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Where is the mayor?
(Published September 19, 2005)

As reassuring as it may be that Mayor Anthony A. Williams believes his underlings are capable of running the city in his absence, the District's voters chose Tony Williams not City Administrator Robert Bobb or others among the mayor's hand-picked senior staff to do the job.

So why is Mayor Williams treating his elective position as a ticket to travel the world, rather than staying home to shoulder his official responsibilities?

It can't be easy for the mayor to hear, for example, the cries for help from the District's thousands of homeless residents while he parties half a world away in Europe. Of course, as has become cliché with most politicians, he feels their pain. But his government, in the meantime, is pushing needy D.C. residents to the end of the line for much-needed taxpayer-assisted help behind the District's newest residents, evacuees from the Gulf Coast.

Perhaps the mayor's strategy is to gain those 100,000 new residents he's been seeking for the District, in vain, by airlifting them from hurricane-ravaged Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

For the past 10 days, as this editorial is written, Mayor Williams has been serving D.C. residents by performing such ceremonial duties as

The mayor was scheduled to board a plane for home as this issue of The Common Denominator went to press. How long the mayor plans to stay home attending to his duties this time is unclear, given his busy travel schedule as president of the National League of Cities. While the region's other elected chief executives are trying to revise the National Capital Area's emergency response plans, to rely less on federal help in the wake of the feds' failures after Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Williams stopped in only briefly from a New Mexico jaunt before heading for Europe on Sept. 8.

How much all of this travel is costing D.C. taxpayers also remains unclear. The mayor has been accepting freebies willy-nilly from corporations and special-interest groups to defray expenses another questionable action by an elected official. The Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association and Washington First Corp. picked up part of the tab for his current European tour, according to his staff. D.C. taxpayers foot the bill for the police officers who accompany the mayor out of town, but security reasons are cited for refusals to detail those arrangements, even after the fact.

Clearly, D.C. residents are gaining a well-traveled chief executive, but the benefits of these frequent excursions seem to accrue more to Mayor Williams' persona than to anything tangible for the public. Perhaps the mayor is campaigning for his next job, albeit at the public's expense.

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator