Twice last year Mayor Marion Barry met crushing defeats by the D.C. Council when he sought approval for income tax increases.
On Monday, the mayor went to the well one more time with an expansionist $2.8 billion budget for 1989 and another appeal for a tax increase.
What's changed, some politicians asked, to make the mayor think he has any better chance in 1988? The timing may be worse, they said.
It's an election year when six of the 13 members of the council will be going before the voters -- including Council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), head of the pivotal Finance and Revenue Committee.
Wilson and Council Chairman David A. Clarke, head of the Committee of the Whole that oversees the budget, have been leaders in trimming Barry's budgets rather than raising taxes.
On Tuesday, less than 24 hours after Barry submitted his latest budget, including plans to repeal some tax breaks passed only last year and to impose a 5 percent income tax surcharge on individuals in 1989, Wilson came out swinging.
Wilson accused Barry of running a "bloated bureaucracy" in which too much money is going to pay the cost of government employees rather than providing government services.
On Tuesday the council will begin 50 days of budget hearings in which the mayor's administrators and department heads will have to defend their spending policies. This week, the mayor declined to comment on Wilson's criticism, saying he didn't want to get into a "public debate" over the budget while it was before the council.
It looks, however, like the public debate already has begun.
You Can't Fire Me, I Quit
A months-long battle focusing on Carl T. Rowan Jr. as legal counsel to the D.C. Democratic State Committee is over. Rowan quit last week just as the committee was about to take up an effort, led by gay political groups, to remove him.
Rowan drew criticism because he is a board member of the National Capital Area Big Brothers organization, which bars the participation of homosexuals because the group believes gay males would not provide proper role models for young males.
Although the issue had never come up within the Democratic Party, Rowan has said he supports the Big Brothers policy. Gay activist Phillip Pannell and the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, which represents many politically active gays, mounted a campaign to remove Rowan. The opponents said Rowan's positions were offensive stereotypes of gays.
Rowan, who resigned before any formal debate began, complained of being subjected to a "litmus test" and wondered whether there could be any ideologically pure lawyer available to the committee.
The gay groups and other Democrats are searching for a lawyer to suggest to James M. Christian, chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee. Christian had supported Rowan and had offered to fight to keep him working for the committee, arguing that Rowan was being singled out unfairly. The D.C. Gazette -- Gone Again
News and political junkies of the local Washington scene have one less must-read publication to pick over. Sam Smith has pulled the plug on what many agree was an often insightful newsletter. Smith, who it seems was present at the beginning for home rule, statehood, civil rights and other activist causes, confessed to burnout in his other journal, The Progressive Review.
"Shrewd longtime readers of the Gazette may have noted a weary cynicism (as opposed to the effervescent cynicism which no journalist should be without) creeping into the Gazette. I certainly have . . . . "
Smith's Gazette first appeared 21 years ago. A few years ago he stopped publishing the journal but started up again when it seemed worthy of his interest and that of his readers. The Gazette's lively reporting pressed issues and punctured the airs taken on by many politicians and the big media.
"I'll still get involved in local issues, may write a piece here and there about D.C., may even raise some hell from time to time," Smith wrote, "but frankly, dear and kind readers, I'm tired of taking the minutes."