D.C. Council members yesterday delayed considering four nominees of Mayor Anthony A. Williams to the board of the University of the District of Columbia, including a prominent minister who helped promote Williams's campaign in the African American community last year.
The Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Anacostia, does not have the support of most members of the council's Education Committee; they say that Wilson has used racially divisive rhetoric. One committee member also wants to know whether Wilson or the church owns several unkept buildings surrounding the church.
At their last scheduled meeting of the year, council members also approved a measure that would set up a new D.C. Housing Authority to begin preparing for the end of the federal court receivership of the District's public housing agency.
Council member Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) praised David I. Gilmore, the court-appointed receiver who has run the authority since 1995, for being "the only one of the receivers who has fulfilled his charge. . . . This bill will allow this receivership to come to an end in six months."
In addition to the Housing Authority, three other D.C. agencies operate under court-appointed receivers because of past problems: Child and Family Services, Mental Health and Corrections.
The UDC nominations were taken off the council's agenda yesterday by council member Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7), chairman of the Education Committee. Chavous said the panel, which held a public meeting on the nominations Monday, had not had time to fully discuss the names submitted by Williams (D) last week.
Besides Wilson, Williams's nominees for the UDC board are Reginald E. Gilliam Jr., a managing director at the public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton; Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a Harvard law professor; and Mark Palmer, a venture capitalist and former ambassador.
But three of the five members of Chavous's committee have indicated that they were unprepared or unwilling to support Wilson's nomination.
Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) said after yesterday's meeting that she would not support Wilson. She also said she was surprised to see his name before the council because Williams, in a private discussion with her, "had indicated that he would not be nominating him."
"I think the university needs people who can really help build community support for its operations and community support for the very good services it provides, and I think there are stronger nominees out there who are available," Patterson said.
Ambrose said she has asked D.C. tax officials to examine whether the minister or Union Temple owns "any of those boarded-up, falling-apart properties that you see on V Street and Mount View Place" SE.
"I'm unwilling to go forward until we get that," said Ambrose, whose ward is home to Union Temple Baptist Church. The council member said she had gotten a phone call from Williams's chief of staff, Abdusalam Omer, seeking her support for Wilson's nomination.
"I told him that I need answers certainly to the property tax questions, because we can't be putting people on important boards and commissions who have not complied with the law," Ambrose said.
Omer said in an interview that the mayor's office was checking into the allegations about the run-down buildings but that city records indicate Wilson isn't delinquent on any property taxes.
At a Monday hearing on Wilson's nomination, Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) said that during some of Wilson's activism, he had used racially charged rhetoric. In 1986, Wilson led demonstrations against a Chinese American business owner who brandished a gun at a black customer. She also said he had made disparaging racial remarks toward former D.C. financial control board Chairman Andrew F. Brimmer, who is black.
Phil Pannell, chairman of the Ward 8 Democrats and a supporter of Wilson's nomination, said he was organizing a citywide lobbying effort in support of the minister. He also questioned the racial sensitivity of the council members who raised concerns about Wilson.
"For some members of that city council, it seems as if anyone who is black who makes pronouncements that are very beneficial for black people in a passionate manner gets construed as being divisive," Pannell said. "I just hope it's not coming from a prejudicial point of view."
Schwartz dismissed any suggestion that the questions and comments she put to Wilson at the hearing were racially motivated. "I certainly speak my mind and have great respect for others who do the same," she said in an interview last night. "But racial divisiveness has no place in our diverse city."
Wilson did not return messages left at his church yesterday seeking a comment. He endorsed Williams in last year's Democratic primary, lending Williams credibility and support from some African American activists who had questioned his commitment to the plight of residents in low-income neighborhoods.
Union Temple, in the 1200 block of W Street SE, has more than 6,500 members and operates a drug rehabilitation program, a feeding program, an annual community festival and rites of passage programs for teenage boys and girls.
Omer said the Williams administration will continue to lobby council members to move Wilson's nomination forward. Chavous said he hopes to be ready to act on the nominations at the council's Jan. 4 meeting.
"We think he's a leader who offers a unique perspective to the community," Omer said, "and he will bring that perspective to the university--the perspective of how to build a community, how to care for the poor and motivate those left behind."
CAPTION: The nomination of the Rev. Willie Wilson for the UDC board has met opposition.