- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Hurricane Irene washed out D.C. leaders’ plans for a national spotlight to shine this weekend on their efforts to push Congress off its constitutional foundation regarding city affairs.

Well, the D.C. democracy rally just wasn’t meant to be.

But voters shouldn’t fret since the phony baloney voting-rights push isn’t about freedom or democracy.

It’s a feeble mockery to thwart what D.C. voters want and what city hall sorely needs — term limits and ethics reform.

Sixty-two percent of voters sent an unmuddled message in 1994, when each of the eight wards passed an initiative that limited consecutive terms of service for the mayor and members of the D.C. Council. But lawmakers didn’t want to allow voters such freedom, and in 2001 they overruled the citizenry with legislation blocking term limits from taking effect.

This year marks a decade since those shenanigans and sheds light on what might not have been had Initiative 49 taken effect.

For example, Jack Evans, the Democrat who led the legislative rally against term limits, would not be positioned to seek a sixth four-year term as Ward 2 council member.

The current lot of lawmaker includes five Democrats who face accusations involving money mischief — misuse of political action committee money (Mr. Evans), misuse of constituent services funds (Mr. Evans, Yvette Alexander and Jim Graham) and misuse of public dollars (Harry Thomas Jr.). And then there’s council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, whose poor 2008 campaign bookkeeping proves why election and government reforms are urgently needed.

When you cobble together those issues with the unsettled dust surrounding Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s campaign and nepotism allegations of his current administration, it’s a small wonder that the council’s own probe of unethical and corrupt behavior is only 45 pages long.

A key point worth noting now is that voters and other stakeholders, including those on Capitol Hill and in the White House, didn’t learn about the possible corruption until after the November elections pushed Mr. Gray, Mr. Brown, Mr. Graham and Mr. Thomas to victory.

Don’t be shortchanged next time around.

There are but four coveted opportunities for D.C. politicians: nonvoting congressional delegate, mayor, council member and school board member.

The fight for that short road to power begins anew in April, when Mr. Evans and Ms. Alexander join several other lawmakers in the run to city hall seats. The elections will occur in April instead of September because officials want D.C. voters to make their voices heard earlier in the presidential race.

It’s another ploy that favors incumbents for hobnobbing, making promises and raising money.

It’s not too early to mount a renewed push for term limits.

Think about it. Sharon Pratt was swept into the mayor’s seat following Marion Barry’s 1990 drug bust with a promise to clean house, ridding the city of nepotism and cronyism and letting the sun shine in.

Whether she misplaced the broom or never wielded is irrelevant at this juncture, because congressional Republicans and Democrats worked with the Clinton White House to restore the District’s reputation.

Well, politicians are again sullying the District’s good name, and although they don’t mention it, the glass ceiling is drawing nearer with each passing election, hence the voting-rights urgency.

Perhaps it’s time to ignore politicians’ diversionary voting-rights tactics and face reality.

Term limits permit voters to do their own house cleaning.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com