- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

D.C. Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty yesterday said he has no plans to introduce new taxes because the city government has plenty of cash and its workers already earn enough money.

“We definitely don’t anticipate raising taxes,” Mr. Fenty told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. “I think the government has enough money, at $7.4 billion. I think we need to spend it more wisely.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr. Fenty — a Democrat who currently represents Ward 4 on the D.C. Council — discussed his plans to improve public schools, reform the emergency medical services division (EMS) of the fire department and advocate for D.C. statehood. He also said that he supports a commuter tax or federal payment to the District in lieu of such a tax.

But he said that lowering taxes to create greater parity is extremely slim without an expanded base and the ability to “tax income at its source.” Congress currently bars D.C. government from taxing the income of commuters.

“I support the triggers that are in place” for tax parity, said Mr. Fenty, 35. “If the economy supports reducing the income tax, then we should do it. Until we have the ability to tax income at its source, we’re just still always going to be tinkering around the edges.”

Mr. Fenty said he plans on streamlining city government by running it like a business, gutting inefficient agencies and not increasing the salaries of agency heads.

The Times reported in July that the number of city government workers earning salaries of $150,000 or more climbed from nine in 2002 to 43 last year.

In addition, the D.C. government’s payroll grew by nearly $180 million from 2002 to last year, while its work force decreased by more than 2,000 personnel during that period.

In July, Mr. Fenty voted with the rest of the council to increase the wages of agency heads in fiscal 2007 by 3 percent, to a maximum of $179,096. The median household income in the District was $47,221 last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau. The median household income in the U.S. was $46,326.

Mr. Fenty yesterday hedged on his previous pledge to separate EMS and the fire department, saying he is “open” to splitting the agencies, but has not made a decision.

“We’re committed to the concept,” he said. “But you don’t want to do it if it doesn’t work. But I think it will work.”

A plan to place the District’s struggling school system under the authority of the mayor’s office has been a major part in Mr. Fenty’s campaign and transition platforms.

Mr. Fenty favors a model — much like a schools accountability structure in New York City — that would create a Department of Education, in which the superintendent reports directly to the mayor.

He said he will decide whether to take control of schools next month. He said he would not eliminate the D.C. Board of Education and instead place it in an advisory role.

Robert C. Bobb, the president-elect of the board and former city administrator, has said he will fight a takeover that would relegate the board to an advisory body.

Mr. Fenty said he was scheduled to meet Mr. Bobb yesterday afternoon.

Fenty spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said that it was a routine conversation and that the two officials did not make any decision on a plan for the education system.

Mr. Bobb would not comment on the meeting, a spokeswoman said yesterday.

Mr. Fenty said he would aggressively lobby for D.C. statehood, beginning with a push for the passage of the D.C. Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act, currently before Congress.

The measure — proposed by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican — would give the District a vote in the House and add a House seat for largely Republican Utah.

If the bill is passed this session, it would create momentum in next year’s Democrat-controlled Congress that could lead to the District having a vote in the Senate as well, Mr. Fenty said.

“If Congress championed this issue, I think the people of the United States of America would support it wholeheartedly,” he said. “To me, there’s no such thing as being an American citizen and not being a part of a state. We’ve been left out for too long.”

Mr. Fenty announced his nomination of Neil O. Albert, former deputy mayor for children, youth, families and elders, to serve as deputy mayor for economic planning and development.

Mr. Fenty said he will eliminate the other three deputy mayor positions when he takes office Jan. 2.


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