Some still-hot bits and pieces of unfinished business at the tail end of summer:
Cooling Off the Hot Seat: Mayor Marion Barry lately has been before the microphones on a variety of hot topics -- and Barry himself has noticed that he appears to sweat too much on television. Whatever the merits of the subjects the mayor deals with, Barry is taking steps to cool things off a little. Aides are to make certain the conference room -- which often is stifling hot even for reporters -- will be fully air-conditioned. Camera crews will be asked to keep hot television lights off until the last minute.
That'll take care of the controllable problems. Now, if someone on the mayor's staff could figure out a way to cool down the questions.
Council Agenda Heating Up: The 13-member D.C. Council returns from recess with a big plate of issues and confirmations of mayoral nominees. Council and Barry administration officials say that M. Jerome Woods, the acting head of the Department of Human Services, may face a tough confirmation fight.
Barry also has yet to nominate someone as director of the Office of Campaign Finance -- the key city agency that oversees election laws. Keith Vance, whose term expired in the spring, is still on the job, but the expectation is that Barry will not reappoint him.
Aides to the mayor have suggested that the job should go to a lawyer who can handle the legally detailed but politically delicate job of monitoring the campaign conduct of elected officials and ethics of the city's highest ranking officials.
Council member Frank Smith (D-Ward 1) will chair an Oct. 6 public hearing on the mayor's renomination of Patricia Worthy to head the Public Service Commission. The hearings on PSC members usually draw little attention, consumer activists complain, even though the commission's actions and rulings affect nearly every resident and business interest. The hearing will be held in the council chambers.
Submetering simmers: Just before its summer vacation, the D.C. Council tabled a bill that would prohibit so-called submetering by landlords -- charging individual commercial and residential tenants for specific use of utilities rather than including such costs in overall rents.
The council's inaction may have opened the door to the Public Service Commission, which is pressing ahead with a study group on the effect of submetering on landlords and tenants. The PSC has said it has the authority to allow submetering, but it's anathema to tenant activists. They cite potential abuse in what would be a fundamental change in the way utilities are paid for thousands of tenants in the city.
A study group put together by the PSC may reccommend that submetering be limited to commercial properties -- but it's not clear that even commercial tenants will go for it.
The submetering bill has an interesting history. Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) initially introduced a bill to allow it. Council member Frank Smith (D-Ward 1) led the fight to turn the bill inside out so that submetering would be prohibited. Then the bill was tabled on a motion by freshman Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5), who was elected with strong tenant support.
Thomas, recently back from a trip to Europe, has said he doesn't have a position on the bill yet and just wants more time to hear its pros and cons.
Handling Hot Complaints: A few months ago, politically active members of Ward 8 Democrats publicly and angrily complained that no one in Barry's Cabinet lived in their far Southeast ward. One of the leaders of the group -- which held a news conference adjacent to the long-stalled Camp Simms redevelopment project -- was Erica Tollett. Although it is not a Cabinet appointment, Tollett has since been nominated to the D.C. Commission on Women and has helped raise the profile of Ward 8.
But the Cabinet appointment is still on the futures agenda.
Hot on the Antidrug Trail: Unfoldment Inc., a 10-year-old Southeast Washington group, is holding its fourth annual Youth Festival and Talent Show from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday at Barry Farms. Kemi Morten, legal counsel to council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), is the founder of Unfoldment with her father, Baker. The idea is to give children up to 16 years of age something positive to do in a neighborhood that police say is one of the city's worst for drug abuse.
Morten said the programs sponsored by Unfoldment began "with a penny and a prayer" but now include help from community groups. Barry will be among those giving awards during the Saturday festivities.