- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
SIMMONS: Charter changes could put teeth in demands for ethical behavior
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 2014 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: Obama's birthday gift to Barry
- SIMMONS: Obama's 'Brother's Keeper' a big-government initiative that lacks faith
- SIMMONS: Andy Shallal a CEO suited for the District
- SIMMONS: It's high time someone made sense on D.C. pot plan
- SIMMONS: D.C. weighs job-killing per-employee 'service fee'
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- CPAC 2014: Rand Paul urges conservatives to fight for liberty
- Putin has transformed Russian army into a lean, mean fighting machine
- EDITORIAL: Connecticut revolts against gun controls that could criminalize 300,000
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Malaysia Airlines says plane on route to Beijing missing
- Two liberals say Sarah Palin is right: Obama lacks substance
- Bill Clinton cashes in on struggling nonprofit hospital
- High schooler suing parents for money shot down by judge
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again