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First off, here’s what’s already happened today in the D.C. Council chamber: The bag tax has been approved and is ready for mayoral signature, the Public Employee Relations Board now has a quorum, and councilmembers hiked the limit on their constituent services funds from $40,000 to $60,000. Not bad for a day’s work.
But not quite enough: Debate is about to begin in the D.C. Council on a competing pair of anti-crime bills. One, introduced by Councilmember Jack Evans and supported by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, takes a hard-line approach, notably toward “civil gang injunctions,” which makes it easier for police to keep alleged gang members out of specific neighborhoods. LL calls this the “jackboot reactionary” version. The other, introduced by Phil Mendelson, addresses most of the same issues, but amended to address civil rights concerns raised by the ACLU, NAACP, and other organizations—-such as, How do you determine someone’s a gang member? and What defines a neighborhood? LL calls this the “liberal weenie” version.
Both need nine votes to pass. Neither Evans nor Mendelson claimed earlier today to have the requisite number of votes in pocket.
Live from the John A. Wilson Building: Let the grandstanding commence!
12:47 P.M.: Evans, no surprise, says he’s voting against the Mendo bill (the emergency declaration, to be precise). “I thought we spent a lot of time negotiating and were prepared to go forward,” he says, then says that Mendo pulled key portions of compromise legislation. But he does strike a conciliar note, nothing the “hard work” put in by all parties.
12:50 P.M.: Marion Barry: “For the last 25, 30 years, we’ve had a public safety problem. During my administration, we have a crack cocaine epidemic…I was very naive about how to handle it.” Calls the Fenty/Evans bill a “Band-Aid approach, a shotgun approach.” Says he’s supporting the Mendo version. “I don’t condone criminal activity,” he notes. You can’t make this stuff up.
12:52 P.M.: Barry stresses the need for offender re-entry programs: “These people needs a lot of supportive services…that the government should pay for.”
12:55 P.M.: Says Harry Thomas Jr., civil libertarian, “This is a very sensitive subject for many of us…Every young person here understands the impact of possibly being labeled a gang member by law, which will never be removed.” Cites L.A. experiences with civil gang injunctions. Also cites need to “address the root causes that need to be addressed.” He’s with Mendo!
12:58 P.M.: Thomas pulls the fatherhood card: “I am a parent first!” And don’t you dare label him! “I am not soft on crime; I am tough on crime!”
12:59 P.M.: Kids these days, Thomas says, “all wear the same clothes,” leading to possible law enforcement confusion. “Your child could be labeled a gang member for life!” he warns.
1:00 P.M.: Thomas gets chamber applause! Vince Gray issues stern admonishment to crowd!
1:04 P.M.: Catania is with Evans. The Mendo bill, he says “does not deal with the issue of gang violence.” Goes on to cite facts and such. Calls Thomas’ same-clothes scenario “the worst mischaracterization of what the mayor and Mr. Evans’ bill attempts to accomplish.”
1:06 P.M.: “Is this a bill a perfect bill? No. I’m sure not one of us here is excited about locking up more of our young people.” But: “The underlying bill is weak as tea and will produce no tangible results this summer.”
1:07 P.M.: Kwame Brown is with Mendo. “People are tired. The fear of crime is out of control.”
1:09 P.M.: Now Kwame seems to be engaged in a soliloquy directed at Barry, to no particular end. “Some of these kids, and some of these young folks…they’re asking me, why are they still on the street?”
1:14 P.M.: Yvette Alexander is with Mendo, against civil injunctions. “Let me just say that a gang is just defined as being involved in criminal activity. We have laws in place to address criminal activity!…I personally don’t believe that everyone hanging out on a corner is a criminal.”
1:17 P.M.: Yvette: “Let’s address the crime; let’s not issue a quick fix….I also don’t want to jeopardize anyone’s constitutional rights, and I don’t want racial profiling….We have some overly aggressive officers who may make assumption based on someone’s appearance…[Racial profiling] is real and it exists.”
1:19 P.M.: Muriel Bowser says the Mendo bill “sounds decisive and sounds good, but really doesn’t do anything about the problems at hand.” She backs Jack! (And the mayor, natch.)
1:20 P.M.: Bowser on civil injunctions: “It’s not willy-nilly. It’s very comprehensive!” Also: “This is not an issue of whether you support civil liberties or not…but also think that the people of my ward have the right to go in and out of their houses without being shot….what about them? They’re being affected by the lawlessness on out streets as well!”
