A representative of the District's executive branch of government turned music critic last night long enough to present a crushing review of the only candidate for the title of official District song.
Clifton Smith, secretary of the District of Columbia, testified at a City Council hearing that the song, "This is My Town," has "somewhat parochial" words that some think express resentment of tourists and politicians.
Smith said that the song has "numerous changes in tempo and chordal shifts" that might cause it to suffer the fate of the "Star-Spangled Banner" -- "murdered at sporting events by singers who were ill-equipped to rise to its high notes . . . . " The proposed song was composed by Mark Williams.
The council's committee on government operations held the public hearing on two bills aimed at finding symbols that would express the city's identity without focusing on the federal government, the main objection raised about the city's current official song, "Washington."
In addition to a bill by Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) to make "This is My Town" the official song, the council is considering a proposal by Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 5) to establish a 15-member commission to select a new District flag, song and logo.
But Smith, in a five-page statement, told the council panel that the executive branch was not fond of either idea.
Smith said a careful review of Williams' song caused some executive branch critics to conclude that it neglects to mention the city's beauty and history.
On the matter of Winter's legislation, Smith suggested that the city postpone forming a commission until statehood is "more clearly on the horizon." He pointed out that changing symbols could be an expensive process. Altering the flags alone would cost $39,279.80, he said.
Winter thanked Smith for his statement and then asked the significance of the city's official flag -- bearing three red stars and two red bars on a white field -- and that of the official seal.
Smith said the flag is an adaptation of the coat of arms of George Washington's family, but that he did not know why it became the inspiration for the city's flag. Smith said that the woman on the District's seal represents justice, but he added that he has not figured out what all the buildings represent.
Winter shifted in her seat and asked if the city has other symbols.
Smith replied: "A bird, a tree, and . . . he paused and then looked at his notes and a flower."
Williams is the executive director of Freedom Through Choices, a program that helps youths who have been a part of the city's foster-care system. Four other witnesses who spoke in favor of "This is My Town" are associated with the program.
The sixth witness was Sue P. Hughes, who offered -- unofficially -- her own song -- "We Love D.C. (Ode to the Nation's Capital)." But her song is not part of pending legislation.
Hughes told the committee that she composed the song after a convention in 1977. She said that people there stood when their state songs were played, and that she waited to hear what the band would play for Washington.
"When they came to the District, they played 'Hail to the Redskins'," Hughes said.