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From the Publisher's Desk...

DC’s POLITICAL SCANDALS — WHAT CAN WE SAY?

The Washington Post’s columnist Robert McCartney who invariably provides us with insightful commentary on local matters, tried help us cope through his column on June 7th –- the day after our city council’s disgraced chairman Kwame Brown resigned following the revelation that he had been charged with federal bank fraud and was entering into a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney. (In addition, as we were preparing for posting our June issue PDF, we learned that he was also being charged with violating the DC campaign finance law and was headed to court to answer that charge, although that was less of a surprise since talk of that shoe dropping had been going on among “insiders” for several months.)

So, “how to ‘explain’ those D.C. scandals,” McCartney’s headline promises to advise. First off, he correctly reminds us that as we “venture away from home for vacation this summer, [we] can expect a barrage of humiliating questions from relatives and friends along the lines of, ‘What’s with all your corrupt city politicians? It’s just like the Marion Barry years!’” Continuing, he correctly states that the “questioners are wrong, of course. The situation today is serious, for sure, but it’s completely different from the time when Barry (D) was mayor.”

McCartney then suggests four talking points we can use to “set things straight . . . things [we] can say to help defend [our] home town while acknowledging its current shortcomings.” Of the four, the following three points work for this commentator: “Apart from the politicians, the city’s in good shape”; “At least nobody’s defending these clowns”; “A well-liked veteran [at-large Councilmember Phil Mendelson] is ready to take over temporarily.”

This third point I would move to the top of the list: Councilmember Mendelson will surely be a calming and reassuring steward of the council until a special election can be had. Not only is he deeply versed in the complexities of city council procedures given his many years of service on that body and chairman of some of its most important committees, he has the trust and respect of a majority of voters across the city who value his extensive experience and understanding of the workings of city government upon which he continually draws in carrying out his oversight committee responsibilities and his willingness to constructively and knowledgeably participate in the council’s deliberations in considering issues of public policy and crafting legislation.

And, yes DC is in quite “good shape,” especially as compared with most other municipalities around the country; real estate is very strong (maybe only New York’s Manhattan Island can beat us), tourism has seen a substantial increase in numbers of visitors and over just a year ago, resulting in a jump to $662 million in tax revenue for the city! Even consumer confidence and the employment picture has been improving noticeably (though not all wards are yet benefiting).

Of course, the big concern now has to be that DC-unfriendly members of Congress are undoubtedly getting geared up to once again challenge our right to home rule. As the Post reported in its June 7th issue, “now some congressional leaders, for the first time in more than a decade, are seeing an opening to question the city’s locally elected leadership.”

To us, this is more than simply raising questions about our politicians; it really means that they are questioning whether we are yet “ready” to actually govern ourselves. They have slowly, though with great reluctance, been willing to allow us partial freedom from the plantation, but they could haul us all back there in a New York minute, especially if the Republicans gain control of the White House and the Congress in November.

Then the opinions of doubters like Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz who sits on the committee that has DC oversight jurisdiction who right away has pontificated that “city leaders keep arguing for more autonomy, but it’s hard to get there when so many people keep getting indicted” will carry great weight. And, ominously, as the Post article further reported, “some Republicans on Capitol Hill see the charge against Brown as just the latest in a line of scandals that hurt the District’s case for self-governance . . .”

What irony –- they are questioning if we can govern? They’re fine ones to talk: They can’t even govern the country; we doubt they would even be able to run a township!