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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nation’s capital
by the editor of The Common Denominator

TRAVELING TONY: Fresh off his third "Citizen Summit" about pressing government-related problems – where about 2,800 people participated and about 60 demonstrators outside assailed the mayor for policies that have displaced thousands of low-income residents – Mayor Tony Williams might well have been expected to roll up his sleeves and get down to business addressing residents’ concerns.

But the mayor has other business on his agenda this week. The day after the Nov. 15 summit, Williams and his wife hopped on a jet bound for Brussels, Belgium, to help a delegation of D.C. business leaders wine and dine their European counterparts in an effort to persuade them that Washington is a great place to do business. Residents will just have to wait until the District’s globe-trotting mayor, who just returned from a week in Alaska to make a quick pit stop at home to attend his own rescheduled summit, can fit them into his busy schedule.

In Belgium, you can bet that the mayor and D.C. City Council members along on the junket, including Chairman Linda Cropp, won’t be talking about the District’s increasing number of business robberies, rising homicide rate, rampant street muggings and auto thefts, troubled public schools and broken emergency healthcare system. About 15 city officials, including Police Chief Charles Ramsey, packed their bags to travel with the mayor.

The trip’s message? The District’s current environment makes it a highly attractive place for businesses to invest millions. So much for truth in marketing. Are these folks on the same planet as the District’s 570,000 residents?

The mayor left new City Administrator Robert Bobb, who is still figuring out his way around town, at home to hold down the fort in his absence.

During a recent press conference about the European jaunt, Williams defended himself against questions regarding his frequent out-of-town travel. The mayor contended that his profile-raising speaking engagements help "market and promote my city." He said he believes that city business remains in capable hands when delegated to his underlings while he is gone.

Now we know where the mayor’s priorities lie. Underlings aren’t good enough to entrust with the important business of promoting the city. But they’ll do just fine when it comes to serving the mayor’s constituents.

BACK TO THE SUMMIT: The turnout at the mayor’s summit of about 2,800 people – some of whom, like at other summits, probably don’t even live in the District – had to be a disappointment for the Williams administration. Organizers trumpeted they had 4,000 people pre-registered when the original Nov. 8 date had to be changed due to a conflict with the funeral of former mayor Walter Washington. It’s doubtful that the public will ever learn how many of those 2,800 in attendance were actually city employees, who were "encouraged" to show up for crowd enhancement.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator