- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2009

The chairman of the D.C. Council’s public safety committee says he has no plans to dramatically expedite consideration of sprawling anti-crime legislation proposed at the request of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, despite the mayor’s call to introduce the measure on an emergency basis next month.

“If they were so anxious about getting it passed so quickly, they could have introduced it sooner,” said Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat and head of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary.

The first version of the Fenty administration’s omnibus crime act was introduced in October and aimed to update the city’s criminal code.

A second version, about 20 pages longer, was re-introduced in February and was referred to Mr. Mendelson’s committee. The committee is holding a public hearing Monday on the legislation and on another crime bill, proposed by Mr. Mendelson.

Mr. Fenty joined city officials including Attorney General Peter Nickles, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and several council members at a Thursday press conference to stress the importance of enacting the legislation prior to the summer months, when crime traditionally escalates in the city.

Last year, city officials instituted military-style checkpoints in the Trinidad neighborhood of Northeast to help stem a wave of fatal shootings.

Approving the crime bill as an emergency measure would allow the council to bypass a normal period of congressional review for the law and ensure its enactment by summer.

“Summer leads to a significant increase in violent crime,” Mr. Nickles said. “This bill gives us significant new measures to deal with gangs and guns.”

But Mr. Mendelson called Thursday’s actions “mystifying.”

He said the Fenty bill encompasses “complicated issues” that include being able to take civil enforcement action against gangs, amending the definition of a gang and determining the public disclosure of information related to a crime. His own bill also includes giving the mayor authority to take civil action against gang members and deals with information disclosure.

“It’s finding the right balance between giving efficient tools to law enforcement on the one hand and not running roughshod over the rights of individuals,” Mr. Mendelson said.

Mr. Mendelson said he is committed to moving the bill out of his committee next month and giving it the required two readings before the council goes on its summer recess in July.

He said he and colleagues have an understanding that an emergency version of the bill will be moved at the first or second reading “after the issues on the bills have been worked out.”

“It won’t be at the June [legislative] meeting,” Mr. Mendelson said.

The timing could prove to be yet another political battle between Mr. Mendelson and the Fenty administration. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat and a member of the public safety committee, also is pushing for the bill to be passed more quickly.

Mr. Nickles said he thinks he has enough support to bypass Mr. Mendelson’s wishes at the council’s meeting next month.

“It’s very important to get done, and I think we can get nine members to get it done on June 2,” he said.

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