AS SHE MAKES quite clear in a letter to the editor today, D.C. Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis is less than pleased with a report in this newspaper last Saturday outlining her proposals to spend public money on overseas travel, entertainment and an $85,000 computer terminal for her office. Her chief complaint, as we read it, is that the report should have cited other items approved by the council committee she heads, instead of focusing on all the perks the committee approved. But we suspect that a good number of taxpayers are most keenly interested in her ideas of what a D.C. Council should be spending on itself. Certainly a number of her own colleagues were -- when they first read about this -- and they're as displeased as they are embarrassed about the maneuver.
In the package of proposals is $65,000 reallocated to finance overseas travel, principally by Mrs. Jarvis as chairman of the committee on housing and economic development. This would be to help drum up business and trade for the District, something done here and in most states by the executive branch.
Then there is a proposal that each of the 13 council members be entitled to spend $5,000 a year to entertain constituents at the convention center. Is this to drum up business too, and if so, what kind -- reelection business?
One proposal wouldn't involve dollars, but is a silly one to make into a legal requirement: the Jarvis package includes a requirement that all new promotional pamphlets and material issued by the D.C. government contain the names of all council members. Are the state governments in Maryland and Virginia required to put the names of every member of their state legislatures on all their pamphlets?
Then there are proposals for two new staff positions for Mrs. Jarvis' committee, to serve as liaisons with the D.C. Housing Finance Agency and the Office of Business and Economic Development. Is it that difficult to get solid information from the agencies now? Similarly, is it really necessary to spend $50,000 to hire an auditor to be assigned to the D.C. Auditor's office to keep an eye on programs for the committee? What on earth is the independent D.C. auditor, who is selected by the council, supposed to be doing? And what about another $50,000 proposed for research funds for the committee staff? Is there some special project in mind?
It's not a question of council members' being "relegated to second-class citizenship." The question is how wisely each member chooses to exercise legislative powers and spend public money.