Dixon promises 'honest deal' to D.C. Barry's successor sworn in as mayor

January 03, 1991|By Arch Parsons | Arch Parsons,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Sharon Pratt Dixon promised Washingtonians an "honest deal" after she was sworn in yesterday as the national capital's third mayor since Congress granted it home rule 17 years ago.

"Our immediate responsibility is to give the people of this city the government they deserve and respect," Mrs. Dixon told an audience of several thousand people after she took the oath of office at noon in front of the District Building.

Standing on a box so she would be plainly visible behind the lectern as she spoke, the diminutive Mrs. Dixon became a national political figure: the first black woman to become mayor of a major American city.

Among those on hand for her inauguration were Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan; Ronald H. Brown, chairman of the Democratic National Committee; Virginia's Democratic Gov. L. Douglas Wilder; Maryland's Democratic Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski; and Baltimore's Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

The change in Washington's political picture was perhaps sketched most clearly when Mrs. Dixon was handed the city's seal by her predecessor, Marion S. Barry Jr.

Mr. Barry's 12-year tenure as mayor collapsed last year when he was convicted of cocaine possession and sentenced to a six-month jail term.

Speaking in a soft voice, Mr. Barry thanked the city's residents "for your prayers, your faith and your steadfastness."

Later yesterday, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson was sworn in to his first elective office -- as a District of Columbia "shadow" senator whose sole job, at no pay, will be to lobby Congress for D.C. statehood.

In her address, Mayor Dixon said that the city's current status of home rule was only "a halfway mark on a long journey" to becoming "the State of New Columbia."

But the new mayor's main emphasis yesterday was on the theme that "what the people of Washington want most is an honest deal."

"We have lived through a decade of national excess, ignoring all the while the fundamental truth of our condition," she said. "There has been a corruption of the public estate, a disregard by those at the top for those fundamental values that hold us together."

Among other things, she said, the city government has "too few people in the right jobs and too many people in jobs that shouldn't even exist."

Mrs. Dixon called upon Congress to increase the annual federal payment it grants to the district. The purpose of the payment is to make up for what the city loses in revenue from the presence here of the non-taxable federal government. The payment has remained stagnant at $435 million for the last five years.

"We need a United States Congress who pays her fair share and her full share," she said.

She abandoned her text to turn to Washington's rate of murders. "Seven hundred three killings is enough!" she said angrily, referring to a report of the number of murders in the Washington metropolitan area last year. "We will have it no more!"

And she made another departure from text -- to hug the new chairman of the D.C. City Council, John Wilson.

Mr. Wilson, along with other council members, had been sworn in to office just before Mrs. Dixon's inauguration. He has already made moves to increase the council's -- and his own -- powers. Mrs. Dixon called upon him to "build a true partnership to make this city work again."

"Now, where's John?" Mayor Dixon asked, looking around. When he came forward, she embraced him. The crowd cheered. Mr. Wilson smiled.

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