CURRENT STATUS
MENU
DC
 Government


THE COUNCIL BEGINS ITS NEW 2005-2006 PERIOD

( This new section is intended in part to provide background material for NARPAC's new chapter on shifting the Council's primary mode from oversight to foresight. This will be difficult at best to do with the current Council organizational structure.)

(This material has been drawn from the January 21st "Points of Interest" e-mail circular from Tawanna Shuford, Director of Constituent Services in the Office of Councilmember Sharon Ambrose, (Ward 6) with her permission. Her regular reports are one of the most reliable sources of information on DC's local internal affairs. NARPAC alone is responsible for any errors in its condensation.)

January 1, 2005 marked the beginning of Council Period 16 at the City Council. There are three new Councilmembers, Kwame Brown (D-At-Large); Vincent Gray, (D Ward 7); and Marion Barry (D Ward 8), There have been a few changes committee in committee assignments. The Committees and their responsibilities are as listed below. All Councilmembers can be reached at The John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004.

Committee Assisgnments

Committee of The Whole

Committee Chair: Chairman Linda W. Cropp (At Large);
Committee Clerk: Mr. Christopher Murray;
Members: All councilmembers

The Committee of the Whole is responsible for the annual budget, and amendments, additions, or supplements to the budget; coordinating the Council's relationships with the Congress, the Federal executive branch; monitoring the progress of Council legislation through Congress; monitoring the status of original legislative proposals in Congress that may affect DC, the Council, or its legislation; the development of the comprehensive plan and other matters pertaining to land use; public space naming; reapportionment and realignment of DC's political subdivisions; Council administration and personnel; the scheduling of all matters for consideration by the Council in the legislative meeting; legislative matters related to DC as a political entity, including matters related to Statehood, voting rights, and self-determination for the District; responsible for coordinating the Council's relationships with appropriate regional, state, and national associations and organizations; federal grants management; the Council's relationship with regional authorities and other regional bodies and organizations not specifically assigned to other committees; matters regarding Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and other matters assigned to it by these Rules or by the Chairman.

The following agencies come within the purview of the Committee of the Whole:

    Advisory Neighborhood Commissions;
    DC Council;
    DC Auditor;
    Office of Planning;
    Office of Zoning;
    DC Zoning Commission;
    Board of Zoning Adjustment;
    Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority;
    Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments;
    National Capital Planning Commission;
    Office of Budget and Planning;
    Office of Grants Management;
    Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining;
    DC Statehood Commission;
    DC Statehood Compact Commission; and the
    Tobacco Settlement Financing Corporation;

Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs

Committee Chair: Councilmember Jim Graham (Ward One)
Committee Clerk: Mr. Jeff Jennings
Members: Sharon Ambrose, Kwame R. Brown, David A. Catania, and Adrian Fenty.

The Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is responsible for matters relating to government regulation of commercial, non-health occupations and professions, real estate, and housing activities, including maintenance of housing stock, and housing inspectors; consumer affairs; the regulation of banks, and banking activities that relate to consumer affairs; environmental matters related to consumer and regulatory affairs, and insurance, including private health insurance matters.

The following agencies come within the purview of the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs:

    Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs;
    D.C. Housing Authority;
    Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking;
    Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration;
    DC Board of Consumer Claims Arbitration;
    DC Boxing and Wrestling Commission;
    Rental Housing Commission; and
    Professional licensing boards not specifically assigned to other committees

Committee on Economic Development

Committee Chair: Councilmember Sharon Ambrose (Ward Six)
Committee Clerk: Mr. David Grosso
Members: Jack Evans, Kwame R. Brown, Vincent C. Gray, and Vincent B. Orange, Sr.

The Committee on Economic Development is responsible for matters related to economic, industrial and commercial development; the disposition of property for housing or economic development purposes; tourism, cultural affairs; international business and affairs; cable television; and matters related to the development of housing stock, energy and public utilities.

The following agencies come within the purview of the Committee on Economic Development:

    Deputy Mayor for Economic Development;
    Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development;
    Department of Housing andCommunity Development;
    Anacostia Waterfront Corporation;
    National Capitol Revitalization Corporation and RLA Revitalization Corporation;
    Commission on the Arts and Humanities;
    D.C. Marketing Center;
    DC Housing Finance Agency;
    Housing Production Trust Fund;
    Local Business Opportunity Commission;
    Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications;
    Office of Energy;
    Business Improvements Districts(BIDS);
    Office of Motion Pictures and Development;
    Office of Local Business Development;
    Office of the People's Counsel;
    Public Access Corporation;
    Public Service Commission;
    Sports and Entertainment Commission;
    Washington Convention and Visitor's Association; and the
    Washington Convention Center Authority

Committee on Education, Libraries, And Recreation

Committee Chair: Councilmember Kathleen Patterson (Ward 3)
Committee Clerk: Ms. Tamara Lewis
Members: Marion Barry, Vincent C. Gray, Phil Mendelson, and Carol Schwartz.

The Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation is responsible for all matters related to public education, libraries, and recreation, including legislation authorizing public charter schools. The following agencies come within the purview of the Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation:

    DC Public Schools;
    DC Public Library;
    Department of Recreation;
    State Education Office;
    Educational Institution Licensure Commission; and the

    University of the District of Columbia.

Committee on Finance And Revenue

Committee Chair: Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2)
Committee Clerk: Mr. Eric Goulet
Members: Sharon Ambrose, Marion Barry, Vincent B. Orange, Sr., and Kathy Patterson.

The Committee on Finance and Revenue is responsible for matters relating to taxation and revenue for the operation of the government of DC; general obligation bond acts, revenue anticipation notes, and industrial revenue bonds. The following agencies come within the purview of the Committee on Finance and Revenue:

    Office of the Chief Financial Officer;
    Office of Financial Management;
    Office of Financial Operations;
    Office of Finance and Treasury;
    Office of Tax and Revenue;
    Multistate Tax Commission;
    Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals;
    DC Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board;

Committee on Government Operations

Committee Chair: Councilmember Vincent Orange (Ward 5)
Committee Clerk: Ms. Donna Cooper
Members: Adrian Fenty, Jim Graham, Phil Mendelson and Carol Schwartz.

The Committee on Government Operations is responsible for matters related to elections, general services, personnel, including employee appeals and general administration of the government of DC; maintenance of public buildings, employment and manpower development, labor, property management, including the declaration of government property as no longer required for public purposes, human rights and Latino Affairs. The following agencies come within the purview of the Committee on Government Operations:

    Office of the Mayor;
    Office of the City Administrator;
    Deputy Mayor for Government Operations;
    Secretary to the District of Columbia;
    Department of Employment Services;
    Office of Personnel;
    Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs;
    Office of the Inspector General;
    Office of Press Secretary;
    Office of Property Management;
    Office of Veterans Affairs;
    Office of the Chief Procurement Officer;
    Office of the Chief Technology Officer;
    DC Board of Elections and Ethics;
    DC Retirement Board;
    Office of Asian and Pacific Islanders Affairs;
    Office of Employee Appeals;
    Office of Human Rights section, Office of Human Rights and Local Business Development;
    Office of Latino Affairs;
    Apprenticeship Council;
    Commission for Women;
    Commission on Human Rights;
    Commission on Latino Community Development; and the
    Public Employees Relations Board;

Committee on Human Services

Committee Chair: Councilmember Adrian Fenty (Ward 4)
Committee Clerk: Mr. William Singer
Members: Jim Graham, Vincent B. Orange, Sr. and Vincent C. Gray.

The Committee on Human Services is responsible for matters concerning welfare; social services; youth affairs (other than juvenile justice) and concerns of the aging. The following agencies come within the purview of the Committee on Human Services:

    Department of Human Services;
    Child and Family Services Agency;
    Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services;
    Office on Aging;
    Commission on Aging;
    Boards of Barbers and Cosmetology; of Marriage and Family Therapy; of Nursing Home Administration; and of Social Work;

Committee on Health

Committee Chair: Councilmember David Catania (At-Large)
Committee Clerk: Ms. Jordan Hutchinson
Members: Marion Barry, Vincent C. Gray, Kathy Patterson, and Carol Schwartz.

The committee is responsible for matters concerning health and environmental health, except for rodent control, air quality and Environmental Protection Act policies; the regulation of health occupations and professions, and health care inspectors. The following agencies come within the purview of the Committee on Health:

    Department of Health;
    Department of Mental Health;
    Office of Medicaid Public Provider Operations Reform;
    Statewide Health Coordinating Council;
    Board of Chiropractic; of Dentistry; of Dietetics and Nutrition; of Medicine; of Massage Therapy; of Nursing; of Occupational Therapy; of Optometry; of Pharmacy; of Physical Therapy; of Podiatry; of Professional Counseling; of Psychology; of Respiratory Care; and of Veterinary Examiner;

Committee on The Judiciary

Committee Chair: Councilmember Phil Mendelson (At Large)
Committee Clerk:
Members: Sharon Ambrose, Kwame R. Brown, David A. Catania, and Kathy Patterson.

