- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2007

D.C. Council member Marion Barry yesterday withdrew his effort to override a mayoral veto of his bill prohibiting discrimination against residents with criminal records, saying new council members need to study the measure further.

Mr. Barry wants to amend the Human Rights Act of 1977 to “prohibit employment, housing and educational discrimination based upon conviction record.”

The council passed the bill Dec. 19 on a 10-2 vote, but former Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, vetoed the measure, saying it could result in increased litigation against employers and compromise public safety.

Mr. Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, called Mr. Williams’ reasons for rejecting the bill “idiocy” and defended his proposal.

“How is public safety compromised or jeopardized by this bill?” said Mr. Barry, who noted that 60,000 people in the District have been convicted of crimes. “These persons are already in the community.”

Mr. Barry, who served four terms as mayor of the District, was arrested during his third term in 1990 after being videotaped smoking crack. He also was sentenced in March to three years of probation on tax charges, and he pleaded not guilty to a recent charge of driving under the influence. That charge is pending.

Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, was one of two council members who opposed Mr. Barry’s bill last month. Mr. Barry needed the support of eight of the council members to override the veto. Mr. Mendelson said that the votes for Mr. Barry’s measure have “vanished” since the veto, but that he might support a better-written bill.

“Discrimination should never be permitted,” Mr. Mendelson said. “But it’s reasonable that when a person is perceived as being a threat to a job, you would not hire them.”

Mr. Barry said he will reintroduce the bill.

The legislative meeting yesterday also featured a visit by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Mr. Bloomberg, a Republican, visited Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s bullpen-style office, which was modeled after his office in New York. Mr. Bloomberg expressed support for a plan to have the schools superintendent report directly to Mr. Fenty, a Democrat.

“I couldn’t support mayoral control more,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “You’re lucky enough to have a young, innovative mayor who’s willing to run the risks.”

Council members also took advantage of their first opportunity of the new session to introduce legislation. Among the items introduced:

n Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, introduced a bill that would dissolve the publicly chartered Anacostia Waterfront Corp. and the National Capital Revitalization Corp., both of which promote development in the city.

“Neither organization has lived up to its potential,” said Mr. Evans, whose bill would transfer the assets of the corporations to the mayor’s office.

• Council member Kwame Brown, at-large Democrat, was one of several council members sponsoring a bill to give the valedictorian at each of the District’s public and charter high schools $3,000 toward higher education. The bill also would give each school’s most improved student $1,000.

• David A. Catania, at-large independent, and Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, introduced a bill to create a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program for D.C. girls younger than 13. The program would require parents of girls enrolling in the sixth grade to submit proof that their child received the HPV vaccine, which can help prevent cervical cancer. The bill includes a provision allowing parents to opt out of the requirement.

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