Councilmember Phil Mendelson has the votes locked up to be named interim D.C. Council chairman tomorrow, according to pretty much every vote counter at the Wilson Building. And those same counts have Councilmember Michael Brown being named interim chairman pro tempore, the ceremonial No. 2 spot on the council. Ceremonial, that is, unless the elected chairman resigns—just ask acting Chairwoman Mary Cheh, the former chair pro tem. Cheh, meanwhile, has already circulated a resolution among her colleagues naming Mendo as chair and Brown as pro tem in advance of tomorrow’s vote.
None of this is surprising or exciting news, as Mendo’s been the favorite to win for months now. But Councilmember Vincent Orange appears determined to spice up things up. Orange has had his heart set on the chairman’s seat—which he ran for in 2010—but now appears to have directed his efforts toward landing the pro tem spot instead. And he’s not going to lose to Brown without a fight.
Here’s a statement Orange sent out this afternoon, which Orange’s office tried to recall by email a few minutes after it was sent:
Chairman Pro Tempore Mary Cheh has filed a resolution to elect the Acting-Chairman and the Acting-Chairman Pro tempore of the Council of the District of Columbia. She has proposed Councilmember Phil Mendelson as Acting-Chairman and Councilmember Michael Brown as Acting-Chairman Pro Tempore. I understand that Councilmember Mendelson supports this resolution.
I cannot in good conscience support this resolution. In my view, this resolution is not in the best interest of neither the Council of the District of Columbia nor the citizens we represent.
The reputation of the Council of the District of Columbia has been severely damaged. In light of Colbert King’s June 9, 2012 article entitled “We’re to blame for the D.C. Council mess”, I cannot go forward with this resolution.
At the very least, the proposed resolution must be bifurcated and a roll call vote taken on the respective acting positions.
Is the Council ready to clean up this mess?
King’s column reminded readers that Brown has had tax problems and pleaded guilty in 1997 to a federal charge related to straw campaign donations. It’s that info LL presumes Orange is referring to, though Orange didn’t immediately return a call or an email seeking comment. Brown’s office declined to respond to Orange’s statement.
It wasn’t that long ago that Orange was calling Brown an “outstanding” councilmember. Funny how things change.
The statement was released after Orange met with Mendelson today in a pow wow brokered by Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans so the two could hash things out. Orange and Mendelson apparently don’t regularly talk to one another, except from the council dais, where they have been sniping at each other for months. Mendo called Orange an “embarrassment” for his strong support of gas station magnate Joe Mamo. Orange recently referred to Mendelson as a coward when the pair crossed swords over a plan being pushed by taxi mogul Jerry Schaeffer (Mamo’s mentor, btw) to institute a taxi medallion system. LL’s still trying to get word of whether Mendo and VO hugged it out at the end of the meeting and will update as needed.
UPDATE: VO sends this additional statement:
In the best interest of the Council of the District of Columbia and the citizens we represent I’ve discussed with CM Mendelson the opportunity to bring us together. It is up to CM Mendelson to assist in securing an unanimous vote for his leadership and to allow two hardworking Democrats the ability to come together, and lead our legislative body at a time and in a climate such as this.
Unnecessary criticism and attacks on a very severely wounded legislative body should be avoided at all cost. Leadership demands the right course of action now while we continue to incur the eye of the storm. For these reasons, I have moved from my position and have requested CM Mendelson to move from his position to achieve harmony between Democrats.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery