- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 6, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The D.C. Council made certain the public received word that the federal oversight board to oversee Metro safety would have oodles of transparency. Sunshine is one of the most effective natural disinfectants since Genesis.

Lord knows, if there is a transportation bureaucracy that needs to be cleansed, its name is Metro.

Indeed, Metro began as a regional transit system to cater to commuters, tourist attractions and sporting events. Hence, old problems begin anew as Metro and federal officials try to please all of the people all of the time.

To be sure, the millions and millions of public dollars the feds are dangling help explain why D.C. officials added transparency to legislation that would establish a safety panel. Still, while elected and appointed officials try to spread the sunshine, other issues remain in dark corners.

The D.C. zoning authority is such a place, and the council needs to disinfect it.


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Understand, first, that the issue is not abortion, pro-choice vs. pro-life, or anti-abortion vs. women’s rights. The issue is government transparency and the voices of the people.

In that vein, here goes: Planned Parenthood opened a clinic in Northeast not long after the school year started, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser attended the grand opening. After all, she had helped to lay out the welcome mat and plop the center near a great charter school that serves wee ones through middle schoolers.

Anyhow, here’s the chase: Christians and Muslims, pro-lifers, parents and civic activists who oppose not just the abortion aspect but the site location as well were at the offices of D.C. zoning authorities to get a clear understanding of why zoning officials had not held a public hearing on the site.

A reasonable request, right?

Not so, said zoning officials, who silenced the civic-minded folks with a 3-0 vote against a public hearing.

As if the unanimous vote weren’t enough to zip their lips, my colleague Bradford Richardson reported the inside skinny Tuesday: Board members claimed the complaint about a lack of public hearing was tardy.

Mr. Richardson also reported this: “Board member Anita Butani D’Souza said she was ‘sensitive’ to the concerns of the community and considered allowing the hearing to go forward, but ended up voting with her colleagues after board member Robert Miller said it would be a ‘waste of time’ to proceed.”

Now, begging Mr. Miller’s pardon, but those three words make him sound more like a political hack than a public servant.

It’s never, ever, a “waste of time” for a public servant who sits on a powerful board or commission — or any board or commission for that matter — to listen to the public.

Mr. Miller knows that, too, as he has served in key positions on the D.C. Council and as a deputy mayor before being appointed to the zoning panel by then-Mayor Vincent Gray. He now serves under Miss Bowser.

What happened with zoning authorities regarding the Planned Parenthood center hardly reflects the transparency rhetoric espoused by lawmakers and the mayor.

In fact, Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans said transparency is needed at Metro because “half the time” he doesn’t know what’s going on.

Well, what’s going to happen is that another layer of bureaucracy is going to be added to the multiple layers of Metro bureaucracy that are hiding who knows what. Oy vey!

Meanwhile, where’s the transparency at zoning? Mr. Miller may not have meant to be so, well, transparent about his thoughts.

Clearly, the mayor needs to make some inquiries at zoning, as does Ward 4 council member Brandon Todd, chairman of the panel that oversees the zoning commission. (Oh, that’s right. He busy seeking re-election and backing the mayor’s agenda.)

The bottom line, by the way, has always been favored by sunshine: Elected and appointed officials cannot serve the public if they refuse to listen to the public.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@D.C. officials like sunshine, transparency — sometimes.

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