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DC Council Embarasses Itself Again

Once again the DC Council has taken the opportunity to embarrass itself and voted to reconfirm two of their earlier decisions. One is to delay the publically supported election for an independent Attorney General and the second is to not move the 2014 primary from April Fools day to June. With regard to the primary election I applaud Chairman Mendelson for trying once again to get councilmembers to give up their incumbent protection policies. It will be great fodder for late night comedians and I can see the headlines now, “DC Ship of Fools”.

Instead of voting to do these two things the Council instead opted to give the committee they took away from Marion Barry, after he was censured for accepting money from a D.C. contractor, to a councilmember who voted against taking it away from him in the first place. This Council as a whole is becoming a joke even though it may not be fair to tar all of them with the same brush that is what is happening in the eyes of the public.

I have spent many years defending D.C.s politicians but that is becoming harder to do. To be clear I don’t believe that D.C. politicians are any worse than those in other cities. But because we have so few elected officials we tend to look at them much more closely. We have enough reporters covering the Mayor and the Council that each of our elected officials could have more than one reporter following their every move on a daily basis Because of that they need to be even more careful on how they do the public’s business.

There are ways to end some of the shenanigans that are going on. The first has been suggested before. We should end the charade that our Councilmembers have a part-time job. The pay for a councilmember should be raised to $150,000 and all outside employment of any kind should be prohibited. That would put an end to the perceived or real potential of their having conflicts of interest. Then we need to have more transparency and their letters and conversations with current or potential city contractors need to be placed online for all to see. Then we need to abolish the ‘constituent service funds’ otherwise referred to by many as ‘slush funds’ and require more frequent reporting of campaign contributions. We need to end the ability of the Council to vote on city contracts and put the responsibility for signing and justifying those contracts back where it belongs with the administration. Then if there is a problem the public will know whom to blame. The council will still have its oversight responsibility but won’t be doing oversight on contracts they themselves approved.

The District of Columbia is doing better in nearly every measurable way than it has in years. Budget-wise we are the envy of many cities and states. Services are being delivered on time and schools are slowly improving. If the Council wants to take their rightful credit for some of the good things happening in the District they really need to get their house in order and stop putting the protection of their incumbency above doing the public’s business in a rational, clear and transparent way.