The Committee on the Judiciary is responsible for matters affecting the judiciary and judicial procedure which are within the authority of the Council; matters affecting decedents' estates and fiduciary affairs; matters affecting administrative law and procedure; matters affecting criminal law and procedure; matters arising from or pertaining to the police and fire regulations of DC; and other matters related to police protection, correctional institutions (including youth corrections), fire prevention, and civil defense. The following agencies come within the purview of the Committee on the Judiciary:

    Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice;
    Metropolitan Police Department;
    Fire Department;
    Department of Corrections;
    Office of the Chief Medical Examiner;
    Forensic Health and Science Laboratories;
    DC Emergency Management Agency;
    Office of the Attorney General for DC;
    Office of Unified Communications;
    Public Defender Service;
    National Guard;
    Advisory Commission on Sentencing;
    Board of Appeals and Review;
    Child Support Guidelines Commission;
    Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure;
    Corrections Information Council;
    Criminal Justice Coordinating Council;
    DC Judicial Nomination Commission;
    Office of Administrative Hearings; and the
    Police Complaints Board

Committee on Public Works And The Environment

Committee Chair: Councilmember Carol Schwartz (At-Large)
Committee Clerk: Mr. Adam Maier
Members: Marion Barry, Kwame R. Brown, Adrian Fenty, Jim Graham.

The Committee on Public Works and the Environment is responsible for matters relating to environmental management and maintenance, including rodent control, air quality and Environmental Protection Act policies; public space, highways, bridges, traffic, regulation of vehicles, the regulation of taxicabs, maintenance of public spaces, recycling, waste management, water supply, and wastewater treatment, and regional public transportation issues. The following agencies come within the purview of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment:

    District Department of Transportation;
    Department of Motor Vehicles;
    Department of Public Works;
    Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority;
    Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission;
    Water and Sewer Authority;
    Washington Aqueduct;
    Soil and Water Conservation District;
    Environmental Planning Commission;
    DC Taxicab Commission;and the
    DC Bicycle Advisory Council.

Appointed officers of the Council

There are three appointed officers of the Council. Their assignment, removal, and remuneration shall be recommended by the Chairman, and approved by vote of the majority of the Council.

The Secretary, Ms. Phyllis Jones, is the chief administrative officer of the Council and is responsible for maintaining records of Council actions including the filing of bills and proposed resolutions, amendments to bills and resolutions, requests for hearings, committee reports, and other records and reports assigned by these Rules, the Council, or the Chairman, and for proposing and administering the fiscal year budget of the Council.

The General Counsel, Ms. Charlotte Brookins-Hudson, is responsible for advising the Council on matters of parliamentary procedure, identifying legislative problems, providing members with alternatives in terms of policy options to solve those problems, representing the Council in any legal action to which it is a party, supervising the publication of the DC Official Code, providing legislative drafting assistance to all members, engrossing and enrolling measures, and making necessary technical and conforming changes in measures during enrollment.

The Budget Director, Mr. Arte Blitzstein, is responsible for advising members of the Council on matters related to the budget including the development of annual and multiyear budgets and financial plans, review of contracts, and analysis of the fiscal impact of legislation. The budget staff shall also serve as a resource for all Council committees and members.

NOTE: The remainder of this chapter has not been updated in the past three years or so (2001). The materials contained are still useful from an historic point of view, but do not necessarily reflect "current events"

Summary of Older Materials

Article 1 of Section 8 of the US Constitution, adopted in 1787, established the right of the Congress to create and govern a district for the seat of the US Government. By 1791, President Washington had selected a site straddling the Potomac River, and including the towns of Georgetown, MD and Alexandria, VA.

The District and its predecessor components have endured a number of government forms with varying degrees of self-governance at the discretion of the Congress. It totally lacked democracy from 1878 to 1967, when it was governed by three Presidentially-appointed commissioners, and a large number of boards.

In 1961 residents obtained the right to vote for US President, through the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution.

In 1967, DC was granted the right to elect a Board of Education, for which purpose the District was divided into its current ward structure, in which most of the wards were predominantly Democrats and black.

The results of Census 2000 is also resulting in a modest redistricting of ward boundaries to reflect the continuing decline in the city's non-Hispanic black population.

Current racial trends, coupled with the recent largely imaginary "exodus" from the inner city, may change DC's political complexion within a decade. This is strongly reinforced by the results of the 2000 Census

In 1973 Congress approved the DC Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act (PL93-198). This Home Rule Charter provided for a mayorality and a city council of 13 elected members.

After scathing reports of the mayor's shortcomings, the DC City Council also began to come under serious scrutiny, although it now appears to be mending its ways and becoming a functioning, if contentious, legislative body.

In fact the Council has put out a list of its accomplishments in the 1999-2000 session ("Period 13"), and its goals for the 2001-2002 session ("Period 14').

And there are concerns about outdated DC election practices, which seem to have persisted into the voter turnout of Election 2000 in the form of probably inflated registered voter rolls;

And the summer, 2000 referendum on changing the composition of DC's elected School Board indicates how little DC residents seem to care about some of the city's most basic issues;

As an example of a typical DC Council diversion into the realm of fantasy, in June of 2000, they took up a resolution to endorse paying reparations to descendants of African American slaves at a time when more important issues awaited;

And in a more serious vein, the issue of oversight vs 'micromanagement' has come to the fore as Councilmembers delve into the day-to-day operations of the DC public school system and police department;

It has gradually transferred some limited powers to regional authorities, but it still performs an unnatural number of county and state functions.


return to the top of the pageARTICLE 1, SECTION 8, US CONSTITUTION

The existence and governance of the District of Columbia is established in the US Constitution, Article 1 Section 8 which grants the Congress the power:

"To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the Legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings, and...."

It is this unambiguous power over the District granted to the Congress that requires that any changes in DC's status be initiated by that body in accordance with the wishes of the American people.

Note also that there is nothing in the Constitution that prevents the District from being reduced in size to, say, that of the inner "federal enclave".




return to the top of the pageARTICLE XX111 OF THE AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION

"1. The District constituting the Seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:

"A number of electors of President and Vice-President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a state, but in no event more than the least populous state; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice-President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth Article of Amendment.

"2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

[There is nothing herein that either encourages or discourages other changes in the governance of the District of Columbia. In general, permissible local county, and state forms of governance are established by state legislation, since there is no mention of these jurisdictions in the Constitution.]

return to the top of the pageDC'S WARD STRUCTURE
( edited from INDICES )

Wards are the DC's political subdivisions, created for the purposes of voting and representation. Ward boundaries, first established in 1801, were redrawn several times as the cities of Washington and Georgetown grew, and the rural area of "Washington County" (now DC) became more populated. These wards were abolished in 1874 along with self government. A totally unrelated ward structure was created in 1968 to implement Congressional legislation authorizing election of members of a new DC Board of Education.

There are now eight wards, with average populations under 70,000. Their registered voters elect one member each for the DC Council and Board of Education, as well as the mayor, four council members and three education board members at large. The ward boundaries have been redrawn after each 10-yr census.

Other subdivisions are also used: there are seven police districts, eight urban renewal areas, 37 historic districts; 72 tax assessment areas; and so on.

DC's peculiar "go it alone" status is further exacerbated by the very different economic and demographic make-up of its constituent parts. All inner cities have their richer and poorer districts, and Georgetown and Ward 3 (or the DC's larger Northwest quadrant, for that matter) present a sharp contrast to the rest of the inner city. With only 13% of DC's population, Ward 3 provides well over 30% of DC's college graduates, household income, and residential property value, while providing well under 7% of the public school student population, unemployed, poverty households, or subsidized housing. See chart on intra-district statistics. It is perhaps the only US political jurisdiction in which the most affluent, best educated citizens are virtually disenfranchised at both local and (nonexistent) state political levels.

return to the top of the page REDISTRICTING TO MEET CENSUS 2000 CHANGES

Although the much bally-hoo'd exodus from DC turned out to be way overstated, Census 2000 did find a significant drop in DC population from 606,900 to 572,100 (See Highlights of 2000 Census) and some realignment in the Ward boundaries is now required. The proposed changes in the boundaries are depicted below mainly resulting from a significant drop in the black population East of the Anacostia as well as in Northeast:


In a letter to the Washington Post, Council member Mendelson explained the recommendations of his subcommittee on this issue:

Politics by the Numbers

Nobody relishes redistricting. It is a task without a constituency. People don't want to be redistricted out their ward and into another because that can mean that they may be represented by a school board member or a D.C. Council member they don't know and didn't vote for. Even their neighborhood parking zone can change.

Redistricting is admittedly a subjective job. The only thing objective about it is the numbers: every election district must be approximately equal in size. The principle is constitutional: one person, one vote.

The D.C. Council has other criteria too. It does not want to dilute the voting strength of minorities, and it seeks to keep wards compact. It has attempted to respect natural boundaries and neighborhood cohesiveness. In some areas, these criteria clash. Ultimately, redistricting comes down to choosing which neighborhood should change wards.

Residents of Fairlawn, on the east side of the Anacostia River, are angry that they may be moved out of Ward 6 to Ward 8. They would rather see Ward 8 pick up population by crossing the river and picking up a piece of Southwest. Residents of Southwest don't like that. It's the same situation west of Rock Creek Park.

Ward 3 has 8,000 too many people. But which neighborhood should be moved--Glover Park, Forest Hills, Chevy Chase? During public hearings on the issue last month, no one volunteered his or her own neighborhood for a change. Instead, they volunteered somebody else's neighborhood.

I regret that the redistricting plan passed by my subcommittee pulls Fairlawn out of Ward 6. But It is difficult to keep that ward east of the Anacostia River when the changes in our population dictate that the wards move west. Ward 7 is moving west into Ward 6, Ward 6 is moving west into Ward 2, Ward 5 is moving west into Ward 4 and Ward 4 is moving west into Ward 3.

Our proposal is something specific to which citizens can react. At a hearing last Thursday, opponents had a chance to express their views about how the city should be reshaped, and the D.C. Council will meet on Tuesday to discuss redistricting in light of citizen reaction to determine whether our judgment was off the mark.

Redistricting is a task that nobody wants, but the good news is that census experts suspect the District's decline in population has bottomed out. It was thought that we had lost about 90,000 people since 1990, but the census found that the loss was about a third of that. And it appears that the city now is gaining in population.

Critics say the process owes more to political expediency than to reason. I agree, if "expedient" means "acceptable." That's what politics should be about -- finding acceptable solutions. Ironically, the boundaries some people are fighting to maintain are the same boundaries many decried 10 years ago.

Redistricting is a disruption; but it is the only way we can protect "one person, one vote" and ensure that each ward has an equal number of voters and thus equal clout in the city. This is an important purpose that everyone in the city should embrace.

Phil Mendelson
At-large DC Council member
NARPAC Commentary:

NARPAC finds no fault with these realignments, nor with Mendelson's explanation of the process. In fact, we see several advantages, however slim:

o It may begin to break down the traditional barriers between Wards 3 and 4 delineated by Rock Creek Park;

o It may reduce the political divisions East of the Anacostia, and actually increase the clout of that still somewhat neglected--but potentially major--part of DC's future;

o It should significantly lower the barriers between Southeast and Southwest DC on the northwestern side of the Anacostia, where current revitalization efforts are significantly hampered by the political divisions demarcated by South Capitol Street. Hopefully Ward 6 will take up the cudgel for consistent development of this key area as well as redevelopment of that ugly thoroughfare, and the needed expansion of the inadequate Metrorail coverage.

return to the top of the pageRACIAL TRENDS: IMPLICATIONS OF THE DC EXODUS

There is substantial indication that most of those leaving DC in the current "exodus" are black, and from the poorer wards of the city. There is no indication from real estate reports or elsewhere that middle/upper class whites are leaving. This could have profound effects on DC's racial mix--and political flavor--in the future.

The only readily available data (from the last available DC INDICES report), show the trends in racial composition of each of the eight wards in 1980 and 1990. In that decade, the black population share dropped from 70.3% to 65.8% (-49,300), helped by a small influx in whites (+7900) and a larger influx of "others" (+10,000) who would not necessarily vote the black "party line". Only Wards 2 and 3 had a non-black majority in 1990.

For lack of a better forecasting technique, the mix can be extrapolated for the Yr2000, assuming the trends of the last ten years continue. In that case, Ward 1 also becomes predominantly non-black, and the black share of the city's population is down to 60.9%. Using these trends, the city's population would still be 575,500 in Yr2000. (see Table 1). In fact, however, it had already dropped to 543,000 by July 1996. If this steeper trend continues unabated, DC's population will be down to 502,000 by Yr2000.

If one assumes--as a purely hypothetical limit--that the lower population for Yr2000 results entirely from a faster black exodus (proportionately across the wards), then the racial mix changes faster, and the total city population would be only 55.1% black by Yr2000. This would require the rate of black departure to increase by a factor of 2.5x over the prior decade (-123,000).

With this much lower black majority, one can envision various kinds of reverse-gerrymandering that would give the non-black population either parity, or even an advantage. For instance, if there were only two "megawards" (1 thru 4 and 5-8), then the former would be only 35.6% black, and the latter 83.1%. If there were only four wards (1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8), the 50-50 balance would remain. A closer margin would be achieved if a different combination of wards were possible (1+5), (3+4), (2+6), and (7+8). In fact, if there were only 3 "superwards", (1+2+5), (3+4), and (6+7+8), then the balance would shift 2:1 in favor of non-blacks for black exodus rates over 1.9x the prior rate.

These hypothetical combinations may be completely unrealistic, but the fact remains, the current black majority may be declining more rapidly than has been noticed, and that could possibly result in a substantial political realignment within the city. This could, in turn, change the common "urban mindset" in favor of a more professional and less welfare oriented municipal government.

A 1998 study by the Greater Washington Research Center for the DC Tax Reform Committee confirms the general thesis outlined above, but suggests a slower drop in the black share of DC's population. Based on the extrapolation of polling data, almost 65,000 people left DC between 1990 and 1996, and at least 85% of them were black, and the great predominance of those were in the very lowest income category--indicating the young, the old, and the unemployed. Since a greater share of the black population is youngsters--and tragically includes many incarcerated felons who cannot vote, it remains quite possible that the black share of registered voters could drop below 50% by Yr2010.

More recent (October, 1998) statistics on the changing racial face of Washington, bring the total black population of DC down to 321,200 out of 520,400, while the non-black total (white, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) has risen to 199,200 (62% v 38%). Linear extrapolation of the Washington Post graphic would produce an intersection by about 2008. Making allowances for the substantially higher share of black kids and, the lower turnout rate in the housing projects, the voting voters could turn majority non-black by 2004-2005. Later figures from the 2000 Census give additional weight to the earlier predictions made above

return to the top of the page DC MAYORALTY
(first part edited from INDICES)


DC's executive branch is headed by a mayor responsible for delivering many government services. Exceptions include several major aspects: DC Public Schools fall under the jurisdiction of a separately elected DC Board of Education; the DC courts, whose judges are appointed by the President; and the Department of Justice.

The mayor's immediate office includes the Corporation Council, Inspector General, and a Chief of Staff who runs offices of intergovernmental relations, press secretary, communications, policy & evaluation, and a host of special service items such as commissions on women, aging, Latino affairs, arts & humanities, etc.

Four major functional areas under the mayor's City Administrator include a Chief Financial Officer (for budget, treasurer, controller, finance & revenue, etc.); a Deputy Mayor for Operations (public works, human services, corrections, fire & emergency, and police); and Assistant City Administrators for Economic Development (planning, tourism, minority business development); and for Human Resources Development (labor relations, personnel, and employment services).

Mayor Barry was, to say the least, a controversial figure in the recent history of the DC, bearing the brunt of the criticism for a totally polarized, do-nothing administration. Eventually stripped of most of his powers--but none of the "perks"--the mayor was still given to inciting dissatisfaction with what was being done by the Congress and the Control Board. In January, 1998 testimony before the House DC Subcommittee, The mayor continued to rail against congressional interference, referring to Senator Faircloth's "immoral and anti-democratic so-called management reform"..."crafted in the dark of night". He asserted that the Control Board " is being managed like no other government in the free world....It has created confusion, management chaos, duplicity, competition, disrespect, (and) low morale."

On a more positive note, the mayor also renewed his call for an "economic development corporation which represents all sectors, including neighborhoods "; "fund additional state functions such as medicaid, mental health, food stamps, etc.", and requests "a continued federal contribution of $328M for 'payment in lieu of taxes'". NARPAC did not disagree with any of these proposals, although a substantially larger federal payment of some sort is still warranted (see federal payment).

Excerpts from Mayor William's Inaugural Address

But in the end, Barry was largely discredited, choosing not to run for re-election, and opening the way for a completely new era in DC. One concern about DC's new mayor is that as a "quirky nerd", he might lack the sensitivities and leadership qualities needed to run this city. These excerpts from his inaugural address should put such fears to rest:

NARPAC Excerpts


Complete text--at DCwatch


Mayoral Authorities Being Returned

Barely two months into his new administration, Congress has passed the Davis/ Norton "DC Management Restoration Act of 1999", restoring to the Mayor the authority to hire and fire his major subordinates--a task which had been transferred to the Control Board when the Congress decided that Mayor Barry would not be able to turn his city around. Some measure of the new confidence in Mayor Williams stems from the better than expected financial news--regardless of the basis for the increased surplus.

But in some measure, the Mayor is showing considerable displeasure with his own department heads and needs full authority to deal with them. As one of his first moves, he challenged them to come up with near-term plans within two weeks for improving the performance and output of their own agencies. The Mayor found many of these plans to be "shoddy", and asked senior experts in the metro area-- from federal agencies and elsewhere--to help guide his agencies. In another unexpected move, he has delayed the search for a new city administrator, and plans to act in that capacity himself.

Mayor Williams' Tarnishes His Image--Slightly

In early summer, 1999, it came to light that Mayoral candidate Williams had accepted "consulting fees" from a DC bank and an accounting firm while otherwise unemployed and running for office, and had failed to report them in his financial disclosures. He quickly admitted his 'oversight' in his filings, but effectively argued that he needed to "put bread on the table" while running for office against candidates that not only did not give up their city jobs on the Council, but could still draw substantial fees from outside firms, creating a substantial conflict of interest. See DC election Practices below. Williams paid a fine of $1000 for the filing error, and the problem appears to have gone away. Williams was also able to report that he had returned to city coffers some $57K in authorized but unused "transition expenses", having raised $79K from area donors. The mayor appears to remain almost squeaky clean.

Possibly more serious in the long run, the Mayor has failed to complete many of his first-tier appointments within his first six months in offce. Though he has done very well meeting his promises on near-term "fixes" to city services, he still lacks the full horsepower needed to carry his adfministration over the longer haul. Stay tuned.

return to the top of the page DC ELECTION PRACTICES

No Primary Run-off

The question is frequently asked why mayor Barry was re-elected by the people of Washington so many times. The answer lies in the loyalty of many residents who remember the mayor and his close associates as leaders of the Civil Rights movement, which arguably changed the future for black Americans. It also lies in the fact that the city is overwhelmingly Democratic in political outlook, so that the party primary essentially elects the mayor. Because the primaries involve the selection of the candidate with the plurality of votes, the primary virtually becomes the election. Many state governments require that there be run-off elections in local primaries to achieve a majority of those voting. In DC, however, the more candidates that run against Barry, the more likely Barry is to win, based on his hardcore, mostly disadvantaged, support base. It is interesting to note that Barry won only 21% of the primary vote, and that his opponent in the most recent mayoralty election actually drew over 40% of the vote.

It is not clear to NARPAC, Inc. who has the authority to institute primary run-offs, but the DC Code does clearly state in Section 1-1307. Council authority over elections that:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter or of any other law, the Council shall have authority to enact any act or resolution with respect to matters involving or relating to elections in the District. (1973 Ed., Section 1-1105a; Dec. 24, 1973, 87 Stat. 836, Pub. L. 93-198, title VII, Section 752.)

However, since the Congress retains the right to review and negate actions of the Council, it appears that the Council can initiate such a change, while the Congress could, if so inclined, deny it.

Nevertheless, the failure to institute a run-off primary now did not affect the outcome of the 1998 mayorality campaign. Even though the mayor had decided not to run again, there was a field of five democratic candidates, and it appeared quite possible that Barry's influence from the sidelines might produce a plurality for a candidate that could not win a majority. See NARPAC, Inc.'s Commentary to DC Story. In fact, the primary election turned out to be a model of the democratic process, with a new candidate emerging "from nowhere" winning a simple majority in the primary. The incumbent mayor kept his peace on the sidelines, and there was virtually no racism or demagoguery evident.

While NARPAC, Inc. has viewed the use of run-off primaries as a means to assure the election of the "best" candidate for political office, for many city dwellers in the '70s and '80s, the bias has been in precisely the opposite direction. As noted in Tamar Jacoby's new book Someone Else's House, black power activists who were wresting political control of many of America's inner cities considered run-off primaries as a device by a white--often Southern--majority to deny political representation to a black minority. For them, it was better to field one well-supported black candidate in a broad field of white 'favorite sons' and hope for a plurality, not a majority. It seems odd that this has carried over into a city where most of the candidates have in fact been black.

Two respected DC area experts on election reforms have suggested another approach to runoff primaries which they call "Instant runoffs". These involve more complicated ballots in which voters express their second choices for candidates. Computers then successively drop off the lowest placers, re- distributing their votes to their second choices--supposedly until a winner with a majority is achieved. The authors claim some other countries have used this approach with great success. NARPAC, Inc. does not understand how this process works if there is a large number of candidates to be eliminated, but accepts the notion that there may be alternatives to the customary back-to-the-polling-booth run-off process.

No Primary

The lack of a primary of any sort for the lesser parties (at least four) did have an impact on the recently completed 1998 elections for the City Council. The total vote for three Independent Party Candidates slightly exceeded the vote for the one Republican candidate. Conceivably, then, a single Independent could have unseated the Republican, with the ancillary impact (if any) of changing the composition of the Council from (slight) majority white to (slight) majority black, and from (slight) majority male to (slight) majority female.

Outdated, Inflated, Voter Rolls?

Of greater concern in this local election year is the possibility of exaggerated voter rolls that do not reflect the substantial reduction in voting age (largely black) population caused by emigration to the suburbs. The "District Line" from DC's City Paper suggests that many people are maintained on the voter registration rolls who do not belong there. This would not be surprising in view of the number of people currently leaving the district, but who may be returning to see relatives, attend their churches for religious and political activities, or keeping their kids in DC schools for one reason or another. According to the Board of Elections, voter roles have not been purged since 1987, not because board members are shirking their duties but because federal laws have made it illegal to remove names from the voter rolls (!). "That's the issue here" says the spokesman, "It's not that the board isn't doing something, it's that we're not allowed to".

According to this 1997 article, "the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 enjoins the board from striking names from the rolls until a canvass card sent to the registrant's address is returned with a note indicating that the person has either died, moved, or never lived there. If the card does not come back, the name must stay on the rolls".

A subsequent article of the Washington Post also finds it suspicious that more than 85% of the remaining adult population is registered, though only a small percentage of them vote in any election--well below the national average.

1998 Voter Registration Almost Certainly Seriously Overestimated

Perhaps the most serious myth surrounding DC's 1998 elections is that voter turnout was low. The claim that the 137,500+ voters represent only a 39% turnout is almost certainly way off the mark, since federal laws make it almost impossible to remove the names of those (like myself) who have "fled" DC, while making it easier to add new names. The Board of Elections & Ethics' tally of 353,500 currently registered voters compares to only 308,100 registered voters for the 1990 DC elections of which 171,700 went to the polls for a 56% turnout. By 1994, there were supposedly 361,900 registered, and 186,300 actually voted (51.5%).

Our expert demographers claim a net loss of 87,000 residents since 1990. It is hard to visualize a 15% increase in registered voters coupled with a 14% drop in population. If one divides the city into two parts, Wards 1-4 with the lower expected population loss (maybe 8%), registration is claimed to be up 11% and voters down 17%, while Wards 5-8, with a population loss of perhaps 21%, are credited with a 19% increase in registration, but 21% fewer voters.

In 1990, 53% of Wards 1-4 population was registered, 49% of Wards 5-8. These figures nicely match the national average of 53%. If present BoEE statistics are correct, by 1998, 64% of Wards 1-4 were registered and 73% of Wards 5-8 had signed up. Such numbers would be virtually impossible to attain. It is not likely that 73% of Wards 5-8 are even of voting age. (the national average is 75%, with only 71% of those registered).

Clearly, the chances for error are very large. The "turmoil factor" associated with the population drop of 87,000 is, of course, much larger. Demographers estimate that in the "flight" from DC, for every three that left, two others moved back in (with less kids). Using a nominal 50% registration rate, this amounts to some 130,000 registered voters leaving, and 87,000 new voters returning. If only 40% of those leaving are "de-registered", then the rolls will show a net increase of 35,000 instead of a net decrease of 43,000.

According to DC Council officials, a greater effort will be made in 1999 to comb through the registration rolls and check against other data sources. For instance, DC will purchase, for the first time, two fascinating files: the Social Security Administration's "Death File"; and the Postal Service's National Change of Address Data Bse. With respect to that latter source, one senior Washingtonian recently did a mailing throughout one Single Member District, and got as much as 30% of that mail returned.

There is almost surely a large error in DC's current registered voter base. If the true number of current registered voters is, say, 275,000, then turnout was 50%. NARPAC, Inc. believes it was a good turnout, and well above the national average of 37%. Mayor-elect Williams has a fine mandate. And two years later, the voter turnout in Election 2000 continues to suggest the likelihood of significantly inflated voter registration rolls.

The 1998 Mayoral Elections

The 1998 mayoral elections in DC essentially went off without a hitch, and there was a minimum of racial overtones that have tainted previous elections. Mayor Barry raised an alarm by mentioning that the DC Council for the first time might have 7 white and only six black members. As a result, several senior people (and the Washington Post itself) refused to endorse one of the two white at-large candidates, and endorsed a little-known, hardly serious, black candidate instead. It had essentially no effect on the race, and Phil Mendelson, a white with considerable experience as a council staffer won handily.

Perhaps of greater long-range import, some 9100 voters cast their vote for a Green Party candidate for "shadow representative" (!) to the US Congress--the only Green candidate to run in the election. The result is that DC now has a fifth major party to put on future ballots--and, like the Statehood Party it joins, it further dilutes the serious candidates for major office.

Potential Conflicts of Interest

One dubious DC practice is that of considering membership on the DC Council to be a parttime job for all Council members except the Chairperson. Not only can Councilmembers run for mayor without giving up their Council positions (or seniority), but they can continue to earn substantial fees from outside parties. NARPAC visited the Public Disclosure Office of the Board of Elections and Ethics in June/July 1999 and learned the following:

First, three Councilmen have had substantial incomes from DC law firms since 1992: Brazil: $387,400 ($75,216 in '98); Chavous: $894,400 ($114,227 in '98); and Evans: $350,000 ($50,000 in '98). Second, re 1998 mayoral campaign contributions, more than half of all donations are $1000 or more from "fat cats/fat firms" (76% for Evans, 68% for Chavous, 52% for Williams), and a large share of those appear to be from untaxed DC businesses (68% for Evans and Chavous, 28% for Williams). 30% of those big donors to each reside in Maryland or Virginia, while a significant share come from elsewhere in the US (20% for Chavous, 11% for Williams, 7% for Evans).

Lumped together, these three candidates raised about $2300K, of which $1400K was from big donors. $800K of that $1400K came from DC addresses, and (a different) $800K seems to have come from donors that would not support taxes on service-sector businesses--for whatever its worth. There is certainly no attempt in this City Council to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. Councilmembers have also recently proposed an increase in their own salaries to $92,500 though Congress may try to overrule it.

return to the top of the page VOTER TURNOUT FOR ELECTION 2000

In 1998, NARPAC seriously questioned whether DC's quoted registered voter rolls were accurate, or highly inflated. This is discussed extensively under DC Election Practices (above). The data for 2000 again suggest that DC's voter roles are hghly exaggerated, or more simply, highly out of date. There are supposedly several thousand more registered voters in DC than in 1998. The average registration rate compared to the total population is about 53% nationally, but asserted to be 68% in DC (some 28% higher). Registraton rate compared to the adult population is about 71% nationally but claimed to be almost 84% in DC (18% higher). As the numbers indicate in the table below (split out by each of DC's eight wards), the resulting turnout of from 43% to 63% by ward--averaging 53%--appears well below the national average of about 71-72%. If the real voter registration roles are reduced by 28% to, say, 250,000, then DC's turnout was right on the national average, and, in fact, even with that of neighboring Maryland.

NARPAC, Inc. continues to believe that DC's voter registration roles are seriously overstated.

ANALYSIS OF DC VOTERS IN ELECTION 2000


Major Indicator:Ward 1Ward 2 Ward 3Ward 4
Total Pop'n:69700694006880065900
Kids 18 or Under:135007400830011500
Adults:56200620006050054400
Votes Cast:22811245103176427129
Registered Voters:45256466475019248590
% Pop'n Reg. Voters:64.9%67.2%73.0%73.7%
Reg. Voters per Adult:80.5%75.283.0%89.3%
Turnout:50.4%52.5%63.3%55.8%
Major Indicator:Ward 5Ward 6 Ward 7Ward 8 DC Total
Total Pop'n:63000611006280060700521400
Kids 18 or Under:1270010500155001940098800
Adults:50300506004730041300422600
Votes Cast:23174233842113313083186988
Registered Voters:45367451894251130659354410
% Pop'n Reg.Voters:72.0%74.0%67.7%50.5%68.0%
Reg. Voters per Adult:90.2%89.3%89.9%74.2%83.9%
Turnout:51.1%51.7%49.7%42.7%52.8%

return to the top of the page VOTING FOR SCHOOL BOARD REFORM

One of the most contentious of recent issues has been the question of what to do about a dysfunctional elected school board. A compromise alternative to continuing business-as-usual was struck after weeks of sometimes acrimonious debate between the DC Council and the Mayor in early 2000. It involved shrinking the board from 11 to nine members, only five of whom (including the chair) would be elected, with the other four appointed by the mayor and approved by the Council. Those in favor were opting for change, even if through an awkward compromise. Those opposed to any change were professing concern about "losing democracy", and that position appeared to be supported by the politically-involved black churches.

The results were a surprisingly close 51% for change vs 49% against. Most disappointing was that despite the heat of the rhetoric (and the insinuation of black church leaders into the debate), only 7.7% of the city's total population bothered to vote--in a city with a 62.3% black total population. There are four adults per city kid in DC., so the vote involved only about 9.5% of DC's adults, and each kid in the school system got less than 0.4 votes cast for their future.

Hence the referendum resulted in a narrow victory for change, and the distribution of the vote showed that majority support for modest change existed west of Rock Creek Park. That is the symbolic division within the city of predominantly white and predominantly prosperous from the city's relative poor, mostly black majority. The results are widely accepted as proof of the deep underlying racial divisions still lurking within the city. It seems to be peculiarly popular to keep this shibboleth alive, regardless of its truth.

NARPAC has tried to discern differences in voting patterns by geography (north vs south: Wards 1,2,3,4 vs Wards 5,6,7,8); by wealth (above or below $45,000 median household income: Wards 2,3,4,6 vs Wards 1,5,7,8); and by "blackness" (above or below 70% black: Wards 1,2,3,6 vs Wards 4,5,7,8). The results are only slightly different. Geographically, the vote for change was 59.6% favorable in the northern half, and 37.9% on the southern half. By wealth, the vote for change was 59.5% in the richer half, and 37.9% in the poorer half. By race, the vote for change was 65.8% for change in the "whiter" half, and 34.6% in the "blacker" half. The fact is, there is little difference between geography, wealth, and race distribution.

But two points stand out nonetheless. The vast majority (over 90%) of the kids in the DC public school system are black. And 60% of the public school kids live in the "blacker" parts of town. But fewer blacks turned out for the future of their own kids, than did whites--for the future of primarily black kids. The referendum results were certainly not an encouraging demonstration of democracy at work in DC. in an area where it is fully available. This was a purely local issue with virtually no interference from the Congress or the Control Board. There is no one to blame except those who did not vote.

return to the top of the page THE DC CITY COUNCIL
(edited from INDICES)

The Home Rule Charter established a City Council as the legislative branch of the DC government. It is responsible for passing laws and the annual and supplemental appropriations acts that fund DC programs and agencies. The Council has a chair-man and twelve elected members: one from each ward, plus four at-large seats.


Bills are developed by relevant committees; on a two-year legislative cycle; passed by majority council vote; and enacted with or without the mayor's signature, unless he vetoes it, and the council does not override (2/3rds majority). Congress then has 30 days to disapprove by a joint resolution passed by both houses and signed by the President. The major committees of the DC Council have been reduced by one, but two subcommittees have been added for the 2001-2002 session. They include:

o (CRA) Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
o (EcD) Economic Development
o (EdR) Education, Libraries, and Recreation
o (F/R) Finance and Revenue
o (GOp) Government Operations
o (HS) Human Services
o (Jud) Judiciary
o (PS) Public Services
o (PWE) Public Works and the Environment
o [hlp] Subcom on Human Rights, Latino Affairs, Property Management
o [lvr] Subcom on Labor, Voting Rights, Redistricting

Linda W. Cropp is Council Chairperson. The Chairman (XX) and members (x) of each committee are shown below:

Committee:CRAEcDELRF/RGOpHSJudPSPWEHLPlvr
a/l: Harold Brazil x XX - x x - x - - - -
a/l: Carol Schwartz - - x - x x - - XX - -
a/l: David Catania x - - x - x - XX - - -
a/l: Phil Mendelson x - x - - x - - - x XX
W1: Jim Graham - x - - - x - x x XX x
W2: Jack Evans - x - XX - - x - - - -
W3: Kathy Patterson - - - x x - XX - x - -
W4: Adrian Fenty - x x - - - - - x x -
W5: Vincent Orange - - - - XX - x x x - x
W6: Sharon Ambrose XX - x - x - x - - - -
W7: Kevin Chavous - x XX x - - x - - - -
W8: Sandy Allen x - - - - XX - x x - -

DC COUNCIL GOALS FOR 1999-2000 SESSION (Period 13)
(as reported in the Washington Post, 2/4/01)

Accomplished

  • Establish a committee to investigate special education in DCPS
  • Revise Alcohol Beverage Control law
  • Enact sentencing reform
  • Enact tax reform
  • Streamline tax code
  • Monitor personnel reform implementation
  • Ensure effective government and community response to Y2K problems
  • Conduct performance-based public hearings on government agencies
  • Monitor implementation of business reg reforms,creation of 1-stop, online services
  • Assess costs of infrastructure needs and funding priorities
  • Control Medicaid spending and use savings to improve/expand services
  • Determine status of 40 action items in DC's strategic economic development plan
  • Enact comprehensive real property management reform
  • Implement Council reforms
  • Strengthen ANCs
  • Improve pub safety, police staffing/deployment,halfway houses, emerg response times
  • Direct job training and welfare-to-work towards growth industries
  • Expand substance abuse service delivery system
  • Mandate a work plan to clean the city with timeliness and accountability
  • Expand parking availability
  • Develop comprehensive tax policy
  • Strengthen planning function and coordination with economic reform
  • Assist in reversing commute so DC residents connect with suburban job opportunities
  • Oversee rapid implementation of NCRC
  • Stimulate pub/priv partnerships to connect hospitality ind to Conv Cntr plng, tourism
Ongoing

  • Pass legislation to eliminate nuisance properties
  • Establish citizen panel to propose waste-transfer station legislation
  • Oversee plans to build new smart schools
  • Ensure the financial management system works
  • Develop a plan to modernize public school facilities, expand rec programs
  • Improve service delivery
  • Integrate DC technology plan with cable, utility regulation, franchise tax policy
Not Achieved

  • Reform post-1987 employee pension plan
NARPAC Commentary

This is the Council's first attempt to provide an accounting of what they accomplished over a two-year period. Unlike the mayor's more quantitative "scorecards", these objectives are purely qualitative and essentially impossible to "grade". In fact there is little consistency between the various items, and "monitoring" is just as important as "enacting". In fact, there is no mechanism provided for walking from actions to relevant legislation (if any), and completion of an item was considered "accomplishment", while still working on an item was taken as a failure, where in fact, the opposite in some instances might be more appropriate. But it is a start, and an attempt at self- appraisal, and one can hope that it will develop into something better,

heading

DC COUNCIL LEGISLATIVE GOALS FOR 2001-2002 (Period 14)
(DC Council Press Release)

Revitalize Our Neighborhoods

  • Continue to define neighborhood stabilization strategies
  • Use Tax Incremental Financing to support neighborhoods
  • Strengthen neighborhood planning
  • Increase police presence
  • Increase affordable housing for home ownership and rental
  • Oversee and monitor delivery of basic services
Demand Fiscal Discipline

  • Improve the District's financial and accounting systems
  • Ensure an independent Chief Financial Officer
  • Develop a reliable cash reserve
  • Monitor the Chief Financial Officer's operations
  • Improve capital budget process and financing
  • Monitor compliance by agencies with the Single Audit Act
Invest in Our Youth

  • Improve educational and recreational facilities
  • Integrate technology into education
  • Monitor the District based special education plan
  • Develop initiatives to reform early childhood education
  • Review the Children Youth Investment Trust Fund
  • Enhance the budget for after-school programs
  • Create a campus plan for the University of the District of Columbia
  • Establish American Sign Language as a school language credit
Protect Our Vulnerable Residents

  • Strengthen welfare-to-work initiatives
  • Expand day care hours and slots
  • Enhance vocational programs in DCPS
  • Enhance the infrastructure budget for the health care delivery systems
  • Strengthen services to thc homeless population
  • Keep DC General Hospital open
  • Conduct a systematic review of services to English-as-a-second language population
  • Fund Wellness Centers for Seniors
Oversee Executive Performance of Service Delivery

  • Mandate a plan for infrastructure needs
  • Oversee implementation of a State Education Office
  • Require a dependable schedule for equipment replacement, e.g., snow removal equipment
  • Monitor the Recreation Department infrastructure improvements
  • Monitor implementation of Council legislation and budget priorities
  • Use oversight and budget to improve performance in the Corporation Counsel's Office
  • Streamline collective bargaining units in District government
  • Create an effective adjudicatory process
  • Enhance oversight of federal grants management
  • Improve procurement operations
Promote Continued Economic Stability and Growth

  • Review and define tax policy
  • Review and approve regulations to improve Tax Incremental Financing
  • Monitor improvements to Gateways to the District
  • Review the triannual tax assessment
  • Implement the Tax Clarity Act
  • Increased the Earned Income Tax Credit from 10% to 25%
  • Create a legislative framework to make the District an international finance center
  • Build legislative support for an affordable and sustainable energy supply in the District
  • Secure federal funding to enable a feasability study for the New York Avenue Corridor development project
  • Review and monitor implementation of the District's comprehensive technology plan
  • Develop policy and monitor the government centers project
  • Streamline the regulatory process
  • Advocate federal actions to address structural revenue barriers
  • Improve funding for Metro in the regional context
  • Establish recycling government-wide
  • Reform the post-1987 pension plan
Expand Home Rule and Democracy

  • Support Charter provisions to enhance Home Rule and Democracy
  • Promote the election of an Attorney Gcneral
  • Promote local appointment of judges
  • Heighten voting rights and statehood
  • Fund and monitor implementation of new optical scanning voting machines
  • Monitor the implementation of electronic filing of campaign finance reports
  • Continue Council reform; conduct public education on the legislature's role
  • Reestablish the Wilson Building as the seat of local government
  • Complete redistricting based on biennial census
  • Strengthen campaign finance laws
NARPAC Commentary

The starting list of goals for the 14th Period is considerably longer than for the prior one, and again, the variation in specificity of the items leaves much to be desired. It remains difficult to separate the legislative items from the oversight items, and there is no attempt to prioritize the items--nor to correlate them with the efforts of the prior session. Nevertheless, it is a broad and rather ambitious set of goals, and one can only hope that it becomes somewhat better ordered in the future.

DC COUNCIL COMES UNDER SCRUTINY

In moves which NARPAC, Inc. finds somewhat overdue, the National Council of State Legislatures, the Appleseed Center of DC, and an independent residents' group have all produced studies critical of current Council operations in February, 1999. The National Council study was actually funded by the present Council Chairman Linda Cropp. Its suggestions range from hiring an executive director to supervised a larger, more centralized staff, to making it easier to get copies of the Council's agenda and pending bills. It also suggests giving up the Committee of the Whole and one of the nine standing committees. These are described in greater detail below:

The Post's Editorial staff then asserted that the Council needs a major overhaul and a new people-friendly approach. And to top it all off, it became known that the some Councilmembers, including the Chair, had just accepted substantial "automatic" raises (pegged to top wages of other DC officials) without public notice. The full-time Chairperson now receives $102,500, while three members (Catania, Graham and Orange) are increased 15% to $92,500 for their part time efforts. Three other members eligible for the raise turned them down (Ambrose, Patterson, Mendelson). Of the five largest cities in the US (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, and Los Angeles), only Los Angeles now pays their Councilmembers more.

Appleseed Report on Council:

The Appleseed Center has done its usual comprehensive and credible job examining Council operations. They conclude that:

"...there are major shortcomings in the operations of the Council. f the Council is to maintain its position as a equal branch of (the DC) government, it must increase the clarity of its legislation, communicate more productively with the public, perform more meaningful oversight, and enhance Councilmembers' access to expertise in virtually every area of the Council's operations. Above all else, the Council must improve the organization of its staff.

" The fundamental conclusion of DC Appleseed's study is that inadequacies in the Council's current staffing structure lie at the heart of many of the Council's operational problems. The decentralized nature of the staffing structure--in which most staff members are hired by, report to, and serve at the pleasure of individual members of the Council--favors the creation of 13 different power centers, each with its own agenda, as opposed to a work program designed to fulfill the Council's legislative responsibilities. As a result, the Council's work product is highly variable and too often poor in quality. Moreover, the staff's limited expertise in major subject areas and its lack of necessary technical skills--such a legislative oversight, policy and fiscal analysis, legislative research and drafting, and public information-- constrain the Council's ability to exercise its power effectively."

In short, the legislative branch of the DC government is essentially as dysfunctional as the executive branch has been. In addition to its basic suggestions concerning staffing, the Appleseed report deals separately with three other areas: a) improving the standard legislative process by adopting technical review procedures, public hearings and proper draft circulation; b) reducing the use of the emergency legislative process (which enacts half of current laws under truncated emergency procedures); and c) promoting meaningful dialogue at public hearings by introducing normal meeting practices. The last of 33 separate recommendations even addresses the need to "lower the dias in the Council chambers". A complete copy of the final report can be accessed through DCWatch.

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL):

The National Conference of State Legislatures was also requested to examine Council procedures, staffing, policy formulation, oversight, rule-making, technology utilization, and citizen participation and came to many of the same general conclusions. In this case, their 30 recommendations are grouped under the three NCSL mantras: independence, effectiveness, and accessibility:

"In order to operate with maximum independence from the executive, lobbyists and other interests, the legislative branch of government must develop its own resources for research, analysis and information. Most legislatures establish these resources in the form of permanent, professional staff.

"Recommendations for increasing efficiency include: reducing and reorganizing Council committees; improving staff interaction and knowledge sharing; and streamlining the bill status and tracking system. NCSL even notes that the Council should issue and update a directory of members, including office room numbers, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses (Recommendation 15).

"Under accessibility and accountability, recommendations treat Council visibility, public access to Council information; and rule reforms that can help clarify the legislative process and its outcomes. Recommendation 27 suggests a rule requiring that "all official meetings of Council committees and of the Council itself begin on time or as close to the announced start time as is practicable." With advice like this, who needs a Control Board?

NARPAC Commentary:

What follows certainly does not qualify as a NARPAC analysis, but it clearly makes more credible our twofold observations that a) the Council seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on trivia; and b) seems to have no overarching concept of its role in assuring the long-term well being of the nation's capital city. The failure to grasp the fundamental importance of a proper legislative underpinning for a prosperous, competitive core city in a leading national metro area bodes ill, and strongly suggests the Control Board should avoid premature withdrawal from its oversight roles.

With regard to trivia, a listing of the eight bills to be considered at, say, the March 16th meeting of the Committee of the Whole is illustrative:

  • 13-29: Designation of Harry Thomas Way Act of 1999;
  • 13-46: Mount Horeb Plaza, Symbolic Street Designation Act of 1999;
  • 13-47: Henry C. Lee III Park Designation Act of 1999;
  • 13-56: Ben's Way Act of 1999(renaming an alley);
  • 13-66: Closing and Dedication of Public Alley in Square 275, SO 95-62 Act of 1999;
  • 13-108: Closing of a Public Alley in Square 1189, SO 98-150, Act of 1999;
  • PR 13-30: Secretary of the District of Columbia Beverly D. Rivers Confirmation Resolution of 1999;
  • 13-30: Solid Waste Facility Permit Amendment Act of 1999.
The total list of 16 bills which became law during the month of February, 1999 may appear to have a bit more substance, but indicate the massive overuse of the emergency legislative procedures:

  • Act 12-623: Solid Waste Facility Permit Second Emergency Amendment Act of 1998:
  • Act 12-697: Department of Health Functions Clarification Emergency Act of 1998:
  • Act 13-1: Omnibus Regulatory Reform and Alcoholic Beverage Control DC Arena Clarifying Emergency Amendment Act of 1999:
  • Act 13-2: Board of Elections and Ethics Subpoena Authority Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1999:
  • Act 13-3: Office of the Inspector General Law Enforcement Powers Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1999:
  • Act 13-4: FY99 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1999:
  • Act 13-5: TANF and TANF-related Medicaid Managed Care Program Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1999:
  • Act 13-6: Criminal Background Investigation for the Protection of Children Congressional Review Emergency Act of 1999:
  • Act 13-7: FY99 Tax Revenue Anticipation Notes Congressional Review Emergency Act of 1999:
  • Act 13-8: Reorganization Plan No. 5 for the Department of Human Services and Department of Corrections Congressional Review Emergency Act of 1999:
  • Act 13-9: Sex Offender Registration Risk Assessment Clarification and Convention Center Marketing Service Contracts Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1999:
  • Act 13-10: Sex Offender Registration Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1999:
  • Act 13-11: Child Development Facilities Regulation Congressional Review Emergency Act of 1999:
  • Act 13-12: Day Care Policy Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1999:
  • Act 13-13 :Metropolitan Police Department Civilianization Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1999:
  • Act 13-14: Apostolic Church of Washington, DC Equitable Real Property Tax Relief Emergency Act of 1999:
NARPAC has been trying to develop a straw man listing of major legislation that will be required to support DC's long-term rehabilitation. When it becomes available it will be listed along with other long range solutions. But there are other major issues concerning the DC Council as well that have not been addressed by the three recent studies. For instance:

1. Rather than worrying about whether there are too many committees or too few staffers, why not look at whether in fact, the size and representation of the Council meets reasonable future requirements? For instance, NARPAC believes that the major issues confronting DC warrant the number of committees now constituted, but that the number of Councilmembers is probably several too few. We would look favorably on increasing the Council by another four at-large members to balance the "ward's eye views" with more city-wide views.

2. There is also an inevitable conflict between legislators putting their wards first, or their city first. In fact, the wards are too small nowadays to be treated individually. As recommended elsewhere, the notion of "superwards" should not be lightly dismissed. Taken to their logical conclusion, one could readily envision the formation of three DC Counties: NE and NW of Rock Creek Park, and an "Anacostia County" which might, in fact, include both banks of the Anacostia South of the Route 395 Freeway. Anacostia County would be in far better shape as a political entity to deal with its own redevelopment, and with any of the surrounding counties such as Arlington and Prince George's. See NARPAC's new comparison between Arlington and Anacostia.

3. Rather than think solely about the problems within the core city itself, how should the Council reconfigure itself to lead a movement towards greater regional cooperation? It has been DC that has resisted cooperating with the COG, and it will be up to the District to lead the way to a more balanced relationship.

4. One reason the DC Council has not taken itself more seriously is the overbearing presence of its capricious Congressional overseers. What would happen if DC's "seven mayors" were to actually disband and leave DC with a single Joint Committee of the Congress, devoted only to broader policy issues? How would the demands on the DC Council increase to do a better and more thorough job for themselves? How much more important would that role become if DC residents succeed in getting a vote in the Congress instead of being disenfranchised?

NARPAC finds it remarkably depressing that the experts are advising the Councilmembers on such primitive basics as stopping the hiring of staffers as patronage, starting holding meetings on time, and lowering the height of the Council dais, when Americans throughout the country want them to belly up to being custodians of America's capital city.

return to the top of the page DC Council Diversions

In a city where racial tensions are seldom far below the surface, it is nevertheless surprising when senior officials such as Ward 7's DC Councilman Chavous opt to raise highly charged issues for demagogic purposes. Timed to support an annual meeting held in the nation's capital to further the aims of small groups pressing for reparations for descendants of slaves still suffering from "post-slavery syndrome", Councilman Chavous introduced a resolution calling for the country to pay "reparations to the descendants of African-American slaves". Though the resolution would have little near-term impact, Chavous wanted to demonstrate that DC is at the forefront of full and overdue racial justice.

It also coincided with Chavous's announcement of his intention to run again for his Council seat from a predominantly poor, predominantly black area of the city. It also came at a time when DC was wrestling with a referendum on the issue of changing the configuration of DC's elected school board. Chavous heads the Education Committee of the DC Council, and was a party to the "hybrid" option now on the referendum. His support for the measure appeared tepid at best.

It is also reported elsewhere that Chavous is one of several Council members who receives substantial retainer fees from his law firm while serving on the DC Council. In fact, he has received over $100,000 per year since joining the Council (See prior section on DC election practices). Some wondered if he isn't already receiving reparations for just being on the Council!

Click below the read a summary of the Washington Post dialogue on reparations:

Reparations: Yes or No?

return to the top of the pageOVERSIGHT vs MICROMANAGEMENT

For many years under the Barry Administrations in DC, the DC Council took a very passive role, essentially rubber stamping whatever the politically astute mayor wanted. Under the Williams Administration, however, the Council has tried to come into its own, and the various Council committees have become more active. Several of the chairs actually ran for mayor against Williams, and although they lost, their political acumen may be better than the current mayor's.

The two most contentious areas of municipal governance involve the public schools and the police/fire/rescue department, both of which have proved exceptionally difficult to revitalize. In both areas, the Council has been actively critical, and is beginning to pass laws which would essentially dictate how these major agencies are to be run. The agency heads have responded with cries of "micromanagement", and there is now some debate about where oversight ends and improper micromanaging begins. In fact, some portion of the electorate seems to think that "it is the Council's job to give orders, and the agency head's job to follow them", which is inconsistent with the normal prerogatives of government and the separate of powers. See NARPAC's editorial on the abuses of political oversight

Ironically, the Council has begun to treat its executive branch the same way Congress has been treating the DC government, and the cries against Congressional subcommittee meddling in DC's budget approval process have been long and loud--and in NARPAC's view, quite appropriate.

A recent case of alleged Council micromanagement has been in the strained relations between the Education Committee chaired by Kevin Chavous, and the superintendent of the DCPS Arlene Ackerman who submitted her letter of resignation in May of 2000. The long-standing feud between Councilwoman Patterson and the superintendent came to a head in February of 2000, when the Council felt shortchanged by DCPS testimony before it. (In fact, DCPS still reports to the Control Board). There followed an infamous "six-page letter" of questions from the Council to Ms. Ackerman, which clearly infuriated the superintendent. Ms. Patterson's office shared a copy with NARPAC, and our analysis follows:

NARPAC Commentary on Patterson Six Pages of Questions

The Council clearly has extensive knowledge of the workings of the school system, and seems determined to prove that to the Superintendent. In 13 separate areas, a total of some 67 questions are asked and another 11 demands for information made. In total, NARPAC estimates that 100 answers would be requiring, easily involving 100,000 data points of some sort. Some of the questions are well within the realm of normal oversight, and three examples are cited below in abridged form:

o .....The Student Information System reported that 98% of students had produced valid roof of residency. The audit, however, concluded that more than 18% of the students did not have valid proof of residency on file. What are you doing in response to this finding?

o ...(The Audit) found other discrepancies in the database and conclude(s) that "payments made to the Tuition Grant schools could also be in error," which if true could be a major financial drain. What action are you taking in response to this finding?

o Are you giving any consideration to augmenting the school nurse program, now funded outside DC Public Schools, given that this is a critical, front-line public health program that can be of enormous benefit to children at all grade levels?

