promises he made long ago. It’s the council’s shining moment, the time for all 13 lawmakers to strap passion to their cuffs and turn on the spigots to the coffers.

In other words, it’s showtime.

Don’t expect a compassionate but conservative prospectus. The bleeding hearts allow no such outlook, and the bleeding hearts control both City Hall and the lists of speakers who testify before the lawmakers.

The mayor proposes spending $7.5 billion. It’s a low ball that assumes lawmakers will let the mayor have his way, and we know that legislatures never let chief executives have their way.

Besides, every member of the D.C. Council either already has his name on the ballot for this year, or is positioning himself to run in two years. The rhetoric heretofore has been as trustworthy as one might expect from term-limitless pols.

Lawmakers should be beating the brow of the executive branch on why we still have but one motor-vehicle inspection facility open, when we’ve been paying for two. This city reverts to its natural setting — swamp-like — in late spring. As the heat and humidity begin bearing down, officials will again inconvenience us by cutting back on the hours that one station is open. Please, lawmakers, do not spare us the details of the five-year-old boondoggle; we’re willing to hear each and every excuse.

Council members also should take a united, unwavering stand on the question of what to do with the main library in downtown Washington. The King library is not just a building. It’s a work of art. It’s a Mies van der Rohe. Find the proper architects, hire the proper contractor and restore the library. While we’re at it, build two additional floors. It is of mere convenience that the public uses that library as it is, with its broken elevators, insufficient lighting and impossible copmputer catalogues. It’s anyone’s guess much of time where books and other materials are. The MLK library is supposed to be the feather in our system’s cap; instead it explains why our regional and branch libraries are so incredibly insufficient.

Solving the MLK library begs still yet another question: If the library stays put, what to do with the old convention center site? That answer is obvious: The city should build a multi-level, self-service public parking garage. Got that? A garage. A multi-level, self-service garage. A garage that’s open 24-7. Such a garage should have been built decades ago in a city the size of Washington, with millions of residents, commuters and tourists coming and going.

The only D.C. residents who stand to benefit from the city’s parking problems are the 13 members of the D.C. Council, who, several years ago, followed the lead of Republican Carol Schwartz and exempted themselves. Now a privileged class, they can park where they darn well please. (When Tony Williams no longer is mayor, he’ll get a better idea of what we little people have to put up with.)

The mayor has decided against giving an annual State of the Distrist address. He said he’d rather wait and give us a wrapup after his boxes in City Hall are packed. That’s too bad. We cannot afford to let the lame duck waddle around the Potomac and Anacostia for the rest of the year.

The hard work has yet to begin. Indeed, if the mayor gives up, we’ll have a diffcult time to keep economic development on track after he’s gone. We’ll have a difficult time trying to convince Congress we can do this without Tony. If we don’t straighten up and pay very close attention, we’ll have a chief financial officer who plays footsie with the new mayor, a school system whose fiscal year is not in sync with the rest of the city and a slew of lawmakers who are chasing their political dreams at the expense of good governance.

That this is the capital of the free world means there are lots of assumptions and presumptions. If we get voting rights for our congressional delegate, does that mean we’ll be given additional federal dollars for roads or mass transit? No. If we get statehood, is that a guarantee that our schools will be reformed? No.

The political fate of this federal district is sealed by the Constitution. It’s a cross worth bearing. This spending plan is Tony Williams’ last hoorah and there is no shortage of detractors who say hooray. Voters and taxpayers have a bumpy road ahead as we re-lay our priorities and make the tough choices. As Benjamin Banneker, who along with Andrew Ellicott redefined this wonderful city after the temperamental Pierre L’Enfant was fired, said: “Presumption should never make us neglect that which appears easy to us, nor despair make us lose courage at the sight of difficulties.”

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