In the cumbersome legalese of the D.C. Code, they are called "citizen-service programs" funds. The mayor, City Council chairman and at-large Council members may collect as much as $20,000 each year for such activities. The limit is $10,000 for Council members elected by ward. All of the money comes from private contributions.
In practice, some fear, these funds could become city-level equivalents of the "office expense accounts" on Capitol Hill. "Office expense accounts" are more commonly know as "slush funds."
Many a Capitol Hill slush fund has been financed with contributions from lobbyists. In addition to paying for more staff and paper clips for the office, some funds have also been spent on extra trips for the congressman and to handle personal bills.
The City Council approved legislation allowing the constituent service funds last year, but in the six months since that law became effective, no funds as such have been set up. Recently, however, several persons on the Council have begun gearing up to fill their constituent-services cookie jars. And they're likely to run head on into new and stricter guidelines approved last week by the board of elections and ethics.
Separate committees to administer the funds will have to be established and committee officers must be registered. individual contributions are limited to $50 and $100 a year, all the money form fund must be kept in a single bank account and receipts and expenditures reported four times each year.
Many of these new regulations merely spell out restrictions implied when the legislation was approved. The bigger test of the new guidelines is likely to come when they are applied to what is already going on in the name of keeping in touch with the voters.
Council member William Spaulding, for example, maintains a ward office in his church Union Wesley AME Zion. Under the new guidelines, that would probably be an in-kind contribution from the church. If the fair market rental on the space is more than $50 a year - $4.17 per month - Spaulding might have to give it up.
In the case of Polly Shackleton and Spaulding, both of whom have ward offices on city property (Spaulding has three offices already and is setting up a fourth, a mobile office in a van), it could be more difficult. City law does not specifically spell out such use for city property, and while some Council members have offices on city space, others can't seem to get any.
"I think you need some accounting for these funds, but I don't think it should be as strict as they're talking about," one Council member complained. "If you have to go through all those changes, why bother?"
"Not me," responds a mischievously grinning Marion Barry, when a reporter asks who is responsible for distributing those matches that say "I like Marion Barry for Mayor" on the cover.
"I can't keep all my enthusiastic supporters from putting out favorable propaganda about their favorite Council member," Barry says, adding that he is defintely intere
One of the reasons two Hanafi Muslim invaders wanted Council member Arrington Mixon during the recent two-day siege of the sponsorship of a resolution honoring the Nation of Islam. The Hanafis blame the nation for the brutal killing in 1973 of seven Hanafis at a northwest Washington home.
Dixon's resolution declaring Nation of Islam Week in Washington last year was approved unanimously by the Council. Now some Council members are saying privately they would have second thoughts about voting for another such resolution if one should come up.
Anytime you're down the block from the Rive Gauche, across the street from Clyde's and next door to the Crary Horse in fashionable Georgetown, you've got to have a little class.
So it's dark wood paneling, large white globe lights and decorative glass display cases for the new adult bookstore that opened at 3255 M St.
"Yeah, we're really gonna do it up. We're gonna have a hundred peep shows," a clerk boasted last week.
Not if the D.C. department of housing and community development can help it. The department has already refused to allow any peep shows because of zoning regulations. But that could be overturned by the board of zoning appeals if storeowners ask.
Well really now, a ranking city Council member was complaining last week. The Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners actually want their own auto license tags, just like you know who. "Who do they think they are anyway," the member said, "the City Council?"