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Bad to worse: Apology needed in ethics debate

October 30, 2011

As the D.C. government creaks under the weight of ethics accusations, internal bickering and rumors of potential action by outside  authorities, Councilmember Jack Evans found himself ensnared publicly in two unfortunate and somewhat related ethics questions this week.  The first concerned his recusal in the summer of 2009 from committee and Council votes on the almost $300 million in public money to help the construction of a convention center hotel to be operated by Marriott International, Inc. Evans, however, did not file the explanation for the recusal as required by District law at that time. This action, or lack of action, became the subject of a website and other public notices by John Hanrahan, a former Washington Post and Washington Star investigative reporter, as well as former Dupont Circle Citizens Association president Rob Halligan over the last few months.  
This past week, Post reporter Mike DeBonis asked Evans about the lack of explanation, which led Evans to produce a letter from David Zvenyach, General Counsel for the D.C. Council, for DeBonis and Alan Suderman, City Paper’s Loose Lips.  Zvenyach said that there was no conflict because the Patton Boggs law firm, Evans’ employer outside the Council, did not represent Marriott.  When DeBonis and Suderman noted that this absolving letter was written in April, 2011 and asked Evans why he had not released it sooner, Evans said, according to Suderman: "This is an opportunity I've been waiting for.  To respond without responding directly to Hanrahan, who I think is a f… idiot."
Ouch. Putting aside for the moment the use of invective against citizen leaders like Hanrahan and Halligan -- and another use of unnecessary profanity that insults standards of civil discourse -- many city leaders and observers are similarly, and deeply, concerned. The question of part-time Councilmembers having outside employment that leads to possible conflicts was discussed by Colbert I. King in his respected Saturday column in the Washington Post.  King referred to an Evans complaint that “punishments for violating campaign disclosure requirements are too lenient,” namely that the $5,000 fine is just a “cost of doing business."
Is this what public service in the District has come down to?
As Councilmember Evans heads into campaign season with a new challenger, Fiona Greig, we strongly suggest that the 20-year veteran follow remedies suggested by King and start to remove the stain of what is becoming the “D.C. Council of Corruption,” according to the longtime Post columnist.  Why not become the champion for real punishment for ethics law violations and for adequate staffing to enable our election board and other local enforcement agencies to be effective? (Meanwhile, King's recommendations include much stronger medicine.)

Perhaps more importantly, we call on our Councilmember, Jack Evans, to apologize to John Hanrahan.  We understand the frustration of working in an ethically-challenged environment, where even baseless accusations may generate continuing, unwanted and -- sometimes undeserved -- attention.   But this kind of language directed at a citizen who has worked with integrity on behalf of many citizens and community causes is beneath the dignity of the office. In this environment, the burden of proof is on Councilmembers to demonstrate their integrity -- even to go the extra mile -- repeatedly and patiently. Splattering the public discourse with profanity does no more than degrade an already difficult public discourse in which respectful, attentive engagement is critical. An apology is needed on behalf of you, the council and the citizens you represent.


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Kerry Washington at Sprinkles Saturday

October 27, 2011

Those who are fans of the new show “Scandal” should venture over to M street on Saturday to Sprinkles Cupcakes. Kerry Washington, the star of the ABC drama, will be greeting and serving fans from 3:00-5:00 pm to raise funds for Americans for the Arts, the leading non-profit organization dedicated to advancing art practice and education. All the proceeds from Sprinkles Red Velvet cupcakes purchased from October 29 to November 6 will go towards Americans for the Arts.

Where: Sprinkles Cupcakes at 3015 M Street, NW

Sprinkles Cupcakes Number: 202.450.1610


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Mayor reaffirms support for Georgetown community

October 4, 2011

They may not have voted for him, but Georgetown residents gave Mayor Vincent C. Gray a very warm welcome at Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E's monthly meeting Monday.  After a laudatory introduction by Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, a Georgetown resident, then answering questions about ANC redistricting, Georgetown University’s campus plan and money for Volta Park and praise for city agencies, the Mayor was in control and at the top of his game.

Mayor Gray makes his point to Commissioners Ron Lewis and Bill Starrels on Monday evening (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Mayor Gray makes his point to Commissioners Ron Lewis and Bill Starrels on Monday evening
The Mayor's appearance at the ANC was announced last week after neighbors complained about mismanagement of the huge repaving project to replace cobblestone O & P Streets, and city officials swung into action to address complaints of parking nightmares and ticketing. DDOT officials at the meeting Monday announced a new daily e-mail alerting residents to work areas and parking restrictions, as well as a new Twitter account, specific measures the community had asked for.

Gray specifically voiced his support for the position of residents who have opposed Georgetown University's proposed Campus Plan. Community opposition to it is focused on the proposed increase in the number of students who would be housed off-campus, particularly in Georgetown and Burleith.  “I support the community,” he said to a round of applause, adding that while he had met with Unviersity President Jack DeGioia, the ANC speaks on “behalf of the community [and their] concerns are well-founded,” including a firm enrollment cap.  He also praised recent University-community discussions and it “looks like there is some positive movement and people are working together.”

On the related town-gown topic of ANC redistricting, Gray was questioned about the apparent disparity in representation for students.  They make up 45% of the population but will only have two of the eight seats in the proposed new districts.  As a ward-level council topic, Evans described the legislative steps ahead for all sides to be heard, but in the end in redistricting, “not everyone goes home happy.”

Mayor Gray at the ANC 2E meeting on Monday. (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Mayor Gray at the ANC 2E meeting on Monday.

Self-determination and town-gown relations were combined in an exchange prompted by a question from Commissioner Jake Sticka, a GU student.  Sticka asked if the Mayor would support a town hall on university-student relations, to which Gray answered he would, if Sticka would establish a university group for self-determination and statehood for the District.  Sticka answered: “We already have two now.”

In the course of the evening, several District agencies were lauded, specifically MPD and the District Department of Transportation.  Evans called DDOT “johnny-the-spot” for its overall performance in Georgetown and Commissioner Jeff Jones praised DDOT and its contractors for their work on O & P Streets. “We really appreciate the hard work you’re doing for the community," he said.  Commissioner Tom Birch said MPD was very quick and effective in response to a purse-snatching near the 7-11 on P Street.

Gray soundly defeated incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty in last year's election by a 53-46 margin, but in Georgetown's Precinct 5, Fenty won 85 percent of the vote to Gray's 13.  In Precinct 6, Fenty won with almost 87 percent of the vote.

Councilmember Evans and Mayor Gray (center) with commissioners (from left) Jake Sticka, Tom Birch, Bill Starrels, Ed Solmonn, Ron Lewis and Jeff Jones  (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Councilmember Evans and Mayor Gray (center) with commissioners (from left) Jake Sticka, Tom Birch, Bill Starrels, Ed Solmonn, Ron Lewis and Jeff Jones

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