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Washington Mayor to Regain Power Over Budget, Personnel

By David A. Vise
The Washington Post

The District of Columbia financial control board is planning to delegate power to run virtually the entire District government to the winner of Tuesday's mayoral election, sources said Monday, a move that significantly increases the importance of the race.

The mayor-elect - either Carol Schwartz (R) or Anthony A. Williams (D) - will meet with control board officials on Thursday morning to discuss the details of the far-reaching new arrangement, sources said. The transfer of power is designed to permit the mayor-elect to work on the city budget, personnel matters, and other critical issues during the transition period leading up to January's inauguration.

Under the plan, the new mayor and the D.C. Council chairman will regularly attend meetings with the presidentially appointed control board, which in the past has met behind closed doors and conducted important debates without locally elected officials present. In addition, Chief Management Officer Camille C. Barnett, who currently has day-to-day authority over most city agencies, will report both to the mayor and the control board, giving the mayor the clout needed to shape daily decisions ranging from trash pickup to pothole repair to the delivery of health-care and job-training services.

"Alice Rivlin and the control board have made it clear that their goal is to return to normal government and that a five-member, part-time board cannot run a city," control board Executive Director John W. Hill Jr. said Monday. "We would expect a partnership with the mayor and the council with the goal of returning home rule as quickly as possible and making a major step after the election."

Rivlin, the control board chairman, and the panel's other members recently concluded that delegating power to the new mayor is a crucial element in persuading Congress to restore full authority to elected officials after the city balances its budget for two more years, sources said. Otherwise, if the control board and chief management officer lead the way as the city's finances and services improve, congressional Republicans and others could argue that the appointed government produced strong results and should be left in place permanently.

"You want the city to earn its way back with Capitol Hill," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Oversight subcommittee on the District.