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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nation’s capital
by the editor of The Common Denominator

RAMSEY'S PENSION: Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey became the District's longest serving top cop since enactment of home rule when he passed his eight-year anniversary on the force in late April. Mayor Anthony Williams decided to use the occasion to remind D.C. City Council members that the controversy surrounding Ramsey's pension remains unsettled.

The last time Williams asked the council to consider a special retirement package for the chief, the effort was stopped dead in its tracks by Ward 3 Councilwoman Kathy Patterson. As then-chairman of the council's Judiciary Committee, Patterson protested that the Williams administration had not made its case that Ramsey was entitled to more than the standard policeman's pension.

Williams considers the matter a question of equity for Ramsey, who came up through the Chicago Police Department but left a top spot on his hometown's force when he relocated to take the then-troubled helm at MPD. "I'm asking that we ensure he doesn't suffer because of his decision to come to D.C.," Williams said.

Under the city's retirement plan for police officers and firefighters, Ramsey would be entitled to receive a pension of $44,000 a year, but the mayor wants the council to raise that amount to $60,000 a year for the chief. What, if any, pension Ramsey may receive from his days in Chicago remains unclear.

Out of curiosity, and for the sake of whatever comparison might be made, The Common Denominator recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request to learn about the deal that former police chief Maurice Turner took into retirement after eight years as MPD's top cop. Turner, a D.C. native who worked his way up through the ranks during more than 30 years on the force, died in 1993 and has been memorialized with MPD's police academy bearing his name.

According to Joan Passerino, chief benefits officer at the D.C. Retirement Board, Turner received an annual pension of $70,932 – paid in monthly installments – when he retired at the end of July 1989. Periodic cost-of-living increases raised Turner's pension to $83,568 a year by the time he died on June 16, 1993.

Apples and oranges? Maybe. Maybe not. Patterson called Turner's pension "good information to have." But is she any more inclined to support the mayor's special retirement package for Ramsey?

"I think it's still going to be up to them to make the case," she said.

OLD BELL'S FUTURE: Now that the new Columbia Heights Educational Campus – the name for the consolidated Lincoln Middle and Bell Senior High schools – has been dedicated and is in full use, the former Bell vocational school across Hiatt Place NW sits vacant awaiting the wrecking ball.

D.C. Public Schools spokeswoman Leonie Campbell tells us that work is in progress to select a contractor for the building's demolition to make way for construction of a new soccer field, which will give Bell's varsity squad real home turf for the first time. Construction of the new field is tentatively scheduled to get underway this fall.

Copyright 2006 The Common Denominator