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Summer Jobs for Youths Proposed

Environmental Agency Also Among Ideas at First Council Session

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 5, 2005; Page B01

D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5) appeared yesterday to take over one of Marion Barry's signature issues: summer jobs for young people.

During his years as mayor, Barry had made summer jobs one of his most politically popular policies. As a new council member, Barry (D-Ward 8) has been talking about starting a similar program. But it was Orange -- himself considering a mayoral run -- who beat Barry to the punch, introducing a bill yesterday to give every District resident between the ages of 14 and 21 a summer job.

Vincent Orange Sr. also wants no tax on teachers' pay. (File Photo)

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"He talked about it, but for the last two years I've been doing it,'' Orange said, referring to a summer jobs program he has pushed for young people in his ward.

The jobs bill was one of more than a dozen proposals introduced yesterday during the D.C. Council's first legislative session with its three new members -- Barry, Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) and Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7).

Orange also reintroduced a bill that would exempt from city income tax the salaries of full-time teachers in the District's public schools. He said it would encourage recruitment and retention of quality teachers and provide an incentive for teachers to live in the city. If adopted, the legislation would cost the city about $7 million a year in tax revenue, according to an Orange spokesman.

Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) unveiled a plan to create a city department of environmental protection. She said that more than 30 states have separate departments and that it would help deal with environmental issues such as lead in the drinking water.

Schwartz also reintroduced legislation that would spin off the emergency medical service division of the fire department and turn it into an independent uniformed agency, on a par with the police and fire departments. The change, she said, would increase responsiveness and accountability.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and City Administrator Robert C. Bobb have pushed for creating a unified fire-rescue department.

Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) introduced a bill that would name a street for Walter Washington, the city's first mayor after home rule was passed. She also reintroduced legislation to encourage affordable housing in the city.

Barry looked surprised and bemused when Orange introduced the jobs bill, but Orange said he gave Barry a heads-up earlier that morning. Barry later joined Orange as the bill's co-introducer.

During his swearing-in ceremony Sunday, Barry said he planned to introduce a summer jobs bill along with a flurry of other legislation.

Orange said his program, "Hire-One-Save-One," has given 138 jobs paying from $6.50 to $14.50 an hour to young people in Ward 5. Orange said he knocked on the doors of private employers to ask if they had any summer employment opportunities.

Under Orange's proposal, the jobs would pay at least the minimum wage and provide at least 20 hours of work a week for six weeks or more. He did not provide a cost for the program.

Last summer, he said, 9,000 youths applied for 5,000 positions.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company