When Congress closed for its spring recess, many members used the time to contact the folks back home. So in her way did D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who reached out to one constituent in particular: D.C. Council Chairman Dave Clarke, or as she dubbed him in a caustic missive she sent him last month, Chairman Dave.

In a withering letter dated April 28, Norton took Clarke to task for a nasty letter he sent her March 31, and dressed him down for his noisy appearance on the Hill to pursue what seems to be his principal legislative interest: amending the D.C. charter so that the council chairman can legally pursue outside income.

Norton informed Clarke that he had “left the impression with your [Council] colleagues, to whom you sent copies of your letter, that during the torturous Authority bill negotiations, I was actually spending time thinking about, heaven forbid, big automatic raises for the council. You write that “I suggested that the legislation might be a good place to effect the Charter change….’ (Emphasis is added.) No such thing. Rather, I confess that I was so negligent as to have entirely overlooked the possibility that the Council might get raises (no real possibility, actually, as you must know). It didn’t cross my mind, but it surely crossed yours, or at least the part of your mind which has remained fixed on your desire to pursue an outside job.”

Recalling Clarke’s trip to the Capitol, Norton wrote, “You then made a rare appearance at the House—at the mark-up, having apparently worked yourself into a state of pique. It was then that several staff members reported hearing you protesting your own situation, huffing about what it might mean if you were to resign and cost the city a special election. (The next time you come to the House, be sure to lower your voice.) It was that apparent matter of personal interest that seemed to me to be off base and I said so.”

Though Norton’s letter ends with a conciliatory invitation to “call me anytime,” it also describes incidents during which Clarke “went off on a screech” and was “worked up to such a frenzy.” There’s no word on whether Clarke went off on a screech when he received the communiqué, which Norton also CC’d—as Clarke did his March 31 letter—to all the other members of the council and Rep. Thomas Davis, chairman of the House Committee on the District of Columbia.

Mark Jenkins & Bill Rice

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