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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nation's capital

by the editor of The Common Denominator

RAMSEY'S CONTRACT: It's a mystery how such an air of intrigue has become associated with the terms of the new 57-month employment contract Mayor Tony Williams signed earlier this month with Police Chief Charles Ramsey. Yours truly got a copy simply by asking.

The contract, effective April 21 but signed on May 7, sets the chief's base pay at $175,000 a year - $25,000 more than the base in his previous five-year contract. The chief, like other city department heads, also is eligible to receive an "annual performance incentive" (i.e., "bonus") at the mayor's behest and can take 26 days of paid leave per year. Aside from the pay raise and an approximate 1 percent increase in Ramsey's annual pension annuity, the contract terms remain essentially unchanged.

While it's been widely reported that the new contract "ends" speculation that Ramsey might leap at an offer to become police commissioner of his old stomping grounds in Chicago, which is actively searching, there's actually nothing in the contract that binds Ramsey to the District beyond a 60-day written notice to the mayor. The contract explicitly lays out the D.C. government's obligations to Ramsey in the event that his employment is terminated - including the payment of up to six months of Ramsey's salary as severance pay if he is dismissed "without cause." But Ramsey suffers no penalty under the contract if he chooses to resign.

HE MADE A DIFFERENCE: When D.C. resident Sam Lacy died at Washington Hospital Center on May 8, eulogies began appearing almost immediately in newspapers across the country and on the Internet for a journalist whose work made a positive difference in the lives of millions of Americans. About five months shy of his 100th birthday when he died of heart and kidney failure, Lacy spent the last six decades as sports editor of the Afro-American Newspapers and wrote his final column just two days before his death.

But he will be remembered most for his crusading spirit, which helped break down the racial barriers in professional sports for athletes and journalists. Among a long list of honors, Lacy was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 and Congress named a post office in his honor in 2001.

"If not for this man, I would not be standing here today," Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Lenny Moore, who began his career with the Baltimore Colts in 1956, said in one of the eulogies during Lacy's funeral May 16 at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Northwest Washington.

D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Paul Vance expressed regret at being unable to attend Lacy's funeral but recalled Lacy as "a hero of my generation."

"As a kid, I would rush to get the Afro-American newspaper for my father and on the way home I would read Sam Lacy's column before turning the paper over to my dad," Vance said.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator