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Kwame Brown raises his voice on policy

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Local,Freeman Klopott

Kwame Brown, the city's likely next D.C. Council chairman, is exerting his own policy vision in the face of a growing council power void.

Councilman Brown hasn't always been the most decisive member of the council. He voted present for Attorney General Peter Nickles' confirmation, a move that put him on the books without having to commit.

But in recent weeks, Brown has started pushing his own policy.

It wasn't long after D.C.'s current council chairman -- and likely next mayor -- Vince Gray told The Washington Examiner that he's looking at slicing revenue before raising taxes to close the city's $175 million budget gap, that Brown said he wants to make sure those who owe the city money pay up before the budget is cut. Brown has been at the table with Gray and Mayor Adrian Fenty as they prepare the cuts the council will have to consider.

"We have a budget issue and I clearly have been working closely with Chairman Gray," Brown told The Examiner. "Going after people who owe us money is one step in a three-step process." First get the cash that's owed, then the budget cuts, and then consider tax increases, he said.

By playing a slightly different tune from Gray, Brown is starting to push his own vision for the council and the role it will play as the potential foil to a future Gray administration.

"What you have is the chairman-elect and the mayor-elect working together as the two leaders who will need to move this city forward," Brown told The Examiner. Working on the budget "is an example of how we'll work together as we move forward and as two equal branches of government."

Gray is all but running the city now as Fenty fades into the finish of his lame-duck term. Since winning the Democratic primary, Fenty has given Gray the hiring freeze the current council chairman asked for and promoted Gray's pick of Kaya Henderson to interim schools chancellor when Michelle Rhee announced her resignation.

But that has left the council without a clear a voice of its own. Brown, political observers say, is now becoming that voice.

"The current chairman is moving on to become the mayor and is exercising his authority," Fenty's former campaign chairman Bill Lightfoot said. "Brown is taking appropriate action to fill the power and policy vacuum."

fklopott@washingtonexaminer.com

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