Several members of the D.C. City Council insisted yesterday that the terms of a proposed lucrative franchise for advertising-supported bus stop shelters should be kept within easy reach of local minority firms.
An hour-long debate over the franchise terms was sparked by Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), who proposed -- and later withdrew -- an amendment to a pending authorization bill requiring bidders to be experienced and adequately financed.
For technical procedural reasons, a final vote on the bill was delayed two weeks, but the debate showed the council sharply divided over the social and economic impacts of the measure.
Jerry A. Moore (R-At Large), chairman of the council Transportation Committee and sponsor of the bill, said it contemplates granting the franchise to an experienced white-controlled national corporation in a joint venture in which a local minority firm would have at least a 50 percent interest.
There are only three firms in the nation now in the bus shelter advertising business, Moore said.
Two of those firms, which are openly feuding for domination of the New York City market, attempted two years ago to link up with a spinoff of Youth Pride Inc., when another D.C. council committee was considering an exclusive franchise for Pride. That proposal was dropped before it went before the full council.
The franchise that is now proposed would be granted by the mayor after competitive negotiations.
"My concern," Jarvis said in supporting her amendment requiring proven stability, "is about the success of the venture in the city. . . . If a minority firm collapses, we lose. . . ." She stressed that minority firms should be able to meet the requirements of her amendment.
She dropped the proposal at the suggestion of Council Chairman Arrington Dixon, who urged against creating a controversy.
John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), saying everybody would think "I've gone absolutely crazy now," urged the council not to impose minority requirements in the legislation but to rely on the city's administration of the program to assure such benefits. He said the main need is to collect the franchise fee, at least $300 a year per shelter, to support municipal services.
"I don't consider myself a minority in the District of Columbia -- I am the majority," Wilson said. "I am really sick of all this minority stuff. . . ."
John L. Ray (D-At Large) disagreed. "We are clearly a majority in numbers," said Ray, who like Wilson is black, "but when it comes to money -- to the bucks -- we are in the minority. . . ."
William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5) and Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3) said erecting bus shelters and selling advertising is not complex enough to require steep qualifications.
"I don't see why we have to focus on these three companies [cited by Moore]," Shackleton said. "It seems to me almost anybody can do it."
The legislation provides that the first 100 shelter sites would be selected within one year, and that 10 of those in residential and monumental areas of the city would not have advertising.
The shelters would be in addition to those erected by Metro with public funds.
In other matters, the council:
Enacted, for the ninth time since early 1978, emergency legislation maintaining for another 90 days the city's power to license private colleges. Permanent legislation is expected to be introduced soon.
Confirmed Mayor Marion Barry's nominee, former city treasurer Carolyn L. Smith, as director of the city's Finance and Revenue Department.
Enacted for the fourth time another emergency bill to keep the city's near-total moratorium on condominium conversions in effect on a stopgap basis. Legislation, maintaining the moratorium for yet another six months is awaiting the end of a 30-day congressional review and should take effect later this month.
The council's power to enact the same emergency legislation more than once has been ruled invalid by a D.C. Superior Court judge, but has been appealed by the city to a higher court.