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SIMMONS: 1-party rule unhealthy for ethics debate
The District’s attorney general, Irvin B. Nathan, is slated for a tete-a-tete on government ethics this evening with the Ward 3 Democratic Committee, and because fireworks are unlikely from this biased tribe of wealthy and educated stakeholders, Republicans, independents and conservatives should crash the incestuous party.
One party has stunted the growth of the city long enough.
It’s the Democrats, stupid.
Whether the issue is crime and gun control, aiding the downtrodden and educating the public, or fiscal and personal responsibility, it’s always the Democrats’ way or the highway.
So it likely will be with ethics reform.
But even if you live in the District and aren’t a registered Democrat, you should be concerned and make sure you have a dog in the upcoming fight to “reform” D.C. ethics laws.
“Our ethics laws have not been addressed since 1978 in the District of Columbia,” D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown said in an interview at The Washington Times on Monday. “I think that we should have a comprehensive ethics reform bill that comes out of the council, not a piece-by-piece-by-piece approach.”
That’s liberal-speak for saying everything is on the deliberation table, including the kitchen sink.
But in the District, unlike the states, where Republicans and Democrats wage battles over statehouses and governorships on a routine basis, D.C. voters have a slave mentality when it comes to Democrats.
That is to say, the Democrat-controlled City Hall views major policy decisions through a paternalistic lens. For example, City Hall’s take on gun rights is that the city doesn’t need more guns but should have stricter laws to prevent crime.
Or, as Mr. Brown, a Democrat, put it at the newsmaker interview with The Times, “I don’t support having more guns in the District of Columbia,” but residents “should have every right to protect themselves.”
It’s that very unattainable and unsustainable balancing act that should be at the heart of the upcoming deliberations on ethics reform.
Indeed, the only reason the issue of ethics reform is on the D.C. Council’s plate this fall is because D.C. Republicans have called on the District's Office of Campaign Finance to conduct a formal investigation of council members’ constituent services fund.
The fund allows a lawmaker to raise up to $80,000 to spend practically any way he or she sees fit, and The Times rightly keeps this issue on the front burner.
But - and there’s always a but - while it’s good to know lawmakers and Mr. Nathan, the city’s law-and-order gatekeeper, are open to discussion, voters mustn’t let them off the hook.
Lawmakers buy favors large and small with the constituent funds - utility bills or turkey giveaways over here, Gertrude Stein Club events over there and tickets to major-league sporting events on occasion.
In other words, it’s an underregulated slush fund - and the only way to rid it of loopholes or questionable use is to quash it.
Strike it off the city’s overregulated books as if it never existed.
Mr. Brown and his colleagues want to fix it. But how can they when it is their use of the money, not the money itself, at the root of the problem?
That is precisely why voters should pay close attention from this very day through Election Day 2012 to everything City Hall professes it will place on the table to fix, whether it’s ethics reform, school reform or what have you.
As things stand now, and have since 1978, when officials last addressed ethics laws, Democrats have ruled the District’s roost.
The mayor has always been a Democrat, and the overwhelming majority of council members have always been just as blue.
Say, you want a revolution?
You want reform?
Want real change?
Begin changing the seats at the table and watch Democrats squirm.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at email@example.com
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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