Longtime Ward 8 activist Sandra "SS'' Seegars was not reappointed to the city's taxi commission.
That comes as no surprise, even to Seegars. After all, she has been known to speak her mind, and what is on her mind often gives others headaches.
"I wonder why?'' she said. "I speak up too much for what's right, and I'm for the cab drivers and the residents, not the tourists and the government.''
Seegars has indeed been a staunch defender of the city's cab drivers. But some say she went overboard when, in 2000, she seemed to defend drivers who avoid certain passengers based on race and appearance. "Late at night, if I saw young black men dressed in a slovenly way, I wouldn't pick them up, either,'' wrote Seegars, who is black.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), who appointed her to the commission in 1999, called those comments "inexcusable.'' And in 2002, when she suggested that cab drivers carry guns for protection, a Williams flack called the idea "nutty.''
What's next? Seegars said she is considering a request by cabbies to help organize them politically.
"The mayor and chairperson are going to be unhappy, because I'm going to be worse,'' she said with a chuckle.
Other changes are coming to the commission, which will only have two holdovers if the mayor's nominations are approved.
The mayor has nominated for chairman Causton A. Toney, who has been serving in an acting capacity. The chairman's job is a full-time gig that pays between $91,437 and $117,879, according to the mayor's office. But it could be a short-time gig as well. The chairman serves at the pleasure of the mayor.
Williams also nominated former Ward 8 council member Sandy Allen for a six-year term. Also nominated, for four-year terms, were Tom Heinemann, a former mayoral staffer; Lynne Breaux, the head of the city's restaurant association; Andreas Kristinus, a travel executive; and A. Cornelius Baker, an HIV/AIDS activist. He also reappointed commissioner Inder Raj Pahwa for another four-year term.
The mayor yanked the previously announced nominations of current commissioner Horace Kreitzman and would-be newcomer Matthew Washington. Officially, they asked to be withdrawn. In reality, their names were pulled after objections were raised by council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), chairman of the Public Works and Transportation Committee.
Schwartz was unhappy with Kreitzman's spotty attendance record and was concerned that nominating Washington, a Capitol Hill staffer with Rep. John W. Olver (D-Mass.), a member of the House transportation appropriations panel, could raise uncomfortable issues about Congress-District and home-rule issues. In choosing Allen, Schwartz said, it also added someone from east of the Anacostia River to replace Seegars.
Mr. Smith Goes to Housing
Allen is not the only former council member still interested in public service. Williams has nominated former D.C. Council member Frank Smith Jr., the self-described architect of the African American Civil War Memorial, to serve on the Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners.
Smith, 63, will replace chairman Russell D. Simmons, whose unexpired term ends July 2006. After completing Simmons's term, Smith would serve an additional three-year term to end July 2009, based on the mayor's nomination.
Smith's confirmation hearing will be held before council member Jim Graham, chairman of the council committee that oversees the housing authority. Graham defeated Smith for the Ward 1 Democratic council seat in 1998.
Graham said he welcomes Smith's nomination and plans to hold the confirmation hearing at 2 p.m. Dec. 16 at the John A. Wilson Building.
"Mr. Smith comes to us with a pretty good background in housing," Graham said. "This is a solid appointment."
Simmons, who resigned as chairman, has served since 2000. He could not be reached for comment. Last year, Simmons resigned as a senior vice president at Riggs Bank and as president of the board of the United Planning Organization, the nation's fourth-largest anti-poverty organization, to start a financial and real estate consulting business.
At the time, he was under scrutiny after a group of federal monitors investigating UPO criticized the organization for permitting him to use a 2000 Mercury Mountaineer sport-utility vehicle.
Smith's is one of three nominations to the nine-member board, which sets policy for 10,000 public housing units and 11,000 households under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly known as Section 8.
In addition to Smith, the other nominations include Gordon Cavanaugh, a lawyer, to replace Lynn Cunningham, and Marcie Cohen, an executive of the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, who has served on the board for five years. As chairman, Smith would receive a $5,000 annual stipend, and the members will receive $3,000.
Smith, a council member from 1982 to 1998, chaired the committee on housing for eight years. He wrote legislation that placed houses with delinquent taxes in a lottery to give low-income people a chance to win ownership, and he authored a law that gave police officers tax breaks to live in the city.
On the housing authority board, Smith said he hopes to establish college scholarships for residents of public housing.
"One reason I agreed to do this is I can provide incentives and inspiration," Smith said. "I also have enough energy and contacts in the community to get this pushed through. I believe we can make something good happen, and I'm giving it my best effort."