- Australia court strikes down 5-day-old, gay-marriage law
- Fake interpreter at Mandela service: ‘Sorry,’ I have schizophrenia
- George Zimmerman will not be charged in domestic dispute
- Russian officials press bilateral U.S. trade deal
- Creator of ‘Selfies at Funerals’ blog retires after Obama flub: ‘Our work here is done’
- New Obama adviser Podesta is against Keystone but will steer clear of pipeline deliberations
- 40 Australian adults, children found in ‘one of the worst accounts of incest ever made public’
- Venezuela’s Maduro calls on student ‘price vigilantes’ to hit the streets, report businesses
- Atheists smug as Hindus join Satanists to demand display at Oklahoma Statehouse
- Bow before Valkyrie, NASA’s ‘superhero robot’ entry in DARPA challenge
SIMMONS: Charter changes could put teeth in demands for ethical behavior
Question of the Day
There’s a perfect storm brewing over the District of Columbia, and it’s name isn’t Sandy.
While massive gusts of wind and torrential downpours are threatening the nation’s capital, D.C. voters have three chances to begin shaking the foundation of city hall, if they so choose, by approving three throw-the-bums-out amendments to the D.C. Charter.
All three ballot measures hit the bull’s-eye on elected officials’ character and ethics and should be approved to remind city leaders that full-fledged democracy rests in voters’ hands.
Charter V would allow members of the D.C. Council to expel a lawmaker found guilty of gross transgressions.
We’re not talking plunging necklines or failure to zip one’s fly when leaving the restroom. We’re talking behavior of a serious and devious nature — such as impeding local or federal probes and blatant conflicts of interest.
Charter VI and VII amendments address criminal behavior and would make sitting members of the council, as well as anyone running for those offices, ineligible to hold the seat or seek a run if they commit a felony.
Now, there is a monster of a loophole larger than Hurricane Sandy’s potential wind field.
For example, Kwame R. Brown, who stepped down as council chairman in June before pleading guilty to bank fraud, would be precluded from running for chairman again, though he could seek a ward seat.
Similarly, if a mayor becomes a felon while seated, he or she would be ineligible to run for mayor again, but would be allowed to seek a seat on the council.
Approving all three ballot measures would signal to elected officials and wannabes that the voting public’s perception of unethical and gross misconduct is as serious as crossing the line into criminal territory.
Look at it this way, too: Voter approval of the three measures would reopen the door to the issue of term limits, a ballot measure approved by a 2-1 margin in 1994.
Called Initiative 49, the term-limits measure would have prohibited the mayor, members of the D.C. Council and members of the Board of Education from serving more than two consecutive terms in the same seat. It was similar, if you will, to the term-limit amendment to the U.S. Constitution regarding the president.
Citywide, 62 percent of voters approved Initiative 49 on Nov. 8, 1994.
However, the will and the voice of the voters was stifled.
For one, the council’s general counsel argued that Initiative 49 was inappropriate as a ballot measure because “it was not preceded by an act of the Council and a charter referendum,” and because there had been no “act of Congress.” The general counsel also said that even if it had been a proper subject for an initiative, implementing the outcome as law would have been practically impossible.
© 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 ...
- SIMMONS: Pictures of Obama and 'Dane' lady don't lie
- SIMMONS: Mandela: May the man of many roles rest in peace
- SIMMONS: Obama visits Southeast D.C. with minimum wage on his mind
- SIMMONS: Mayor Gray has only himself to outrun in campaign
- SIMMONS: Jack Kent Cooke's legacy continues to produce winners
Latest Blog Entries
By Matt Kibbe
The short-term deal will assure long-term overspending
- Rand Paul: Budget deal 'shameful,' 'huge mistake'
- All-out war breaks out in GOP over budget pact
- Teen thugs in D.C. run wild -- even while wearing GPS ankle bracelets
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Obama's antics at Nelson Mandela tribute: Jovial conversation, handshake with Raul Castro
- American bourbon now better than Scottish whisky: U.K.-born expert
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Biden guarantees victory on immigration reform
- Study IDs reasons for late-term abortions
- Inside the Ring: China targets Global Hawk drone
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Al Maurer provides a common sense, conservatarian, Constitutional conservative perspective from the battleground state of Colorado
Interviews and show reviews from the Los Angeles punk scene past and present. Los Angeles has always been rich in punk rock talent since punk rock was born.
Buzz on Bees is a column promoting the love and life of God’s greatest pollinators on earth: The Honeybee
Brazen, leading-edge, “call it like it is” columns and reporting from Ohio native, radio host and writer, Sara Marie Brenner.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow