There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Sure, a lot of us are wondering whether Loose Lips has a little crush on Phil Mendelson. But the truth is, the at-large councilmember has been a savior to public safety in our town. On that issue alone, he deserves a little puff piece in the Washington City Paper (1/9) once in a while.
A year ago this week, 24-year-old Christopher Smith was killed by an early-morning house fire in Dupont Circle. His roommates and neighbors frantically called 911, but no one answered. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey (the police run 911) denied the entire thing. Not a single call to 911 got dropped, Williams and Ramsey told us over and over again. And even if a call or two did get misplaced, they added, it didn’t cause any delay in the emergency response to the fire.
That’s when Mendelson joined the fray. Through the dogged work of the councilmember and his staff, we quickly found out that Williams and Ramsey were dead wrong. Copious amounts of phone data retrieved and analyzed by Mendelson and his staff proved that a number of people tried to report that fire but didn’t get through, because half the 911 staff was playing hooky that morning. This caused at least a two-minute delay in the emergency response, hardly a small matter when your entire home is in flames. If Mendelson hadn’t done his homework and stayed in Williams’ and Ramsey’s faces, we would have bought the official story that nothing was wrong with our 911 system, and the problem would likely never have been fixed.
So, while I may personally disagree with the councilmember on issues such as the Catania-Evans property-tax cap, Mendelson has been a tenacious defender of public safety in our town when the mayor and the police chief wanted to look the other way. For that, he deserves all of our thanks.