SIMMONS: Oversight of spending by council in short supply

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How do you cover up criminal intent? When all else fails, raise the cost of living.

Sadly, that’s precisely where good government stands in the District of Columbia as lax oversight, pound-foolish policies and, seemingly, no gumption to rein in spending continue.

On Monday, we were given the full breadth of idiotic pronouncements at city hall.

Exhibit No. 1: The mayor and the D.C. Council forced most D.C. workers to take four furlough days last year as a cost-cutting measure, but Mayor Vincent C. Gray and chief lawmaker Kwame R. Brown now want to return the money.

And council member Michael A. Brown is set to pipe in with a compromise that would propose two days of furlough repayments instead of four.

Exhibit No. 2: The mayor wants to extend the hours of bars and restaurants, which would allow the city to pull in a huge entertainment-revenue haul. But Mr. Sumptuary Taxman, council member Jim Graham, has instead proposed the city up the ante by raising the booze tax by 6 cents per drink.

Criminal intent.

Mr. Graham served on the board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro as it is commonly called, for 12 years until last year, including two stints as chairman. And while contracting irregularities are under investigation, what’s also truly troublesome is that the public is growing weary over the rail, bus, escalator and elevator mishaps that began during the Graham years and continue today.

They simply failed to cast a keen oversight eye on upkeep.

Ditto social services - welfare and housing reform, and libraries and recreation.

Mr. Graham and Mr. Brown with council member Tommy Wells as backstop let their crocodile tears pour down every budget season, and this year is no different as the three lawmakers gin up their own versions of the new math for the mayor’s midyear spending plan and his fiscal 2013 proposal.

In their minds, no budget is worth reviewing if it doesn’t include more money for welfare, housing, parks, recreation and libraries.

Aiding the least, the last and the lost is always the right thing to do, but failing to hold themselves and the city government accountable for abetting the enemy is criminal.

Honestly, former council member Harry Thomas Jr. couldn’t have misused public funds if the council had been doing its job.

He has claimed ownership of his wrongdoing.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

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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