D.C. Council members, backing away from their former staunch support for the controversial public law school that Mayor Marion Barry has opposed, now seem likely to sustain Barry's veto of a measure designating a site for the institution.
Nine votes are needed to override Barry's veto, which came last Friday.
Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) -- considered by both sides to be the deciding vote on the issue -- said yesterday he will support Barry's position.
At least one other law school supporter, John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), said through an aide that he is also considering changing his mind on the issue.
The bill, which would allow the law school to take over the University of the District of Columbia's old Wilson Teachers College building at 11th and Harvard streets NW, passed the council last Tuesday on an 8-to-4 vote.
Crawford, a sponsor of the measure, was absent.
Because of Crawford's previous support, supporters of the plan had predicted that the council would override.
But UDC trustees, teacher college graduates and Barry aides have been lobbying council members to sustain the veto.
"I'll be voting in favor of the veto," Crawford said yesterday, attributing his change of heart to constituent objections.
"I'm tired of the subject, and it is obvious that many of the people who support me in my ward are not in favor of it."
The veto override vote could come as early as today, but council staff members said yesterday that the measure is more likely to be added to next Tuesday's agenda.
Council member Hilda H.M. Mason (Statehood-At Large), who heads the council's Education Committee and has been the primary champion of the public law school idea, said yesterday that she has not yet counted override votes.
"You think I'm going to be projecting about that?" she asked.
"That's not being a good politician. I'm not ready to tell anybody what I'm going to do, because I don't even know yet," she said.
Last week, however, she said she was confident the council would reject Barry's veto.
If an override attempt fails, it would be Barry's first victory on the long-simmering issue of whether the District government should create a public law school to replace the Antioch School of Law, which is closing this year.
Barry has consistently argued that the city cannot afford the $3 million annual price tag attached to the project, and UDC officials have thwarted all previous attempts to make the proposed school a part of its program.
Crawford said he changed his mind after assessing the "negative impact" the building takeover could have on constituents in his ward, including a number of elderly persons enrolled in UDC's gerontology institute now at the Harvard Street site.
UDC's College of Education and Human Ecology is the prime tenant of the 74-year-old building, which is valued at $3.5 million.
The building contains classes for about 2,200 students and offices for 55 faculty members.