THE REGION

Maryland Is No. 30 on U.S. Charity Index

Maryland was ranked No. 30 and Virginia was No. 38 on the 2004 "Generosity Index," an annual state-by-state calculation of how much residents gave to charity in relation to their income.

The index, compiled by the Massachusetts-based Catalogue for Philanthropy, uses federal tax return information and compares the average adjusted gross income of residents with the average amount that individuals reported in charitable deductions.

About 30 percent of taxpayers nationwide filed itemized returns. The 2004 index was compiled using 2002 tax data, the latest available.

The District was not included in the survey.

This year's index found that Virginia had an average adjusted gross income with $50,943, which was seventh on the list, but donated only an average of $3,343 to charity, below the national average of $3,455.

Maryland, which was fourth with an average income of $54,043, donated an average of $3,570 to charity, slightly above the national average.

New Hampshire, which has the nation's ninth-highest average income, ranked No. 50 on the index, and Mississippi was ranked No. 1.

THE DISTRICT

Mayor Backs Hazardous-Material Rail Ban

Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) reassured council member Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) yesterday that he supports her proposal to ban rail shipments of certain hazardous materials through the District, they said.

The D.C. Council rejected the bill Tuesday on a 5 to 5 vote. Nine of 13 votes were needed to pass the emergency legislation. Patterson said she will try to revive it later.

"I think there was some miscommunication that I would veto this bill," said Williams after speaking to Patterson yesterday morning. "I reassured her that I remain supportive."

A spokeswoman for the mayor said before Tuesday's vote that he would not sign the bill immediately because he preferred to work with the Bush administration and was concerned that a ban could not be implemented because of possible conflicts with federal interstate commerce law.

Norton Urges Early Voting to Limit Problems

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) wrote D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) yesterday to recommend that the District explore allowing early voting. Norton noted long lines and other problems leading up to the presidential election.

Norton said allowing voters to cast ballots days or weeks in advance gave elections officials elsewhere in the country more time to solve problems before Election Day.

Congress probably will revisit election reform law, Norton said, but the District can use its own home rule authority to act.

In citing problems, Norton noted an "avalanche of phone calls" to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics before the vote, the agency's limited staff and failure to notify absentee voters that their ballots required additional postage.

"I believe early voting would help address some of the problems that arose in the District this year," Norton said. "We can all be proud of the larger turnout we have long sought in this city, and early voting may be one way to continue and encourage this hopeful development."

WASA Board Chief Nominated for New Term

Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday nominated Glenn S. Gerstell for a second four-year term as the chairman of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority's board of directors.

Williams (D) said Gerstell, a managing partner in the law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, has been an effective spokesman for the board of the quasi-independent city agency.

Gerstell said that if reappointed by the D.C. Council, he would expect other changes on the board to take place shortly, including the addition of several members who have technical expertise in water quality matters and health issues. Those experts would help the agency better communicate possible risks to residents, Gerstell said.

WASA was criticized this year for its handling of findings that thousands of District homes had high levels of lead in tap water.

Legal Aid Group to Open Office in SE

The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, aided by a contribution from a local law firm, plans to open a satellite office in Southeast Washington.

The organization, at 666 11th St. NW, provides free legal advice and representation to the impoverished. Its lawyers focus on housing, public benefits and family law.

About half the clients live in Southeast, executive director Jonathan M. Smith said.

The law firm of Shaw Pittman has contributed $50,000 to cover a year's salary for a Legal Aid staff member at the new facility. The organization is looking for space and hopes to open the satellite site by January.

MARYLAND

3,000 Flu Shots Offered in Pr. George's

Nearly 3,000 flu shots will be available to at-risk residents in Prince George's County.

County health officials said they will open phone lines tomorrow to schedule appointments. Residents older than 65, younger than 23 months or those with chronic health problems will receive priority.

Parents of small children should call 301-883-7230. Adults should call 301-583-3100 to schedule an appointment.

The phone lines will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow. Those who receive an appointment will have to show proof of county residency, proof of age and, for those with serious illnesses, a doctor's letter.

VIRGINIA

Girl Found, Mother Charged With Abduction

Alexandria police said they have found a 2-year-old girl who they said was abducted this week by her mother in an apparent custody dispute.

Authorities found Ashley Montiel and her mother, Mariel Aracely Montiel, 27, yesterday after the mother called police to say they were at an apartment in the 5500 block of North Morgan street, police said. They said the child was in good condition.

The girl was taken Sunday from her legal guardian's home. Montiel is charged with abduction and a non-related assault and battery charge, police said.

"Now I really understand how those soldiers who have died or who have been wounded or injured have sacrificed for their country."

-- U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Eugene Simpson Jr. of Dale City, who suffered a spinal cord injury in Iraq. He will attend today's Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery as a guest of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Jacqueline L. Salmon, Spencer S. Hsu, David Nakamura, Nicole Fuller and Elaine Rivera and the Associated Press.