When City Council member John Ray (D-at large) introduced an employment and training bill for welfare recipients last March, it looked as if at least some version of it was assured passage.
Ray had 11 of the other 12 council members as cosponsors, generally a pretty good sign.
But in the end, he was short two key backers -- council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), chair of the council's human services committee, and Mayor Marion Barry.
Without support in those two quarters, the legislation appears dead for the year.
Ray's legislation would have started a pilot program to provide education, job training, placement in subsidized jobs, and support services such as group health insurance and child care for recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
It was modeled in part on programs started in California, Massachusetts and nearby Montgomery County that have been cited as new and effective ways of helping welfare recipients become wage earners if they volunteer for training and job placement.
It would differ from "workfare," in which welfare recipients have to work at private or public jobs to get their payments. Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) offered legislation earlier this year along those lines.
The Barry administration opposed both measures and instead offered a plan that basically coordinated or expanded existing services.
Shackleton then offered a six-page bill that she described as a compromise plan, and called a committee markup session for the day after she showed it to Ray and Crawford.
But Ray reacted angrily, calling Shackleton's bill a "sham" that gutted his proposal and merely would turn all control over to the mayor. Later Ray commented that the issue was too important to try to push his version through the council without the kind of attention to detail that committee consideration could give it.
Instead, he said he would rather take his chances with a new chairman next year. Shackleton is retiring this year.
The leading candidate for the committee chairmanship appears to be Crawford, the author of the more stringent, mandatory workfare bill. He has made his desire for the post well known, according to several members.
"If Crawford gets the committee, Ray could have a harder time," said one council member. Few Endorsements
The one council incumbent that is coming up short on endorsements this year is council member William Spaulding (D-Ward 5), making the Ward 5 race look as if it might become more interesting.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), representing about 10,000 city workers registered to vote in the District, this week endorsed Spaulding opponent Harry Thomas, a longtime Ward 5 activist. Earlier, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the influential gay activist group, had thrown its support to Thomas.
"Spaulding just isn't an advocate" for labor, said Bernard Demczuk, AFGE legislative director.
Robert Artisst, another Ward 5 activist who has run against Spaulding before, officially announced his candidacy last week.
In the hotly contested Ward 3 race, AFGE chose Jim Nathanson out of a wide field of candidates. Demczuk said Nathanson "is sensitive to the whole city" and would not try to separate Ward 3 -- the city's most affluent area -- from the rest of the District. In addition, as a teacher, Nathanson is a union member himself, Demczuk said.
In all the other races, AFGE endorsed the incumbents: Mayor Barry, council Chairman David A. Clarke and council members Frank Smith (D-Ward 1), Nadine Winter (D-Ward 6), Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large) and Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large). New Jail Measure
Council member Winter has introduced legislation to require Barry to build a new jail downtown, close to the District's courts, trying to keep new facilities out of her ward.
The bill, cosponsored by council members Kane, Crawford and John Wilson (D-Ward 2), would direct the mayor to build or renovate a facility for up to 1,000 inmates within the Judiciary Square area.
What to do about prison overcrowding has been one of the most controversial headaches of the Barry administration. Congress gave the city $30 million to build a prison somewhere in the city, but ever since then the mayor and the city council have been at odds over whether, where and how to do this.
Winter called a new jail "inevitable" but said it should be built away from residential areas. She cited New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia as having jails near court facilities.
Clarke agreed that other cities have jails downtown but added that the space requirements would be different if the intent is eventually to turn such a facility into a prison.