- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

On Wednesday, I announced that I am endorsing Marie Johns for mayor of the nation’s capital for one simple reason: She is the best candidate running for the office. She has the best combination of skills and commitment to lead the District at this critical moment in our city’s development.

I have known Marie a long time, first when she was an executive with Bell Atlantic, and then at Verizon where she ran a corporation with 2,000 employees. She was always heavily involved in the community, and especially committed to training young Washingtonians for jobs in the telecommunications industry. In fact, she created a program that placed more than 400 young people — including many who had dropped out of high school — in telecommunications jobs. And she successfully encouraged other business leaders to follow her example.

So, I was pleased when she announced that she was running for mayor. I told her it was a brave thing to do and I wished her luck, but I didn’t immediately jump aboard. But as the campaign unfolded I came to admire Marie more and more: the way she was listening to people all across the city; how articulate she was at debates, forums and other venues; her ideas for change; and the fact that she possesses the leadership skills necessary to implement them.

Marie has run a very positive campaign. I know she was encouraged to “go negative.” But Marie remained steadfast in her insistence that she will present herself and her vision, and leave it to the voters to decide who is the best candidate. Her campaign has been about who she is and what she would do if she were mayor.

I like Marie’s emphasis on jobs, training and early childhood education. I admire the way she has talked head-on about poverty and crime in the city, and her emphasis on both prevention and protecting our communities. I share her view that this city has the resources and the ability to reach out to young people in desperate neighborhoods and help them turn their lives around before they end up dead or in jail.

I trust Marie’s business sense and experience. I know that she realizes you can’t just say you are for change — either in government or a big corporation — you have to work hard and long and build allies to make change happen.

Marie is fiscally responsible and does not promise the moon. With the housing boom slowing it will be increasingly difficult to satisfy competing claims on the city’s limited resources.The next mayor will have to run the city efficiently and make tough choices.

As this summer wore on and I listened to all of the candidates, I began thinking more and more often: Marie is the best.And I heard people all over town saying exactly the same thing. But always with a caveat: She’s the best, but can she win? Would my vote count more if I chose between the apparent frontrunners?

Finally I realized: If I think she is the best, I should say so and try to help her win. So, here I am.

I hope others will make the same decision. We have come a long way in the last eight years with Tony Williams as mayor and Linda Cropp pulling the D.C. Council together.But now we need a new kind of leader — with a combination of management skills, good ideas, life experience and, above all, a total commitment to making D.C. a better place to live. And that leader is Marie Johns.

Alice Rivlin is director of the Brookings Institution’s Greater Washington Research Program. She also is a former chairman of the D.C. Financial Management and Assistance Authority and a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. She also served in the Johnson and Clinton administrations.

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