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City council resumes work
(Published January 10, 2005)

Staff Writer

D.C. City Council wasted little time getting back to business following the Jan. 2 swearing in of six council members to begin new four-year terms.

Among measures passed Jan. 3 during the council’s first meeting of the new legislative period was an emergency bill to establish a school safety division within the Metropolitan Police Department. The new division, approved on a 12-1 vote with only Ward 4 Councilman Adrian Fenty dissenting, will be charged with taking over responsibility for providing security for the D.C. Public Schools, replacing private contractors.

Major new legislation proposed during the session included two bills, introduced by At-Large Councilwoman Carol Schwartz, that would create a D.C. Department of Environmental Protection and establish the D.C. Emergency Medical Services Agency as an entity separate from the D.C. fire department.

Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans and Ward 3 Councilwoman Kathy Patterson jointly proposed creation of a School Construction and Modernization Trust Fund. In addition to creating a non-lapsing fund, the bill specifies what type of public-private partnerships the Board of Education may support to construct and modernize public schools in the District.

Council Chairman Linda Cropp introduced a bill to designate the 300 block of 13½ Street NW, adjacent to the city government's Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, as "Walter E. Washington Way" to honor the District's first elected mayor under home rule.

During the organizational meeting for the new legislative period, the council approved new committee assignments and created a new standing Committee on Health, separating its functions from the Committee on Human Services. Abolished in the new structure were the Committee on Public Services, chaired during the council's last session by At-Large Councilman David Catania, and two subcommittees of the Committee of the Whole, which were created in the last session to provide chairmanships for Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham and At-Large Councilman Phil Mendelson.

The new Committee on Health will be chaired by Catania. Also named to serve on the committee were council members Graham, Evans, Ward 5's Vincent Orange and Ward 7's Vincent Gray.

Graham takes over chairmanship of the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, chaired during the last session by Ward 6 Councilwoman Sharon Ambrose. Ambrose will remain a member of the committee and be joined by members Catania, Fenty and new At-Large Councilman Kwame Brown.

Mendelson will chair the Committee on the Judiciary, where immediate past chairman Patterson will continue to serve in a subordinate capacity. Ambrose, Brown and Catania also were named to the committee.

Fenty will take on his first committee chairmanship at the helm of the Committee on Human Services, previously chaired by former Ward 8 councilwoman Sandy Allen. New Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry, Gray, Patterson and Schwartz also will serve on the committee.

Patterson will take over as chairman of the Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation, previously chaired by former Ward 7 councilman Kevin Chavous. Joining her on the committee will be Barry, Gray, Mendelson and Schwartz.

Ambrose was named to chair the Committee on Economic Development, replacing former at-large councilman Harold Brazil. Evans, Brown, Gray and Orange also will serve on the committee.

The council's other three standing committees -- Finance and Revenue, Government Operations, and Public Works and the Environment -- will retain their previous chairmen.

Evans will be joined on Finance and Revenue by Ambrose, Barry, Orange and Patterson.

Orange will be joined on Government Operations by Fenty, Graham, Mendelson and Schwartz.

Schwartz will be joined on Public Works and the Environment by Barry, Brown, Fenty and Graham.

Cropp will continue to chair the Committee of the Whole.

Only Barry and Orange voted against the committee assignments. Orange was widely known to be seeking chairmanship of the Committee on Economic Development, while freshman member Barry expressed his desire to break council tradition and chair a committee due to his extensive experience as former mayor and a former council member.

By unanimous voice vote, Barry was appointed as the council's new alternate representative to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board of Directors, replacing Catania in that role. Graham was unanimously re-appointed as the council's voting representative to the Metro board.

At-large council members Brown and Schwartz, Ward 2's Evans, Ward 4's Fenty, Ward 7's Gray and Ward 8's Barry were sworn in to begin serving new four-year terms during a ceremony Jan. 2 at the Washington Convention Center.

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator