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Correction to This Article
Because of incorrect information from the D.C. Council, a chart with a Jan. 4 Metro article incorrectly listed the members of the council's Health Committee. Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) is a member of the committee, and Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) is not.

D.C. Council Arrivals Drop Challenge to Cropp

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 4, 2005; Page B02

They had made their point, so yesterday the three new D.C. Council members made their peace with council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) and her plan for divvying up coveted chairmanships.

Newly sworn-in council members Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) and Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) had protested Cropp's plan because it left the three new members without a committee to head.

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The three new arrivals grumbled that under past council leaders, all 13 members received a chairmanship. They groused about a seniority system that left majority Democrats out of power while giving committees to Republican Carol Schwartz (At Large) and independent David A. Catania (At Large). And they noted that all three of them live east of the Anacostia River, where residents are restless over what they consider a lack of attention and economic development.

But yesterday, Barry backed off threats to challenge Cropp's organizational plan for the council, saying he was satisfied with her committee appointments and her promise to consider the three for unspecified "special projects."

"I'm going to try to have us started on the right direction," Barry said.

Barry did, however, vote against the proposal, under which the council will conduct its business for the next two years. Brown and Gray voted in favor of the plan.

During a private meeting last week, Cropp told the new members that she had made an exception to the seniority system by giving them the council assignments they requested, an exception that could presumably be taken away if the overall plan were challenged.

So they made their points and moved on.

"We've also got to work with the folks down here," Gray said after yesterday's meeting.

Cropp said she was pleased that the new members did not challenge her plan, saying she had given the matter a great deal of time and thought and tried to make it fair to members new and old.

The new plan will change the leadership of most of the council's committees, create a Health Committee and abolish the Public Services Committee. The Government Operations Committee will expand to include components once covered by the public services panel.

On the first day of the new council session, members already were airing legislative proposals. Barry said he plans to introduce a flurry of bills this month, including proposals to institute mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed with a handgun, and plans for summer jobs, housing, health care and schools.

During speeches at their swearing-in ceremonies Sunday, some members previewed some of their policy initiatives.

Evans, whose wife died of breast cancer 16 months ago, said he will push for affordable health insurance legislation this year. He said that if the city could transform its downtown and build an $850 million convention center, it could try to improve its health care system.

Gray said he would try to revitalize the city's vocational education system to train students not bound for college. "There are lots of construction spots around the city, but what have we done to prepare [students] for these well-paying jobs?'' Gray asked.

Patterson announced that the Committee on Education, Libraries and Education will hold a hearing on juvenile violence Jan. 31 with the Judiciary and Human Services panels.

Brown's office said he is preparing a legislative package.

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