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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nationís capital
by the editor of The Common Denominator

WHICH MICHAEL BROWN? Mayoral candidate Michael Brown says he's not worried that D.C. voters may confuse him with the embattled former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who resigned recently amid criticism over the federal government's slow response to help Hurricane Katrina victims along the Gulf Coast.

"First of all, he has a great name," Brown said of former FEMA director Michael Brown, deflecting questions about a potential negative backlash from name recognition.

However, Brown's campaign has acknowledged plans to use the candidate's middle initial -- referring to him as "Michael A. Brown," to distinguish the Democratic mayoral hopeful from former FEMA director Michael D. Brown.

Michael A. Brown, a D.C. lobbyist and son of former Clinton administration Commerce secretary Ron Brown, announced his candidacy for mayor Sept. 14, joining a field of four other high-profile Democrats already seeking their political party's nomination in the September 2006 mayoral primary.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams, also a Democrat, has not yet announced whether he will seek re-election to a third four-year term. There is some speculation that the mayor may announce his decision Sept. 27 when he gives the keynote address at the University of the District of Columbia's annual fall convocation.

Already announced as contenders for the nomination, in addition to Brown, are D.C. City Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, who formally entered the race Sept. 7; Ward 4 Councilman Adrian M. Fenty; Ward 5 Councilman Vincent B. Orange Sr. and former Verizon regional chief executive Marie Johns.

LONG-DISTANCE RECRUITING: Metropolitan Police Department recruiters traveled to Detroit Sept. 16-17, trying to lure some of the budget-strapped Motor City's disenchanted and recently laid-off police officers to relocate to the nation's capital.

Detroit officials announced the layoff of 150 police officers in August as part of a major reorganization of its 3,500-member police department, which also will return many desk officers to street duties. Initially, officials in Michigan's largest city estimated that 600 police layoffs would be necessary to help close an expected $300 million budget shortfall there, and efforts to demote officers to cut their pay have landed in court.

Meanwhile, D.C. police are recruiting qualified applicants for several hundred new positions that have not been filled since the police force was expanded to 3,800 officers by the District's elected officials.

Starting salary for entry-level MPD officers is $44,611 per year, with officers earning $48,809 after 18 months.

CABBIES FEEL THE PINCH: Taxicab drivers in the District resumed charging their riders a gas surcharge after midnight Sept. 9, making fares $1.50 higher than they normally would be. The surcharge, approved on an emergency basis by the D.C. Taxicab Commission, remains in effect for 120 days. A previously approved $1 gas surcharge, to help cabbies offset the high cost of gasoline in the nation's capital, expired Sept. 1. The commission also voted to immediately undertake a comprehensive study to determine whether a permanent increase in taxicab fares is needed.

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator