DC Council’s Ethical Moment of Truth

The views below are mine alone and are not intended to speak for the entire ANC 2F.

While I do not necessarily agree with every single point, Colbert King’s latest column on the dire and growing need for ethical reforms in the Council of the District of Columbia is something that needed to be said.

Ethics—or lack thereof—is at the core of the disintegrating comity, increasing dysfunction and costly distractions that plague the Council.  Nearly half of the entire Council is under an ethical cloud, and two members—Council President Kwame Brown and Council Member Harry Thomas Jr.—are even under federal investigation.  If that weren’t bad enough, most of their Council colleagues have been essentially sotto voce on the subject, stoking public suspicions that corruption is simply par for the course in the John A. Wilson Building.

Of course, not to be outdone, Mayor Vincent Gray faces several troubling allegations of his own.

This is not simply a matter of concluding the pending investigations and answering the unanswered questions.  Everyone agrees on the need for ethics reforms, but unfortunately, far too few voices are speaking up for the sweeping, comprehensive and structural changes that are desperately needed.

I served for almost 15 years in the federal government.  The type of behavior that is countenanced among D.C. officials would get you ridden out of town on a rail in Congress.   A congressional lobbyist can scarcely buy you a cup of coffee without setting off flashing lights and Klaxons.  While public esteem of Congress is at all-time lows, caused in part by various scandals and ethical lapses, the D.C. Council is making Congress look as chaste as Caesar’s wife.

Everyone says that something needs to be done, but I’m concerned that they’re just preparing for yet another kabuki dance.  At a bare minimum, the Council should pass sweeping reforms not only for themselves, but also in the Mayor’s office and District-wide.

For a start, they should eliminate or seriously circumscribe the so-called “Constituent Services Funds,” which in many cases operate as slush funds and mechanisms to confer political favors.  Crack down on nepotism, “pay to play,” procurement abuses.  Implement greater transparency and reporting requirements.

The current, laughable fines and penalties, which Council Member Jack Evans derides as the “cost of doing business,” need to be significantly increased—tenfold or more.  Expulsion should be a very real threat.  Should it really take a criminal conviction to give someone the boot?  The watchdogs should be given teeth, not just “gums,” in Colbert King’s words.

The D.C. Council alone (short of congressional action, which few of us would stomach) has the power to drain the swamp.  Unfortunately, they’re the ones who filled the swamp in the first place.  But if the current trajectory continues, don’t be surprised if the gains the District has made during times of relatively “good government”—economic development, lower crime, fiscal responsibility—aren’t reversed.

They can go a long way toward restoring the public trust by seizing this moment.

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ANC 2F Regular Monthly Public Meeting – November 2, 2011

ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSION 2F
REGULAR MONTHLY PUBLIC MEETING
Wednesday, November 2, 2011 – 7:00 PM

WASHINGTON PLAZA HOTEL – 10 THOMAS CIRCLE, NW

AGENDA

COMMUNITY FORUM

  • Call to Order – 7:00
  • Commissioner Announcements – 7:00
  • Report from Executive Office of the Mayor – 7:00
  • Jack Evans, City Council Member, Ward 2-0 – 7:00
  • PSA 307 Report – Metropolitan Police Department, 3D – 7:10
  • DDOT Report – Ward 2 Transportation Planner – 7:25
  • Community Announcements – 7:30

– 10 Minute Recess –

BUSINESS MEETING

  • Approval of Agenda – 7:40
  • Approval of Minutes of Meeting of October 5, 2011 – 7:40

DCHSEMA/Street Closures – 7:50

ABRA – 8:00

  • Batch 1724 14th Street, NW Retail Class – A‖ Liquor Store, Petition Date 11/21
  • Whole Foods 1440 P Street, NW – License Renewal, Petition Date 11/21

Education Committee (Evelyn Boyd Simmons, Chair) – 8:10

DDOT – 8:20

Crime and Public Safety Committee (Bryan Goodman) – 8:25

  • Cyclist on Sidewalks

Community Development Committee (Mike Benardo, Chair) – 8:30

  • 1612 14th Street, NW (Pearl Dive Palace) – Application to occupy public space with a sidewalk café
  • Little Deli Delicatessen (T/A Chuck’s Deli) at 1221 Massachusetts Avenue, NW – BZA application for a variance from the use provisions to allow a delicatessen on the first floor (lobby) of an existing apartment house
  • 1324 14th Street, NW BZA and Historic review
  • 934 N Street, NW owner-occupied home with a rental apartment in the basement
  • 939 & 941 M Street, NW – Presentation regarding subdividing one lot into two to create 939 M Street, NW & 941 M Street, NW
  • 1321-25 Naylor Court, NW –BZA review for a renovation of a garage into three residential units

Arts Overlay Committee – 8:40

New Business – 8:45

Treasurer’s Report (Sam Goekjian, Treasurer) – 9:15

  • Approval of Expenditures
  • Approval of 4th Quarter Report
  • Authorization of Letter by Goekjian to Respond to Issues Raised in DC 2-Year Audit Report
  • Addition of Signatures on Bank Account

Adjournment – 9:15

NOTICE: The agenda attached to this notice of meeting is provided by ANC 2F in advance of its public meetings contains matters that are expected to come before the meeting. It is, however, subject to formal adoption by the ANC at the meeting, which may result in additions or deletions to the draft. Individuals who may have official business before the ANC or persons with interests in specific matters are advised to contact the Executive Director or a Commissioner in advance of the meeting. See www.ANC2F.org for contact information.

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ANC2F CDC Meeting Agenda for October 26, 2011

ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSION 2F
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE MEETING

Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 7:00 PM
The Washington Plaza Hotel
# 10 Thomas Circle, NW

  1. Meeting Agenda.
  2. Approval of Agenda.
  3. 1612 14th Street, NW (Pearl Dive Palace) – Application to occupy public space with a sidewalk café.
  4. Little Deli Delicatessen (T/A Chuck’s Deli) at 1221 Massachusetts Avenue, NW – BZA application for a variance from the use provisions to allow a delicatessen on the first floor (lobby) of an existing apartment house.
  5. 1321-25 Naylor Court, NW – Presentation for BZA review for a renovation of a garage into three residential units. – Presentation by Sean Ruppert and Kevin Batteh.
  6. 1328 14th Street, NW – Presentation for BZA and Historic review for a new residential building that will include ground floor retail, with residential above. – Presentation by Kyrus Freeman, Holland & Knight.
  7. 1324 14th Street, NW – Presentation for BZA and Historic review for a renovation of a residential building with ground floor retail. – Presentation by Kevin Riegler and Adam Stifel, CAS Riegler Real Estate Development.
  8. 934 N Street, NW – Presentation regarding the construction of an owner-occupied home with a rental apartment in the basement. – Presentation by James Phillips, Architect.
  9. 939 & 941 M Street, NW – Presentation regarding subdividing one lot into two to create 939 M Street, NW & 941 M Street, NW and converting them into four duplex condo’s (two at each address). – Presentation by James Phillips, Architect.

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