Arrington Dixon, chairman-elect of the D.C. City Council, is considering a sweeping council reorganization plan that would create a new and influential committee on housing and economic development to be headed by council member Willie J. Hardy (D-Ward 7).
The plan would eliminate the council's committee on education, retain only three current council members as chairmen of the same committees and leave four other council members with no standing committee chairmanship.
Committee chairmanships are coveted by council members as a source of power and staff increases. In addition to bringing major controls over the legislative group responsible for a vital city area, a chairmanship can also mean half a dozen additional staff members or more.
Dixon said the reduction in committees is necessary to decrease the size of the council staff, increase efficiency and, in the case of the new committee, bring together two areas -- housing and economic development -- that he says are increasingly related.
Other council members said privately, however, that the plan would also help to assure Dixon of enough votes to control the 13-member council when he begins attempting to take advantage of a power vacuum on the new council.
Under the proposed new alignment, Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), the present chairman of the housing and urban development committee, would become chairman pro tempore of the council, a largely honorary position now held by Hardy.
Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), chairman of the employment and econonomic development committee -- which would be merged with the housing committee under the plan -- would become chairman of the public service and consumer affairs committee.
The present chairman of that committee, John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), would become chairman of the finance and revenue committee, whose current chairman is Mayor-elect Marion Barry.
The committee on education, recreation and youth affairs, whose chairman is William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5), would be abolished. Spaulding would become chairman of the committee on government operations, now headed by Dixon.
Three council members would retain their committee chairmanships -- David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), judiciary; Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), human resources and the againg; and Jerry A. Moore, Jr. (R-at large), transportation and environmental affairs.
Four council members -- Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large), Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large) and the replacements for Dixon (who represents Ward 4) and Barry (at large) would have no committee chairmanships. (A temporary successor to Barry is to be chosen early next year, while permanent replacements for Dixon and Barry will be elected May 1. Kane was elected in November and will take office Jan. 2.)
While the council chairman does not have sole authority to establish committee chairmanships, his selections are generally ratified by the council when it adopts its rules of operation at the first legislative session. Several council members said privately last week that Dixon's plan has enough votes to be approved.
Kane, who would not have a committee chairmanship in the Dixon plan, said she was concerned that a reduction in the number of committees and subsequent loss of staff would make some council members unequal to their colleagues.
Another council member said it was wrong to place housing and economic development under the same committee because each area has a profound impact on the city.
"People will think we're not serious if we put two such serious areas together," the member said.
Dixon said the decision on which council member might be in charge of which committee was based largely on interests expressed by the council members. Others noted, however, that the tentative decision on chairmanships also ignores party preference and follows strict lines of seniority.
Dixon also said that the council must reduce its current 130-person staff in light of continued criticism from the U.S. Labor Department -- and the threat to take away funding for some positions -- because of the improper hiring of several council staff members under provisions of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA).
The council is expected to consider reorganization later this month.