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One more reason to vote against the referendum

(Published June 19, 2000)

Mayor Anthony A. Williams should be ashamed of himself and soundly castigated for trying to get away with using taxpayers’ dollars to tell D.C. voters how they should vote in the special election on June 27.

While the mayor may consider this to be an example of "educating" the voters, we consider it to be a misuse of the very machinery of democratic government — and an excellent example of the very sort of corrupt mischief for which his predecessor, former mayor Marion Barry, was condemned.

The narrow ruling issued June 16 by the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance — essentially slapping the mayor on the wrist and telling him to cut it out — doesn’t go far enough.

How much tax money did the mayor spend on the pro-referendum campaign he was running out of government offices, using government employees on government time who were using government equipment and other government resources — such as government cars?

As this city’s former chief financial officer, the mayor should have known better than to use government funds to produce propaganda to paternalistically tell voters what to do about the structure of part of the D.C. government.

We are being asked to entrust this mayor with the ability to use good judgment in appointing school board members when his lack of good judgment in this instance is perfectly clear.

In his defense, the mayor points to a dubious opinion rendered by a member of the D.C. corporation counsel’s staff that claims the mayor was legally "lobbying" the voters — as though they are a legislative body — rather than engaging in illegal campaign activities.

We note that the corporation counsel is a mayoral appointee and that a resourceful lawyer can make a legal argument in support of any position — questionable as the merits might be.

When foreign governments characterize their similar actions as "education," the U.S. Congress often sends in poll watchers.

The pro-referendum campaign posters cry "Accountability Now!" Accountability, indeed!

For this and other reasons we cited in our June 5 editorial, we again urge D.C. voters to exercise one of their few citizenship rights by going to the polls on June 27 to vote in the special election and by voting AGAINST the proposed charter change.

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator