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D.C. Council Runs Amok as Members Run for Office

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Four members of the D.C. Council are running in the Democratic primary and one Independent is raising money and announced he is exploring a run for Mayor. They all want to challenge incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray. Other members are running to retain their council seats.

What is becoming apparent is that some of them are going overboard pandering to grasp every vote they can. It has gotten so bad that according to the Washington City Paper, "some candidates' hunger for votes knows no boundaries, and so Tommy Wells, Andy Shallal, and longshot candidate Christian Carter headed to Anacostia's Union Temple Baptist Saturday afternoon for an 'emergency townhall' on gentrification MC'ed by prolific anti-Semite Malik Zulu Shabazz.

The article continued, "[T]here were the remarks of Nation of Islam representative Khadir Muhammad, who lamented the supposed ills of interracial relationships, and Union Temple pastor Willie Wilson, who said he suspects Nelson Mandela was only conciliatory toward white South Africans because he was under the influence of mind-altering drugs."

Now searching for votes from every person and group isn't unusual, but it appears that in many ways the five members of the Council who want to be Mayor are taking pandering to new heights.

The process began last year when the Council refused to move the primary from April Fool's Day to a later date. This made it nearly impossible for anyone without major name recognition to run.

Campaigning in the dead of winter -- January, February and March -- is very difficult. This also enabled members of the Council, especially the Democrats, to introduce legislation without considering the budget implications for next year since they won't have to pass a budget until after the primary. The Independent on the Council will have a longer time to decide whether he will give up his seat to run. It might be instructive for him to remember that the last time a non-Democrat put up a real race for Mayor was when Republican Carol Schwartz (who had nearly 100 percent name recognition and was really well liked at the time) ran against Marion Barry who had just come out of jail. She only managed 42 percent of the vote. We are a Democratic town and there is reason for that. It is the Democratic Party, and those willing to stand up and support its principles, which is most closely aligned with the needs and beliefs of the majority of voters in the District.

Before the holidays, the D.C. Council held hearings on a series of feel-good bills they suddenly found crucial to introduce. Voters need to ask sitting council members why they waited until just before the primary to introduce them. One is a "promise" to provide college scholarships to all students. That could cost up to $50 million dollars. It was introduced without regard to the impact it could have by costing the city millions in federal money. It passed the Education Committee because it is the type of legislation that few running for office would say "no" to in an election year. It passed without any money budgeted to implement it. Then there is a bill introduced by council members running for Mayor to provide retroactive raises to our police and firemen. While this may be a worthy cause, one has to wonder why it suddenly became important to them? Could it be they were pandering for a union endorsement? This bill would be seen as inappropriate by anyone actually responsible for negotiating contracts. There is no money identified to fund it and this belongs in contract negotiations, not on the Council agenda.

One council member tried to overturn a city contract in favor of one of his contributors and the public is still waiting for the outcry from all those running to finally end the council interference in city contracting. Another bill wants to exempt seniors 75 and over from all property taxes including those with household incomes up to $60,000. The cost is estimated at about $5 million a year. These seniors still use city services and many no longer even have a mortgage. Other than pandering, what is the reason for this blanket 100 percent exemption from property tax as they already get a 50 percent reduction in their taxes?

This may be only the beginning of the shenanigans that will be played out over the next two-and-a-half months until the Democratic primary and then possibly for seven months more until the general election if someone decides to challenge the winner of the Democratic primary. One can just anticipate the hearings being held for the sole purpose of grabbing a headline. It portends to be a shameful time for the council and sad one for the people of the District.

Voters need to take a long and in-depth look at all the candidates, not just those on the Council. No candidate should get a pass and they all should be judged on their lifetime of work and experience, not just on "What did you do for me lately?"

Clearly, the Mayor still has issues with his 2010 campaign that need to be addressed. Others may lack the experience to administer a complex operation like the District. Voters may want to look at members of the council who have gotten wealthy holding private jobs at the same time they served. Others have spent years on the Council with little to show for it. And others who now claim credit for things they had little to do with. Some may try to get you to forget the negative long-term ramifications of some of their initiatives.

Based on an in-depth look at all the candidates, voters may find they have an easier choice than they first thought.