Speakers Table

Calling all qualified candidates for AG

July 26, 2011

Calling qualified candidates to run for D.C. Attorney General!

In 2010, the D.C. Council passed a bill to make the Attorney General an elected office as of 2014. Voters were asked to approve and they did. While there was much debate over whether this was good for the District, the voters determined that the independence it would bring to the office was worth the risk.

The author with former Secretary of State and Georgetown resident Madeleine Albright (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) The author with former Secretary of State and Georgetown resident Madeleine Albright
It will now be important to elect someone with the proper credentials rather than someone just using the office as a stepping stone to the mayor’s office. Since the voters approved an elected AG, many people have been thinking and talking about what kind of a candidate they could support for that office.

Contrary to most states, the Office of Attorney General (OAG) in DC does not and will not prosecute criminal cases. That will remain with the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The OAG is charged by statute with conducting the District’s legal business. There are currently 340 attorneys and about 300 staff dispersed throughout 28 agencies. This makes the OAG one of the largest law offices in the District and the 10th largest Attorney General’s Office in the nation. Even though DC is not a state, the OAG does the business of local and state government in one office.

The OAG works on civil litigation and provides legal representation to District agencies, employees and officers. The OAG represents the District in nearly all defensive civil litigation including tort, contract, civil rights, equity and class action cases; appeals of the civil and criminal judgments; child abuse and neglect cases; adult criminal and juvenile delinquency proceedings; antifraud, antitrust and consumer protection matters; civil enforcement of regulations; neighborhood and victim services; and child support enforcement.

In the past, individuals with a variety of backgrounds and personalities served as Corporation Council and then Attorney General, the name of the office as changed by Mayor Anthony Williams in 2004. The Attorney General was appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Council. Now under an elected system it will be crucial to have someone who is independent, wants to serve the people of the District, and preferably, rather than a current politician, is someone with an extensive legal background and management ability.

For example:  Someone of the stature of William P. Lightfoot, former councilmember at-large and currently managing partner at Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, LLP.

Or, Robert J. Spagnoletti, a partner at the law firm of Schertler & Onorato, L.L.P., where his practice focuses on criminal, civil, and administrative litigation. Spagnoletti also served as the District’s first Attorney General.

Or, Pauline A. Schneider who has a strong background in District and federal issues and is currently a partner at Orrick where she heads their public finance group in the D.C. office.

Let me make it clear, I have not discussed with them whether or not they would run for the office. I do think they are the models for what potential candidates for the office should exemplify.

-- by Peter D. Rosenstein

Peter Rosenstein has worked on political campaigns both locally and nationally and served on the Boards of non-profit organizations. He Chaired the Issues Committee for the campaigns of former Mayors Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty during Fenty's first campaign.

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What's in your Dish? Down Dog Yoga's Patty Ivey asks...

July 25, 2011

Remember when you were five years old and life seemed so magical? Every day was filled with a sense of wonder.

A time when you believed that anything was possible.

As kids, we believe in everything and everyone. We believe in the tooth fairy. We believe that there's a jolly man, who is making a list – with our name on it - and checking it twice!!  We even believe in a giant bunny who spends his Easter Eve delivering baskets of goodies while we are sleeping. 

A perfect and private world of exploration where questions spring simply from curious delight and doubt or distrust has no place. Armed only with blind faith and hope, we could dream our wildest dreams, and believe in all our imagination had to offer.

As children we believe in everything and everyone until proven otherwise.

Yet as adults, it’s exactly the other way around.  We grow up, become experts in our fields, and start trying to keep up with what seems more like a “Rat Race” rather than our life, suspecting everyone and doubting everything. Even when proven, we still offer our faith reluctantly. 

Why is it that as we grow up, we learn to rely on knowing more and yet believe less?

When exactly do we outgrow our sense of wonder, right along with our swing sets, and allow our ability to blindly believe disappear?

So, I've decided… I wanna be five again.  I want to applaud each marvel, delight in the extraordinary and hunger for all of the good in life.  I want dream and dream big.

I want to never stop believing that on this journey I can take that midnight train to anywhere.

How about you?

-- by Patty Ivey

Patty Ivey, co-founder of Down Dog Yoga in Georgetown, Bethesda and Herndon, lives in the West Village with her husband Scott and their small animal kingdom including two cats, Lucas and Lulu, and two dogs, Coco and Elijah.

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Council shuffle: a deeper look...

July 21, 2011

By exerting his authority as Chairman of the D.C. Council to assign and reorganize committee chairs last week, Kwame Brown set off a firestorm of media backlash, most of which centered around speculation that it was a thinly veiled act of retribution against Councilmember Tommy Wells. Yet Wells had no support from his 11 colleagues, and the media would have us believe that members acted only out of fear. 

Politics is a rough and tumble universe, not for the faint of heart or those without conviction of thought and deed.  Most likely what we witnessed was a shift of power to members who support the maligned Chairman – not all that unusual as political posturing goes. It seems that several Councilmembers involved in the switch received coveted assignments in return for their vote.  But to view Wells as a victim does a disservice to Mary Cheh, his replacement. The move is hardly a death knell for livable, walkable communities and urbanists.

But what if the news of the day focused on the not-so-sexy achievements that take place daily inside the Wilson Building?  One might not be so quick to chastise Chairman Brown for establishing his leadership. Set aside the scandals, missteps, or alleged wrongdoing (yes, Councilmembers should be held accountable for their political and personal actions, and those suspected of self-aggrandizement will be taken to task if allegations of wrongdoing are found to be true) and consider what has been accomplished beyond the titillating headlines. 

Under Brown’s leadership, the Council has, in the midst of the gloomiest economic forecast in many years, delivered a balanced budget on time and without devastating hits to social welfare programs or unnecessary new taxes.  This Council period resulted in more than 300 pieces of legislation being passed – a sure sign that the city’s business is being taken care of.

Now, Brown has taken on stewardship of three critical government agencies – Public Schools, General Services, and Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development – and he deserves the opportunity to test his mettle in these areas before being written off.  So far, his legislative track record stands strongly in favor of preparing D.C. residents for work through vocational education and literacy programs, and putting residents to work through workforce development and job creation initiatives. He has opened the dialogue on ethical standards for the Council, and although detractors have criticized his legislation for not going far enough, he’s not turned a deaf ear to suggestions on how it can be improved.

From this perspective, the legislative branch is hardly dysfunctional. Perception is everything only if you are myopic. It’s time to ask what is really going on here and take a deeper look at the outcomes for residents, businesses, and visitors. Is Washington’s fate tied to the personalities or failings of those holding office? I think not. With one of the most educated electorates in the nation, we are capable of making our own judgments – but first we must arm ourselves with all the information.

 -- by Irma Esparza Diggs

Irma Esparza Diggs was chief of staff to then At-large Councilmember Kwame R. Brown and managed his campaign for Council Chairman.



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