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Not too often these days that you see overt displays of executive-legislative interbranch friendship. Yet, this was one of those days, with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Attorney General Peter J. Nickles, police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, and two members of the MPD brass joining legislators Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, and Jim Graham on a Ward 1 street corner this afternoon.
The ostensible purpose was to urge passing of a sprawling anti-crime bill before the start of the traditional summer crime season. The clear subtext, however, was that the parties were taking a shot across the bow of At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who as chair of the public safety and judiciary committee holds the legislative fate of the bill in his hands.
Each of the parties urged that the 56-page bill, encompassing a number of crimefighting proposals, be passed on an emergency basis (meaning the bill goes into effect immediately for 90 days upon mayoral signature, bypassing congressional review) at the Council’s June 2 legislative meeting. Mendelson has committed to getting an emergency bill through by the council’s summer recess, which kicks off in early July.
“We need the new tools in this legislation,” said Graham, citing recent shooting on the 1400 block of W Street NW (full disclosure: also LL’s home block). “We need the tougher approach.”
Evans was even more strident: “If we do not act…this bill going through the regular process next March. Next March!…That is unacceptable!” Later he added, in a swipe at Mendelson’s meticulous ways, “What’s process? It’s the enemy of progress!” and “I want this thing moved pronto!”
OK, “pronto.” Question is, where was Mendo?
If everyone’s so committed to making this happen, wouldn’t you want to have the chair of the relevant committee in attendance?
LL asked why he wasn’t invited. Fenty said “everyone’s been invited.” Evans said that he had called Mendelson. Mendelson says he got a phone call this morning from Evans, but he didn’t leave a message.
Furthermore, Nickles acknowledged that he and his staff have been meeting regularly with Mendelson and his staff to produce a workable bill. Is that, LL pointed out, what the legislative process is all about? Not calling a press conference and throwing a fit?
“The legislative process is not working,” Nickles said.
Replies Mendelson, reached after the presser, “Of course, we know that Peter Nickles doesn’t seem to believe in the legislative process.”
Mendelson reiterated his pledge to have the bill ready for the mayor’s pen by the council recess, and added that he’s happy to pass an emergency bill at that time—-it could happen even earlier, he says, if parties come to an agreement by the time the bill comes out of committee in June. As for Evans’ “next March” statement, he says, “he needs to do his math.”
Crime, Mendelson says, “lends itself to grandstanding….It just seems that there’s this desire to grandstand and score points over this,” he says. “I would rather do it correctly.”
LL asked those in attendance if they thought they had the nine votes necessary to pass an early emergency bill—-a tough sled for Fenty when his relations with eight of 13 councilmembers are strained at best, nonexistent at worst.
“You have my vote,” Nickles said.