THE REGION

More Hearings on Metro Fare Increases

Metro will host two more hearings this week at which the public can comment on its proposals for fare increases.

Transit officials are conducting a total of nine hearings throughout the region this month and next before they decide whether to raise fares and parking fees. The extra revenue would help fill a projected shortfall of $48 million in Metro's next operating budget.

Tonight's hearing is at Malcolm X Elementary School in the District at Alabama Avenue and Congress Street NE. Tomorrow's is at Metro headquarters in the District at 600 Fifth St. NW. The hearings begin at 7:30 p.m.

THE DISTRICT

Activists Demonstrate for Housing Funds

Dozens of activists and several D.C. Council members demonstrated at the office of Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) yesterday, demanding that he give millions of additional dollars to a housing program whose funding was far lower than promised last year.

The city, facing severe budget woes, allocated $5 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund for fiscal 2003, after initially approving about $22 million. Activists said the mayor and council must guarantee the full amount of funding for the coming fiscal year. If not, they contend, low-income residents eventually will be forced to leave the city.

"It's a tough situation in terms of the economy and the budget and revenues, but we are determined to do it -- we are going to have full funding for this," said council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who joined council members Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and about 80 activists at the John A. Wilson Administration Building.

"People who survived the worst [years of] crime in this city are being told, 'Here's the door,' " Graham said. "Our message is, 'We don't want these people.' But that's not true. We want these people to stay."

Activists, representing a coalition of advocacy groups, then rode the elevators to the sixth floor to confront Williams, who was out of the building at the time. Several of Williams's senior aides met with the group until Williams arrived and talked with them for 25 minutes, according to his spokesman.

"The mayor made the point that this administration had delivered, not just talked about, more affordable housing units than other administrations," spokesman Tony Bullock said. Still, he added, "the mayor was careful not to commit to any particular level of funding at this time until we see where we are."

New Barnard Elementary School Opens City officials celebrated the opening of a new Barnard Elementary School at 430 Decatur St. NW yesterday.

The old Barnard, which stands in front of the new building, is slated to be demolished.

The new building, which is more than 70,000 square feet, can accommodate up to 480 students. Its construction is part of a systemwide modernization effort.

Spanish-Language Health Fair March 7 The Andromeda Hispano Mental Health Center and the Mayor's Office on Latino Affairs will co-host a Spanish-language health fair on March 7 for the District's Latino community.

The fair will he held from 4 to 8 p.m. in the first-floor lobby of the Frank D. Reeves Center, 2000 14th St. NW. It will include presentations from Andromeda, the Red Cross and the American Cancer Society, as well as free HIV/AIDS screenings by Unity Health Care. Other participants will include the D.C. Health and Mental Health departments; the Mayor's Office on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs; Whitman-Walker Clinic; the Spanish Catholic Center; and La Clinica del Pueblo.

VIRGINIA

Del. Darner Won't Seek Reelection Arlington Del. L. Karen Darner, a Democrat, has announced she will not run for reelection this year because of difficulty balancing her teaching career with the demands of politics in Richmond.

Darner has served for 12 years in the House, offering a consistently liberal voice in an increasingly conservative chamber. Last year, the 49th District was changed by the GOP majority to become the state's first in which members of a minority group constitute a majority of residents.

Two Democrats have expressed interest in running for Darner's seat. Andres Tobar, 57, a former government worker and civic activist who has served as press chairman for Darner, said he is considering running. Darner said she has talked to Tobar about the possibility.

Adam Ebbin, a Democratic activist from Alexandria and Arlington who now lives in Richmond and serves as chief deputy commissioner for the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, said he is considering returning to Northern Virginia to run for the seat.

Pr. William Plan Includes Tax-Rate Cut Prince William County Executive Craig S. Gerhart proposed a $614.5 million spending plan yesterday for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The plan would represent a 13 percent increase from the current budget.

Gerhart's proposal includes a 4-cent tax-rate reduction. But with county home values increasing by more than 15 percent, the average tax bill would rise 12 percent. Some supervisors expressed concern yesterday about the possibility of another year of double-digit tax increases for homeowners.

The plan would fund an additional 28 firefighters and emergency service technicians and 20 more police officers. It also would give county employees an average 6.5 percent salary increase.

Supervisors will adopt a final budget in April, after several public hearings and a community briefing.

Richmond Endorses Statue of Lincoln, Son Richmond's City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday night endorsing the placement of a statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Visitor Center in the Richmond National Battlefield Park and calling it a "symbol of unity and reconciliation."

While opponents have said the statue of the Civil War president does not belong in the former capital of the Confederacy, council members said Richmond has many monuments to Confederate heroes and few reminders of the abolition of slavery.

The council also voted to contribute up to $45,000 toward a granite plaza for the statue, scheduled to be dedicated April 5. The life-size bronze statue depicts Lincoln sitting on a bench beside his son Tad.

"Traditionally, we've been more at the latter end of the whole nominating process and, consequently, Virginia has never been a major player."

-- Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D), on legislation he will sign to move Virginia's presidential primary to Feb. 10, 2004. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Justin Blum, Sylvia Moreno, David Nakamura, Michael D. Shear and Eric M. Weiss and the Associated Press.