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Natwar Gandhi, the District’s chief financial officer, coasted through his Council confirmation hearing today, as witness after witness effusively praised his 12 years in the job. Among those who testified was one of Gandhi’s predecessors as CFO, former Mayor Anthony Williams. “Picking someone who has already been working in the city not only sends a powerful message to financial sectors, it sends a good message to the community,” Williams told the Council.
The hearing didn’t go completely smoothly for Gandhi. Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham criticized the CFO for not informing the council that the District had no new revenues until two weeks after legislators had finished the budget. “Why didn’t you send the letter earlier?” Graham asked at the beginning of the hearing and again at the end. Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser also expressed concern about reappointing Gandhi without searching for other candidates.
For two and a half hours, the majority of the witnesses likened Gandhi to a savior, reminding Councilmembers how far D.C. has come since its days of financial ruin in the 1990s.
“Dr. Gandhi has been here two terms. And in my view, he has inspired confidence and stability in our finances that did not exist prior to his being here,” Evans said after the meeting. “And so as a consequence of this time as the financial markets are a little uncertain, both national and international, it’s important to have a steady hand at the helm.”
Gandhi has “been an outstanding upright guy with the unions. He’s always been honest,” said Geo T. Johnson, the executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 20, before the meeting. (Johnson represents 8,000 AFSCME members.) “With all that honesty, we couldn’t do anything but support this man.”
After the hearing, Dr. Gandhi clarified his goals, assuming he’s reappointed by the Council this summer. “Want to make sure we do not lose any ground that we have gained in terms of financial credibility and want to make sure that the city improves its tax base. We have a limited constraint tax base,” he said, adding that he wanted to look closely at how money is being spent.
As for how many years he plans to stay D.C. CFO, Gandhi said, “I would leave it up to them,” referring to the Council. “As long as I enjoy their confidence, I’m here.”
File photo by Darrow Montgomery