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Clinton’s task force

Outgoing president quietly creates D.C. interagency group

(Published January 22, 2001)


Staff Writer

On the same day that President Clinton proclaimed his support for D.C. residents’ struggle to gain full citizenship rights, the outgoing president signed an executive order that formally created a federal task force with broad authority to develop and implement its own programs for the District of Columbia.

Among the enumerated responsibilities of the Federal Interagency Task Force on the District of Columbia, which has existed informally since the Clinton administration created the D.C. control board in 1995, is to "provide an understanding by the public of the needs and assets of the District of Columbia."

A section of the three-page single-spaced executive order on "local accommodation" says the task force "shall make efforts to accommodate the concerns of local elected officials in proposing Federal technical or other assistance," but it makes no mention of direct public input.

"They threw in the kitchen sink, didn’t they?" commented one city official after reading the executive order. City officials were not involved in drafting the executive order.

While Deputy Mayor John Koskinen acknowledged being aware that the Clinton administration was giving consideration to formalizing the task force’s existence before the president left office, city officials appeared to be unaware that Clinton had completed and signed the executive order Jan. 15 until The Common Denominator brought it to their attention.

Joyce Smith, who was deputy executive director of the task force under Clinton’s presidency, said none of the four people in the Office of Management and Budget who have served as the task force’s staff will continue in their jobs as part of the Bush administration. Drafting the executive order was an attempt to provide some continuity in the transition, she said, "so they’re not starting from zero."

"If (the executive order) weren’t there, you wouldn’t notice. In this case, they’ll have to undo it," she said, while expressing the hope that President Bush will continue the task force.

Koskinen, who became the District’s city administrator after completing his job as the federal government’s Y2K czar, said the task force "has been of great assistance in coordinating the working relationships between federal agencies and the District government ... and I would hope it would continue with the new president.

"We are very anxious to establish a working relationship with the new president," he said.

Executive orders continue in effect when administrations change unless they are rescinded.

Koskinen called the executive order an "important signal" of the federal government’s intention to continue a cooperative relationship with the D.C. government, although he expressed an understanding of "the sensitivity that people have" toward federal intervention in local affairs. Koskinen has been a D.C. resident for more than 30 years.

"The existence of the order is a positive thing for the District," Koskinen said. "For the last four years, there’s been nothing in the working relationship that would give people any pause."

Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator

Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator