Council Set to Monitor Schools Overhaul; Crafting Gun Rules Will Be a Top Priority

Article excerpt

Byline: David C. Lipscomb, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray says his top priority when the council returns Monday from summer recess will be to continue oversight hearings on the Fenty administration's proposed changes to the city school system - a response, in part, to council members' concerns about being left out of the administration's key plans and decisions.

Mr. Gray, a Democrat, said he wants the hearings to delve into schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's master facilities and five-year educational plans, although past hearings have resulted in conflict between the sometimes brusque Mrs. Rhee and Allen Y. Lew, director of the school system's Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Democrat, hired Mrs. Rhee last year when he took control of the troubled, 49,000-student school system.

The council is generally supportive of Mrs. Rhee's plans but has taken issue with her reluctance to respond in detail to inquiries.

The level of detail we're looking for isn't there, Mr. Gray said Friday. We've had a difficult time getting information from the executive branch.

Council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, said Mrs. Rhee could have a better relationship with the council if she was cooperative with the oversight process, especially concerning the school system's budget.

It's my job as a council member to exercise oversight, Mrs. Cheh said. I think I should have the best understanding possible of how money is being used. She has to realize she's not Henry VIII.

Though Mr. Gary has stated school oversight as a top and long-term priority for the 13-member council, members will likely have to address the more immediate concern of passing legislation to address the end of the city's 32-year-old ban on handgun ownership.

Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat and chairman of the council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, said either extending emergency legislation or crafting permanent rules regulating handgun ownership will be a high priority for the committee and the entire council.

The committee will hold a hearing on gun regulations Thursday.

Mr. Mendelson said the council may have to relax handgun-storage requirements to comply with the high court's decision. He said he would likely push for a child-access-prevention law as a safety net, a move that Mr. …