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After reading Loose Lips’ criticism of D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson (11/19), I came to the conclusion that LL either has no personalities to talk bad about or doesn’t know the council’s history. (Are you from here, LL? You hardly ever seem to know what is really going on.)
The reason that Phil Mendelson “nitpicks,” as LL describes it, is precisely because of the process going on at the council that has gone on for much too long. The council behaves like some tribal council that thinks it has absolute rule from God on legislative matters. I think it was last year that the D.C. Appleseed Center issued its scathing report on the D.C. Council and criticized heavily, among other things, the process going on. The process is still sickening.
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Simple but important recommendations were made in that report (reducing the use of emergency and temporary legislation, providing fiscal impact statements, providing bills in a timely fashion, and having bills reviewed for legal and technical sufficiency were a few of the recommendations) and Mendelson, unfortunately, has been one of the few members of the council, if not the only one, who has attempted to put some of those excellent democratic recommendations into practice. The council, as LL probably knows, still continues to ignore that report and does what it wants to do.
It is a shame for Mendelson that the council wants to keep the status quo regardless of how it will be perceived. Mendelson’s “nitpicking” is a welcome sight even now, 11 months into his tenure. That is because the council, 11 months into its latest session, has not fully accepted the recommendations from the Appleseed Center and has not made a concerted effort to change the public’s perception. Temporary and emergency legislation may be down, as some have reported, but the misuse of this home rule specialty is still way up. You wonder why the city can’t get any respect; its lawmakers don’t even respect its citizens enough to let them chime in on too many of their bills.
Not to mention the regular issues that still trouble many citizens: members walking in and out of hearings and missing critical testimony and questioning, members failing to appear at important committee hearings at all, committee chairs letting other members chair hearings because they can’t attend (why did they schedule them?), hearings starting late (slight improvement there), and hearings running way over their budgeted time.
It is my hope that Mendelson or someone continues to be the topic of Loose Lips’ silly complaints about nitpicking. Councilmember Mendelson should keep on complaining. LL should know that the issues are important, but how those issues are resolved through a fair and thoughtful procedure is just as important. It is a democratic idea that the council has ignored for too long.