1:22 P.M.: Bowser: “I hope we will consider the measure offered by Mr. Evans, because it does do something about gangs.”
1:24 P.M.: Michael Brown is with Mendo. “I grew up in a city where senior citizens would walk down the streets with groceries and we’d just help them!…We need to turn the clock back a little bit.” These kids need to learn respect!
1:26 P.M.: Catania again, points out gun loophole in Mendo bill.
1:27 P.M.: Evans: “We have an emergency before us today, because I brought an emergency to the council.”…”To me, the fundamental purpose of this legislation today is the gang legislation.” Cites the violence in Shaw. “Are we going to go into the summer with the status quo. The status quo isn’t working. People in Gibson Plaza are scared to cross 7th Street to go to the Giant!”
1:29 P.M. Jack’s using his angry voice! “I am asking you, please, consider my bill! This is what the entire law enforcement community is Washington is asking for.”
1:32 P.M.: Barry says 75 percent of people in Ward 8 will say they feel less safe this year then they did last year. Thus “what we did last year was ineffective.” Thus “we ought to this once stop this Band-Aid approach.”
1:33 P.M.: Barry: “If you really want to those what to do with the games, ask the Peaceoholics….I’m urging that you don’t profile these young people. The National Park Service profiles you.” Yikes. That would be a reference to the police shooting of Trey Joyner in Trinidad last week.
1:35 P.M.: Don’t call Barry soft on violence, he says: “I’ve had a gun stuck in my face. Cold steel, right between my eyes.” Also mentions his 1977 shooting at the hands of Hanafi Muslims in this building.
1:38 P.M.: After comments from Gray—-“It seems each of you have decided that there is an emergency”—-only Evans, Bowser, and Catania vote against emergency declaration resolution. On to the meat of the bill.
1:40 P.M.: Mendo is now going through each section of his bill. It’s a lot.
1:49 P.M.: Jim Graham has an amendment to the Mendo bill. He’s taking forever to get to explaining it. Guessing it has something to do with civil gang injunctions.
1:53 P.M.: OK, the amendment is to add two relatively uncontroversial recommendations made by a $125,000 gang and youth violence study released last week. Mendo accepts the amendment as friendly.
2:00 P.M.: Evans, realizing this is the only legislation that will pass today, offers amendment adding stricter pretrial detention guidelines. Mendo says no: “It’s not clear how real that revolving door is.” Could be a bad arrest. Could be a nonviolent crime. Could be because of prosecutor’s decision.
2:02 P.M.: Mendo has visual aids! A handout on standards of proof from someone’s second-year law school class on criminal procedure! Possibly one taught by Mary Cheh!
2:05 P.M.: Mendo refers to “government’s poop.” He corrects to “proof.”
2:07 P.M.: Madam professor! Cheh begins lecture on pretrial detention procedures. “When we actually look at what’s happening here, it’s funny….I think it changes it somewhat…I think it’s needed because there are…some set of case where there is someone who needs to be detained because they are a threat to the safety of the community.” Also notes that federal law provides the same danger as the Evans amendment. Very persuasive!
2:09 P.M.: First Evans amendment, on pretrial detention standards, passes by acclamation. Now to civil gang injunctions. Jack pulls out his ACLU card! He is a card-carrying member! He agrees big picture stuff is necessary. Buuut…”I’m worried about tonight. I’m worried about tonight at Kennedy playground.”
2:13 P.M.: “All I’m asking for is 90 days!” Then see if it works. BTW: Could gang injunctions become a poison pill? If Jack gets 7 votes, passing the amendment, that could mean losing votes toward the nine needed to pass the Mendo emergency. But point is moot: Doesn’t look like there’s seven votes on the amendment.
2:18 P.M.: Jim Graham is for civil game injunctions. The people I represent are looking for strong action…They’re saying, ‘Councilmember, you’ve got to come up with something more than the status quo.'” Concedes the injunctions measure likely doesn’t have the votes, but it makes it into a permanent bill. “This bill is wanting.”
2:20 P.M.: Cheh is against the gang injunction measure. “I’ve concluded that thhis scheme is fatally flawed.” That’s because injunctions are civil proceedings, and are thus not entitled to counsel. Most injunctions in California, she notes, go unchallenged. “These injunctions will lead to racial profiling and increase mistrust between police and the communities they’ll be policing.” Says there’s little evidence in California that these things work.
2:22 P.M.: Cheh: “We have to accept that we can’t arrest and jail our way out of this gang problem.”
2:25 P.M.: Barry plugs increased funding for Peaceoholics, Alliance of Concerned Men, Roots Inc., and Cease Fire Don’t Smoke the Brothers. “Stop the beefs…and give them jobs. That’s my challenge to the mayor and this council.”
2:31 P.M.: Catania calls the suggestion that people will be arrested willy-nilly for the clothes they wear “a lie that is perpetrated to confuse what this bill actually does.” Judge! Clear and convincing evidence! “I happen to think this is an innovative solution and one that deserves consideration.”
2:34 P.M.: Mendo: The civil gang injunction effort “sounds good…but we need to look beyond that.” When the Fenty administration first proposed it, “I thought it was new and different,” but after study he decided, “It lends itself to abuse.”
Mendo has a letter from a congressman! After noting that he doesn’t wish to leave the impression that a member of Congress is having any control on him, he reads note from Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), from the judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, saying that gang injunctions are “stunningly expensive and simply don’t work.”
2:39 P.M.: Barry seems to doubt that Kwame Brown is a black man. Kwame goes on to share his racial profiling experience—-trying to enter the John A. Wilson Building after hours! More on this to come! Meanwhile, on CGIs, he says, “I don’t think it’s going to stop one gang from doing anything.”
2:46 P.M.: Yvette still against civil injunctions. But she has a question about prostitution for Mendo. Mendo looks exasperated.
2:47 P.M. Muriel Bowser now reading out of gang report. Why did you have to bring those, Jim Graham?
2:51 P.M.: Muriel says she’s voting for amendment, against overall bill.
2:54 P.M.: Catania tends toward the apocalyptic: “Who will govern and control that police the streets of the city? Will it be the police…or will we cede these streets?…This is no rocket docket toward jail.”
2:56 P.M.: Gray lays down his marker: He’s against civil gang injunctions. “There’s no evidence that it works.” Not in St. Louis, not it Dallas, not in Detroit.
2:58 P.M.: Vince reaches back to his DHS director days, his Covenant House days and pulls out programs that were tried and quickly discarded. He wants to follow the “Blueprint for Action”!
3:00 P.M.: Gray says CGIs would “create a larger breach between law enforcement and communities.” Has rejoinder to Jack’s never-heard-: “I’ve never had one young person say to me…’You need to lock more of us up.'”
3:02 P.M.: The Evans CGI amendment goes down, hard. Vote is 4-9, with Evans, Graham, Bowser, and Catania in favor.
3:04 P.M.: Tommy Wells rears his head: He wants to attach his curfew proposal for 15 and under—-10 p.m. weeknight, 11 p.m. weekdays—-to the bill. Mary Cheh is against. So is Barry.
3:06 P.M.: Marion Barry rails against the MIDNIGHT BASKETBALL GAP! How does PG County have it and we don’t??? (BTW—-Is it suddenly 1994 again?)
3:09 P.M.: Jim Graham hearts curfews.
3:11 P.M.: Harry Thomas, per usual, is concerned about sports practices. To wit, the chance that his 14-year-old, 6-foot-tall, 180-pound, mustache-sporting son might leave his practice, which ends at 9 p.m., not get a ride from his dad, miss the bus, and get picked up by the cops while walking home. So he’s voting against it.
3:14 P.M.: Mendo’s agin’ it! Wells talks about all the kids he sees on the street. Vote is taken: It fails, 4-9, with Wells, Graham, Alexander, and Kwame Brown in favor. While voting no, Michael Brown says to Thomas, “My sons are bigger than yours.”
3:19 P.M.: Wow! Weird Channel 13 angle on Catania! Great view of his bald spot. DAC is hammering Mendo on some excruciating detail.
3:23 P.M.: Catania found some loophole in the gun-offender registry…bla bla bla. Mendo responds…bla bla bla. VOTE ALREADY!
3:26 P.M.: Finally: The Mendo bill has passed, with Graham’s amendment, 10-3. Evans, Bowser, and Catania against.
3:27 P.M.: Evans agrees to withdraw his version of the bill (duh). “I would hope in the next two weeks that we focus on the gang issue…that we work together, that we try to do something.” Holds out hope for new CGI emergency legislation on June 30.
3:30 P.M.: The wrap-up: Call it a win for Mendo; a loss for Jack. Evans will rightly claim credit for the fact that crime legislation came to an emergency vote before the bulk of the summer. But the fact is that civil gang injunctions were the centerpiece of what he wanted, and the piece that Mendelson most objected to. Evans simply wasn’t able to bring his colleagues along on the legislation most important to him.