Mayor Marion Barry told a D.C. statehood convention committee yesterday that he favors a strong, centralized executive branch under the city's proposed state constitution with the "governor" empowered to appoint judges and most cabinet-level officials.
Barry, the first witness in a series of public hearings being held by the 45-delegate convention during the next two weeks, said the delegates should consider only the attorney general, comptroller and possibly a statewide "sheriff" as elected officeholders, while all other executive branch officials should be appointed by the elected governor.
He urged that the governor be permitted to succeed himself, a practice prohibited in some states. "I'm opposed to a one-term governor," he told the executive branch committee of the convention. "You can't get anything done."
Barry's testimony came as convention delegates rushed to prepare hearings on an assortment of constitutional issues, such as the proposed state's court system, election procedures and its relationship with the federal government.
Delegates must complete writing a proposed constitution by May 29. It then goes to city voters for consideration, probably in this fall's election. If approved there, it would go to Congress, where both houses must approve it for statehood to be implemented.
So far during the 90-day convention, the city's political establishment has stood on the sidelines. Many city leaders, including D.C. congressional Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, say statehood has little chance of passing Congress, and some leaders say privately they do not want to be associated with a lost cause.
The result is that the convention consists largely of neighborhood-level activists with limited political experience, operating on a meager $150,000 budget.
Yesterday's hearing by the convention's executive branch committee was typical of convention problems. The governors (or their representatives) of Virginia, Delaware and Rhode Island were on the witness list, but none appeared.