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Native Intelligence
Mayor lays claim to his legacy
(Published January 10, 2005)


It has taken six years in office for Mayor Anthony Williams to claim he has a legacy to call his own, though it may not be the one he initially sought.

Some say he really wanted to be remembered for bringing a first-class educational system to the District. But after years of failed efforts and changing agendas, Williams can truly claim that bringing baseball back to the District is his very own mayoral legacy. Williams may be fooling himself. Most residents, even those who wanted the baseball deal regardless of how egregious the terms seemed, concede the deal may be an albatross around the mayor's neck if he decides to run for a third term in 2006.

According to Jaime Raskin, a professor of constitutional law at American University, most states and municipalities have term limits that restrict political hubris. In 1994, a supermajority of D.C. residents voted to limit city council members and the mayor to serving two terms. Fast forward five years and another mayoral wannabe, Councilman Jack Evans, authored term limit repeal and the District reverted to an updated version of "mayor for life." Williams can run for a third term and, as he indicated recently, he plans to let D.C. residents know his future plans in the next few weeks.

Oh please, Mr. Mayor, say it isn't so! Please tell me us that you are going to pack up your degrees from Harvard and Yale and your impressive resume and find somewhere to make lots of money. Maybe then you can afford to purchase a house in the city (remember that 1998 campaign promise?) or, on a lesser scale, you can put down roots in one of those condominiums that have been built in neighborhoods where middle-class families can't afford to live.

Leave quietly and with some dignity. Your decision not to run for a third term could generate some real affection for you from D.C. residents, who already are deeply divided. It would be a class act and your legacy would expand beyond the ballpark.

Unfortunately, I think the mayor won't take my advice. I think he is still too giddy over his baseball deal to listen to anyone.

"Williams can run on baseball, but since it is his legacy, why risk losing it?" says Professor Raskin. Raskin says the mayor may not be personally popular with many residents, but he can take credit for much economic development, especially downtown. His new role as president of the National League of Cities is a plus, but his out-of-town trips on behalf of the organization may also become a big campaign issue. (League meetings last week took him to Scottsdale, Ariz.) Williams has been the most traveled mayor in the District's short political history.

The mayor's reversal on school vouchers and his support for President Bush's legislation imposing them on the District won him many friends in Republican circles. His lack of partisan ties, despite his Democratic Party label, makes him an ideal candidate for a White House appointment. His detractors say they would not be surprised if he accepted a Bush appointment. Williams is, after all, a former chief financial officer and policy wonk, not a man with deeply held political views.

According to White House sources, the mayor's name has come up in discussion but only at an assistant secretary level. At a recent D.C. Democratic State Committee meeting, a Williams defection to the Bush White House was rejected as ridiculous by some of his political appointees.

The battle for the mayor's job in 2006 has already begun, though aides say Williams still thinks he can beat the current field of candidates if not by his accomplishments, certainly with a hefty war chest.

But he should just say "no" to another term. The perfect job for Williams in his post-mayoral era, I think, is Major League Baseball commissioner. Think then what he could do for the District!


Diana Winthrop is a native Washingtonian. Contact her at

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator