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In two stints on the D.C. Council, Vincent Orange has been a councilmember for a combined 12 years. Freshmen Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, and Charles Allen have been on the Council for a combined fifteen months. Still, that comparative lack of experience didn’t stop the trio from snookering Orange good in a maneuver at his own Council committee.
The heist went down Wednesday at the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs budget mark-up meeting. That’s when Nadeau, backed up by Silverman and Allen, introduced an amendment to send more money to the Office of the Tenant Advocate and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs in a bid to catch more illegal construction and approve permits faster. (The action starts 17 minutes in on this video, if you want to follow along.)
That’d be fine, except Nadeau’s money comes from taking more than $450,000 from the District’s film fund, the closest thing Orange has to a sacred cow at the Council (along with his dream of a water park hotel complex). Orange’s dedication to the city’s attempts to attract film and television productions has persisted even as its main achievement remains a disastrous Owen Wilson vehicle.
Orange didn’t respond to LL’s request for comment. As the committee’s chairman, he complained that Nadeau hadn’t given him enough time to consider the funding switch. With the film and television money gone, Orange warned, the District would show the entertainment industry that “we’re not serious.”
“I just don’t think that this committee should operate in this fashion,” Orange said, asking Nadeau to hold her amendment until the full budget reaches the Council’s committee of the whole.
Nadeau, apparently unimpressed with Orange’s offer to find money for the DCRA inspectors elsewhere in the budget, pressed on.
“It just doesn’t sit well with me,” Orange said. “This whole amendment doesn’t sit well with me. This committee has been very successful. This committee moves forward on all fronts.”
Shifting the money to DCRA puts Orange in an awkward spot because, unlike almost anything else the new councilmembers could have spent money on, illegal construction enforcement is also an Orange favorite. Arguing against the move, Orange talked up his own contributions to the fight against construction scofflaws.. .and then tried to explain why the city shouldn’t spend the film money on it.
“To get three new members to come and say, ‘We want this,’ you’re really not in it at this point,” Orange said, referencing his work chronicled in a WAMU series about shoddy construction. “I was out there all Saturday morning with my staff. I was out there with inspectors getting this done.”
In a last-ditch attempt to save his film money, Orange urged his colleagues to “go with the chair of a very successful committee”—-in other words, himself. Alas for Orange, the freshmen councilmembers weren’t swayed and voted 3-1, over his objections, to move the money anyway.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery