Rep. Stewart B. McKinney (R-Conn.) is the ranking minority member of the House District Committee. A story in yesterday's editions incorrectly identified Rep. Stanford E. Parris (R-Va.) as holding that position. Parris is the ranking minority member of the committee's government operations and metropolitan affairs subcommittee.
With his success last week in getting Congress to block a District of Columbia government plan to select new police officers by lottery, Rep. Stanford E. Parris (R-Va.) is emerging as a 1980s version of former representative Joel Broyhill, the Arlington conservative who tied the city in parliamentary knots for decades.
"I won't quarrel with" the comparison, said Parris, who represents the 8th Congressional District. (Broyhill was from the adjoining 10th.) But he said his motivation is tied directly to the concerns of his own Northern Virginia constituents. He has no desire to replace the former, longtime District Committee chairman John McMillan, the South Carolina Democrat who before home rule was called "the mayor of Washington."
"I am not antihome rule," Parris insisted. Nonetheless, since his return to Congress nine months ago after a voter-enforced absence of six years, Parris has intervened about half a dozen times in D.C. proposals.
He successfully delayed an attempt to increase the federal payment to the city by invoking a seldom-used quorum call in the District Committee and blocked a city attempt to ship its sludge to Lorton. He also restored promotions and pay raises for city paramedics who had benefited from an administrative error, got the Justice Department to review an order by the D.C. Office of Human Rights to fill 70 fire department vacancies with minorities and is prepared to vote against the controversial revision of sex laws in the city.
"We're 4 to 0 with the city," boasted Parris aide Dick Leggett.
Parris is the ranking minority member of the House District Committee, but that does not give him enough clout to stop legislation favored by the majority Democrats. So last Tuesday he bypassed the committee and went straight to the House floor with an amendment barring the city hiring lottery. He was supported by all but one of the House's Republicans and enough Democrats to halt the city plan easily.
Parris said his latest clash with the administration of Mayor Marion Barry arose out of "a concern for the public safety of millions of tourists and thousands of commuters," although he freely admitted that "the political benefits to him were obvious."
More than 1,000 D.C. police officers and firefighters live in Northern Virginia and 300 of them live in Woodbridge, a Prince William community where Parris traditionally has been weak politically.
Parris says many of these policemen and firefighters came to his office and complained that the District's lottery would dangerously lower standards in the departments. "I'm going to do whatever I have to do to represent my district," he said.
"Political opportunism," Barry called the congressman's opposition. "He's running for reelection. He's got constituents who want him to do this."
"I'm getting a little tired of the city being the victim," Barry said.
The political benefits cut both ways, and city politicians were quick to jump on the issue, too. Two of the men who may challenge Barry when he seeks reelection next year blamed the mayor for the setbacks on the Hill, and representatives of the police and fire unions in the city contend the issues themselves were brought up by the mayor for political purposes.
"If it weren't him Parris , it would be someone else," said City Councilman John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2). "Maybe we need a new salesman."
Council Chairman Arrington Dixon, another possible mayoral rival, used the Barry defeat to question the mayor's political negotiating skills. The mayor should be able to work with federal officials such as Parris, he said.
Kenneth M. Cox, lobbyist for the D.C. Firefighters Union, said Parris took on the controversial issue of police hiring when other congressmen would not. "When the question of lowering the scores on the qualifying test came up, some of our old friends on the Hill wouldn't touch it. But Parris came on like gang busters. He made a believer out of us, Cox said."
Last year the firemen's union supported Parris' opponent. "But we're switching to Stan next year," Cox said.
Police Officer Gary W. Hankins, Cox's counterpart in the Fraternal Order of Police and a Woodbridge resident, said it is Barry who is "looking at everything to shape his image for reelection." He said the hiring lottery is designed to increase the number of black policemen and was a Barry effort to appeal to his largely black constituency.
Hankins praised Parris for "having the courage to speak out" on issues that could be misinterpreted as racially motivated."
"The question is always there," Parris said of the race issue. In fact, before he launched the first challenge to the Barry administration last spring, Parris called his staff together and warned them that some would wrongly label his opposition racism.
"For 15 years," Leggett said, "District officials have pretty much had their own way in Congress, playing on the fear that anyone who criticizes them will be branded antiblack."
Parris said his predecessor, liberal Democrat Herbert E. Harris II, treated the District with "benign neglect." Harris "seldom quarreled with the way D.C. proposed to do things," Parris said. "They grew accustomed to getting what they wanted.