D.C. Council Chairman Arrington Dixon is exploring the possibility of establishing an official residence for the major of the city -- an executive mansion possibly on Pennsylvania Avenue suitable, he says, for the highest office holder of the city and a show place to wine and dine visiting dignitaries.
"There's an interest in having our chief executive on Pennsylvania Avenue, the same as other key federal officials are on Pennsylvania Avenue," said Dixon, who has indicated an interest in being major himself some day and is thus a potential tenant of the mansion.
Dixon, who has a penchant for official ceremony and once suggested changing the name of the City Council to "State Senate," says such a move will simply bring Washington into line with some other big cities.
It would, he said, compare with Gracie Mansion, the living quarters for New York's major, and Getty House, where the major of Los Angeles lives. Similarly, the major of Detroit lives in an official residence called Manoogian Mansion.
The District's Mayor Marion Barry lives in a privately purchased home in far Southeast.
For an official residence, Dixon has eyed several places kbut is especially interested in a city-owned former schoolhouse at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE on Capitol Hill.
An orante but somewhat faded two-story red brick edifice, it occupies an entire city block and is now used as a job services center by the city's Department of Employment Services. The building is encircled by a sturdy green iron fence. Inside, it still looks like a schoolhouse with tile floors, oblong ceiling lights and chipped, peeling yellow paint in some of the rooms.
Dixon acknowledges that the building is not on the ceremonial portion of Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest Washington, but it is close by and appropriately impressive in size and architecture.
"Clearly all governors have governors' mansions," he said. "We're talking about whether our major/governor should have housing facilities in the city."
No one is prepared to put a price tag on renovating the schoolhouse to majoral manor. Dixon's press aide, Carol Richards, said one idea is to seek private donations for the cost of refurbishing the property.
Dixon said an official residence would also save money, since whenever a new major is elected (there have been two since the city was granted limited home rule in 1975), the city must expend thousands of dollars in security arrangements for the major's private house. Mayor Barry's house at 3607 Suitland Rd. SE, for example, has been equipped with a small guardhouse on the front lawn manned by D.C. police officers.
Not everyone is as enthusiastic as Dixon about the official residence idea.
"I alreadyf have a house," Barry said. He added later, "That's the last thing on my mind."
Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At-Large) said, "I don't think it's a high priority. If we're going to spend money providing housing, we should provide it for low-income people who need it, not for a mayor we pay $55,000 a year."
Kane, who is considering running for mayor herself next year, added, "I alrady live in the neighborhood. I don't need a new house."