THE DISTRICT

Police Get U.S. Grant for New Officers

The D.C. police department has received a $15 million federal grant to hire 200 additional officers, Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday.

The grant was awarded under the Community Oriented Policing Services program and is part of President Clinton's initiative to add 100,000 community policing officers across the country.

"The addition of 200 new officers will mean more than increased police visibility," Ramsey said. "It will also mean our officers will have more time to be proactive in working with the community to identify, understand and solve crime . . . in our neighborhoods."

The federal grant will be matched by $9.2 million in District funds to cover the salaries and benefits of the new officers for the next three years, Ramsey said.

Senate Committee Approves College Bill

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved legislation yesterday that would restrict the proposed District college tuition assistance program to higher-education institutions in Virginia and Maryland.

The D.C. College Access Act would permit D.C. high school graduates to apply as much as $10,000 in grant aid to attend public universities in Maryland and Virginia at in-state tuition rates under the bill endorsed yesterday. The bill also calls for up to $2,500 grants to help students cover tuition at private universities in the District and its suburbs. The matter still needs approval from the full Senate and House.

Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District, said he wants to amend the plan to open up the $17 million program to public colleges nationwide, even if that means much smaller grants.

Demolition Start Angers Preservationists

Preservationists and history buffs are angry that the city preservation office allowed the H Street Community Development Corp. to begin demolishing several historic buildings Monday, including one with a huge mural of six figures from black history.

The four abandoned buildings in the 700 block of H Street NE dated to the late 1870s, according to an application for landmark protection filed by a neighbor on Friday--the same day the city issued a demolition permit.

The 60-foot mural, entitled "For My People," was created in 1986 by photojournalist Steve Valencia and artist Alexander Mattison to spruce up the neighborhood after a murder. "I was very upset," Mattison said yesterday.

City officials temporarily halted demolition yesterday after three of the four structures--including the one with the mural--were torn down, to make sure paperwork was in order.

The buildings were too run-down to save, said Dan Acker, spokesman for the development corporation. He said the group plans a $1.8 million retail building but has no tenants yet.

VIRGINIA

Abuse Hot Line for Mental Patients Set Up

The state mental health system is setting up a hot line for patients and their families to report abuse or neglect at public institutions or programs as part of a major reorganization.

Virginia's system has been under intense scrutiny from both watchdog groups and the federal government since the death of Gloria Huntley at Central State Hospital in June 1996. During her final month there, Huntley lay in restraints for 300 hours. Her former attending physician had warned a year earlier that she could die in restraints because she suffered from asthma, epileptic seizures and a heart condition.

A new Office of Consumer Affairs will establish a toll-free number for people with mental disabilities and their families to report allegations of abuse, neglect or lack of service at publicly funded institutions or programs.

Groups Shun Two on Richmond Council

A coalition of black church, political and civic groups has decided to shun two black Richmond City Council members for voting in support of controversial floodwall murals in an outdoor city exhibit.

The Coalition for Racial Justice plans to send letters later this week to local black organizations urging them to cut off contact with Richmond council members Gwen Hedgepeth and Bill Johnson Jr. Among the murals the council voted for was an image of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The image was different from one that was displayed on the floodwall that ignited the controversy.

Coalition members say the vote was a slap in the face of the black community. But Johnson said his vote represented the wish of most Richmond residents.

MARYLAND

'Living Wage' Bill Killed in Montgomery

The Montgomery County Council formally killed legislation yesterday that would have required most companies doing business with or receiving money from the county to pay employees more than twice the minimum wage.

The 5 to 3 votes on the original bill and a compromise measure ended weeks of lobbying from County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and the business community against the "living wage" bill. The two swing votes against the bills were cast by council members Michael L. Subin (D-At Large) and Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large), who had previously pledged to support it.

Also voting "no" were council members Nancy Dacek (R-Upcounty), Marilyn Praisner (D-Eastern County) and Betty Ann Krahnke (R-Potomac-Bethesda). Council President Isiah Leggett (D-At Large) and members Philip Andrews (D-Rockville) and Derick Berlage (D-Silver Spring) voted for the measure. Council member Blair G. Ewing (D-At Large), the bill's co-sponsor, was absent.

The bill would have required companies that have contracts with or receive economic incentives from the county to pay workers at least $10.44 an hour without benefits. Duncan has proposed an alternate plan to help the working poor that consists of income tax credits and subsidies. The council will take up the proposal in the fall.

Living wage advocates are planning to push legislation in Prince George's County and the District later this year.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"The package we'll adopt will cause some loss and hardship. There will be some loss of lawns and flowers."

-- Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D), warning the public of imminent restrictions on water use.