At the other extreme were many questions that demanded essentially that the data be turned over to the Council and it would decide what to do:

o You (Ackerman) wrote, "More than 50,000 students have attended intensive summer, Saturday, and after-school tutoring programs to master the skills needed to be successful in the next grade level." What are the measurable results for the 50,000 students attending summer, Saturday and after school programs? What were the costs associated with each of these programs in FY99? What is budgeted for FY2000? How many of the 50,000 students cited are in on-going tutoring programs and for how many was participation a one-time occurrence? Are all 50,000 students referred to in programs that are DCPS-funded programs, or are some participants in community- funded programs? Over time, how does DCPS intend to measure the efficacy of each of these alternatives?

o You (Ackerman) wrote, "Six thousand students have remained at the same grade level; to receive additional preparation and support." Please provide data on which school year or years make up the 6,000 total. Please break out the numbers by school and grade level. What measurable results have accrued from students repeating a grade? What additional supports, at what cost, are provided to a student repeating a grade? Are these costs encompassed in the weighted student formula?

o What resources do individual schools receive to augment the basic content standards? Is this a cost encompassed in the weighted student formula or are these additional resources budgeted within central DCPS units? How many students are currently enrolled in foreign language, music, and arts courses system wide, and what are the expenditures associated with each of these courses? Please provide comparable statistics for the last five years. What are current expenditures for physical education and what are the instructional time standards for physical education by grade level?

These three questions, involving dozens of answers and thousands of data points, are representative of several more, and in NARPAC's view go well beyond the threshold of micromanagement. At the very least, they are a punitive exercise. At the most, they are a blatant attempt to assume management of the school system.

To compound the suspicion that Ms. Patterson is trying to manage the DCPS--and from the Chair of the Government Operations Committee, she requested that several other detailed items be covered in language in the FY2001 DCPS budget, to include:

  • 334 more slots must be added for pre-K kids on which no less than $2.2M would be spent;
  • no less than $400M shall be allocated to schools through the Weighted Student Formula as a result of her calculation of new teacher salaries saved;
  • no funds in the school budget can be used for administering a standardized test more than once;
  • no policy prohibiting small schools, defined as between 150 and 300 kids, will be allowed by the Council;
  • no elementary school shall exceed 500 kids;
  • no junior high school shall exceed 750 kids;
  • no senior high school shall exceed 1000 kids;
  • DCPS should be instructed to eliminate local funding of $2.7M for the Targeted Assistance Program, and that a DoE grant be found instead;
  • a report to the Council should be submitted by 1/15/01 on outcomes of compensatory education expenditures in DCPS, specifically DC's Title I program.
Any candidate to replace superintendent Ackerman should require clarification as to who is really expected to supervise the DCPS. If in fact the Council has valid need for all this detailed data, then it must assure that a) DCPS has the funding for such a data collection and analysis shop, b) a standard annual reporting system is set up to cover these requirements; and c) only one Council Committee Chair be empowered to make these demands on the school system.

Not far behind, other Councilmembers appear ready to assume control of DC's Metropolitan Police Force. There may be soon be a law on DC's books requiring that no less than 60% of DC's uniformed police force be on the street at any one time.

return to the top of the pageREGIONAL AUTHORITIES
(edited from INDICES)

Arguably, the most difficult problem for the District of Columbia is that it is not only "orphaned" from any state parentage, but it is also denied the normal state-enforced cooperation with its neighboring metropolitan jurisdictions. As is discussed in detail under Issues of Governance, DC's estrangement from the most prosperous, successful suburbs that surround it have allowed it to become the "impoverished hole in a hugely prosperous donut" (NARPAC, Inc. testimony to the DC Tax Revision Commission). There are, however, some areas of metro area coordination , all of which could be expanded:

o Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (See COG)
o National Capital Planning Commission (See NCPC)
o Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (runs buses and subway)
o Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission
o Pennsylvania Development Corporation
o Washington Metropolitan Airport Authority
o Greater Washington Board of Trade
o Greater Washington Research Center
o Washington Water and Sewer Authority (WASA)
o National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
o Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee

return to the top of the pageDC's STATE FUNCTIONS
(edited from INDICES)

DC has long aspired to become a separate state, although it is currently moving in the opposite direction. Nevertheless, Congress originally encouraged the city to take on many roles for which it lacks suitable human, physical, or financial resources, but which swell the city's payroll. Besides running a local school district, the superintendent of schools performs such state functions as certifying teachers and licensing private schools. The Director of the Corrections Department runs a state prison complex as well as the municipal detention center. Virtually all the functions of the Departments of Employment Services and Consumer & Regulatory Affairs are state functions in other jurisdictions. Other state level functions include:

o The armory and National Guard
o State courts and prisons, probation and parole systems (see below)
o Operating a "state" university (UDC) and law school
o Conducting a separate environmental protection program
o Licensing for drivers, vehicles, occupations, and professionals
o Regulation of insurance, securities, utilities, and weights and measures
o Liquor control, food and drug inspection, consumer affairs
o Unemployment and workers' compensation, disability determination
o Management and execution of welfare programs
o Health care -- and mental care -- facilities
o Highway and bridge maintenance programs
o Running lotteries, and designating development zones
o etc.....

The White House relief package for the District proposed to shift some of these "big ticket" expensive items back to federal control, including the courts and prison system, and the newly passed DC Rescue Plan legislates such changes, including a larger hare of Medicaid expenses. For greater details on the importance of these items, see the DC Agenda Final Report, and a GUPPI Backgrounder

An interesting discussion of the pros and cons of home rule is provided in a GUPPI Backgrounder

Some of the most expensive state-level functions still being performed in DC under the new Williams adinistration include:

Public Service Commission

Among the various state-level tasks still performed by the DC government, an interesting one came to NARPAC, Inc.'s attention in the transition reports prepared for newly-elected Mayor Williams. DC has a Public Service Commission whose statutory mission is "to serve the public interest by ensuring that gas, electric, and telecommunications services are safe, reliable, and affordable for residential, business, and government consumers, and ensuring that the regulated markets are administered effectively and efficiently". The transition team finds that the "DCPSC currently lacks sufficient resources in each one of its critical areas to perform its duties at a level expected by its constituents..." It is apparently suffering from personnel reductions that have reduced it from a 94-person agency (!) to only 58 full-time employees, with a budget of $5.5M (in FY99).

Equivalent functions are performed by the Maryland Public Service Commission, with a staff of about 120, and the Virginia Corporations Commission, using about 90-100 employees. It is difficult to imagine that the residents of the District could not be served by one of these neighboring organizations. It is also difficult to believe that the metro area would not be better off with a single set of standards and requirements and common inspection procedures.

Business and Professional Licensing and Inspection

Another 349 DC personnel in the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs are also involved in issuing 36,000 Occupational and Professional licenses, and some 18,000 Alcoholic Beverage Control licenses yearly, as well as performing some 90,000 housing and building inspections. One wonders, again, if some regional authority with standardized rules (and forms!) might not be substantially more efficient, and relieve the District of these "state functions", costing over $50M annually.

St. Elizabeth's Mental Hospital

A far more expensive operation is the 326-acre St. Elizabeth's "state" mental hospital originally housing some 7000 patients in the 1960s as a federal facility, and now home to only about 750, many of whom could probably be better housed in far cheaper facilities. The FY99 budget of $198M, which amounts to about $725 per day per patient. Though the hospital is at least partially reimbursed for many of its patients, about 200 committed by the Secret Service and Marshals Service are not (including John Hinckley, who wounded President Reagan). The net cost of St. Elizabeth's to DC is somewhere between $30M and $50M annually. Its functions could readily be filled by state hospitals in Maryland, Virginia, and even further afield.

The University of DC

UDC is run with a very substantial subsidy from DC taxpayers, employing well over 500 people, while graduating less than 1000 per year. New legislation allowing DC high school graduates to attend other state universities at resident rates (with the federal government picking up the out-of-state increment) is almost certainly a most cost-effective--as well as education- effective solution. For more detail, see UDC in the education section.

Insurance and Banking Regulation

In July of 1999, Mayor Williams got around to appointing new agency heads for two of his non- municipal functions. One is the 89 full time employee Department of Insurance and Securities Regulation, with a budget of $6.99 million, including an agency head salary of $117,300. The other is the Office of Banking and Financial Institutions which is growing to 10 full time employees and a budget of $0.87 million including an agency head salary of $114,900. NARPAC, Inc. cannot conceive of why DC's half-million population needs to have separate regulations for insurance and banking or 99 fulltime employees costing the city some $60,000 each to carry them out. Surely these functions could be piggy-backed on neighboring states.

This page was updated on Feb 5, 2005


homeissuesstatusanalysesemail
| HOME PAGE | MAJOR ISSUES | CURRENT STATUS | RECENT ANALYSES | SITE MAP | EMAIL |

SEARCH

© copyright 2007 NARPAC, Inc. All rights reserved