D.C. Control Board to Meet With Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 4, 1998
The colorful figures who were heralded for helping the city's black majority win home rule in 1974 found themselves in recent years accused of squandering self-government, prompting Congress to turn over control of the city to a federally-appointed financial control board.
Come tomorrow, all that starts to change. The D.C. financial control board is scheduled to sit down with Mayor-elect Anthony A. Williams and begin negotiations to return power to the mayor's office. And in January, for the first time in the history of home rule, the 13-member D.C. Council will be majority white.
Voters propelled their government into a new era, breaking ties with a bygone generation of charismatic leaders in favor of a new style of cool, efficient elected employees.
"The voters today clearly indicated it's no longer about race, it's no longer about party, it's about competency. What the 21st century is about in the District is public service and competency," said Greg Rhett, 40, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for an at-large council seat in the Democratic primary. He said the District is "witnessing the generational transition that happened in other urban centers" such as Detroit, Cleveland and Atlanta.
Even Mayor Marion Barry picked up the theme, rousing the crowd at Williams headquarters last night: "You who might not feel that good about Washington, wake up! This is a new day."
Williams, after his decisive victory over Republican Carol Schwartz, said "A new era has begun in our city. We've got to look forward. We know what the vision of our city is."
Barry, 62, who won a seat on the D.C. Council in the first home rule election and went on to serve 16 years as mayor, succumbed to pressure from friends and advisers who told him that neither he nor the city needed him to run for a fifth term.
Voters rejected three, longtime council members Hilda H.M. Mason (Statehood-At-Large), who refused to concede defeat last night and Frank Smith (D-Ward 1) and Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) who lost in the primary in favor of two newcomers and a short-timer who made a name for himself as a tough, energetic watchdog.
The election of Democrat Phil Mendelson, 45, and the reelection of Republican David Catania, 30, ensured a majority white council, a possibility that caused unease among some activists, but apparently not among voters. The two white men dominated the field of seven candidates, with Mason trailing by 10 points in third place.
"I think we've gone beyond race," said Peter Pulsifer, who worked in Mendelson's campaign. "The old generation still thinks that way, but the new generation seems to have decided there are things more important than race."
Although some residents are anxious about the changes these new leaders tend to be more professional in their demeanor, not the back-slapping, cheek-pecking, stem-winding politicians who used to rule the District others are as optimistic as their new leaders.
"I think the District was in a win-win situation with this election," said Curtis Etherly, 30, who is a legislative assistant for Schwartz. "Closure was brought to the Barry era because the city lost a great deal of good will under his leadership. Perception is almost half the game. Things will definitely be on the upswing now."
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