The District relies on the support of neighboring suburban lawmakers such as Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) to defend the city's interests before Congress.

Moran performs the role with gusto, most recently as a leader in House efforts to come up with a budget for the District for this fiscal year.

But Moran, a former Alexandria mayor, also wears another hat--champion of his congressional district's interests. That sometimes gets him in trouble with the District and its nonvoting member of Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D).

A recent case in point: Moran quietly tried to shutter a coal-fired Potomac Electric Power Co. plant in Alexandria. The plant supplies power to Pepco's D.C. and Maryland customers.

The utility is trying to sell the plant at auction as it exits the power-generating business and recasts itself as a power-distribution company. Moran sought through the D.C. budget to require the D.C. Public Service Commission to give Alexandria the right to purchase the plant.

Norton and Pepco caught wind of Moran's plan and confronted him. "That plant is vital to the District," a Pepco spokesman said. "Without it, the reliability of electricity to the District will be threatened."

Moran backed down, he said, "out of consideration to D.C." Translation: Norton was ready to pounce all over him publicly.

Still, Moran said he may try again next year to have the plant closed. His constituents want it done, he said. But Virginia utility regulators have no influence over its operations, because it serves mostly D.C. and Maryland customers.

"It's the single worst source of pollution in Northern Virginia. . . . It's more pollution than all of our vehicle emissions combined," Moran said, citing nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollutants. "It's inexcusable to have a plant like that on Alexandria waterfront property that should be residential.

"Obviously, Maryland and D.C. have an interest in keeping" the plant, he added. "It is seldom you have a major source of pollution benefiting your ratepayers, but you don't have any of the costs of locating it in your jurisdiction.

"In some issues," Moran said, "where you sit has got to be where you stand."

Analysis for Rent

A new forum for reasoning, riposting and ranting about D.C. politics is being shopped to local television stations by former journalist, sometime council candidate and unreconstructed bicycle rider Bill Rice.

"The Rice Report" would feature Rice and lawyer A. Scott Bolden, a former president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, leading guests through a rollicking half-hour of comment on affairs of the day.

"The balance is to be entertaining and informative," Rice said. "We want to be both."

Executive producer Beth Solomon calls it something of a cross between "The McLaughlin Group" and "Crossfire."

Solomon, better known for helping to lead opposition to the new convention center in Shaw, also runs a video production company and said "The Rice Report" is a business proposition that would have to support itself by finding sponsors, along with someone willing to air it. The makers are showing a test version to local stations. They also plan to put it on the Internet.

"We welcome these Johnny-come-latelies to the D.C. political commentary scene," said Mark Plotkin, the reigning king of local broadcast political jabbering, whose platform is Kojo Nnamdi's "The D.C. Politics Hour" on WAMU-FM (88.5). "I welcome all competition. Bill Rice is a valuable community resource . . . [and] he's a worthy adversary. Is that gracious enough?"

Solomon said "The Rice Report" would be "raucous, boisterous, the fun of politics," while "The D.C. Politics Hour" is "a very sober, tightly moderated discussion of matters political."

"I take issue with that," Plotkin countered. "If nothing else, we are lively."

Reading Between the Lines

A funny thing happened between the draft and the final version of the news release Mayor Anthony A. Williams's office sent out last week regarding the brewing controversy over development around the Columbia Heights Metro station.

The Redevelopment Land Agency announced that it was delaying by 30 days the signing of an exclusive rights agreement with two developers whose proposals had received preliminary approval. The agreement would set a timetable for them to complete detailed negotiations with the city on their projects, worth a total of $131 million.

Many residents have harshly criticized the plans, which could lead to demolishing most of the historic but dilapidated Tivoli Theater. They found hope in the 30-day delay. Could the RLA be reconsidering?

The first version of Williams's comment on the delay was marked "DRAFT" and "MEDIA CALLS SHOULD BE COMING IN SHORTLY"--as though reporters' questions were somehow akin to a thunderstorm or mortar attack.

The draft contained this sentence: "The RLA board needs to conduct further due diligence into the viability of financing and other issues."

"Aha!" said opponents of the plan such as Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Elizabeth McIntire, who saw a copy of the draft. She and her allies had suspected the developers' financing might be in question.

But the final statement from Williams lacked that sentence.

McIntire thought she knew why: "Someone felt it might be better to obfuscate."

Linda Grant, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said the explanation was more benign: "The sentence had been taken out of the draft because the board was not going to do anything during the 30-day period with financing." She said the change was a natural part of the revision process. "Obviously, you have a draft and you work on it until you get it right."

Robert Walker, chairman of the RLA, said the delay was simply to give the board more time to review staff recommendations on the development agreement.

Chavous-Ackerman, Part 3

Now, the latest installment in the seemingly never-ending saga of D.C. School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman vs. D.C. Council member and Education Committee chief Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7).

When our story opened, Chavous blasted Ackerman for failing to show up at several council hearings called this fall to talk about her efforts to improve D.C. public schools. Now and again, council member David Catania (R-At Large) and others would join the chorus of indignation.

In Chapter 2, Ackerman publicly scolded Chavous, saying that she had informed him early in the fall that she could not attend all of the hearings but that Chavous had scheduled them anyway and then acted surprised when she didn't show.

Chapter 3 begins with Chavous leading another hearing on special education last week, this one on assessment issues. The school system witnesses had promised to begin testifying at 11 a.m., and the council was expecting the superintendent herself. As the clock ticked closer and closer to 11, the tension built.

No Ackerman.

Oh no, not again.

Chavous, furious the superintendent wasn't there when she said she would be, called a recess so that Ackerman's staff members in attendance, including new special education chief Anne Gay, could whip out their cell phones and frantically call around to find Ackerman. Gay then negotiated with the committee's clerk to allow her and other school officials to testify before Ackerman showed up. Assuming she did at all.

After nearly 30 minutes, Chavous agreed to resume the hearing and allow Gay and the new facilities chief, Kifah W. Jayyousi, to begin testifying. At about 20 minutes to noon, Ackerman was ushered into the council chamber and sworn in to face her questioners.

Audience members who knew the Chavous-Ackerman story line waited for council members to begin grilling the superintendent over why she hadn't shown up on time, as promised.

It didn't happen. This time the show went on, without any unpleasantness.

Staff writers Spencer S. Hsu and Valerie Strauss contributed to this report.