The Democrats clearly know how to get into City Hall, but they don’t know nothin’ about nothin’ when it comes to filling voluntary vacancies on the D.C. Council.
If a lawmaker dies, the rules and laws kick in automatically. Let a lawmaker say, “Kiss my butt, I’m outta here,” and city leaders are stunned into ignorance.
Sort of like don’t ask, don’t tell.
You read correctly. The Office of the Attorney General said nobody has “requested an opinion from us” on the vacancy matter.
Bear with me.
SEE ALSO: D.C. Democrats to appoint Robert White to complete term of D.C. Council member Vincent Orange
Council member Vincent Orange, a Democrat, lost the June primary to fellow party member Robert White. Ordinarily, Mr. Orange would be vacating his seat on Jan. 2, when his replacement and other new lawmakers are sworn in. However, Mr. Orange already has accepted the top post at the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, and to avoid potential ethical breaches, he has said he will step down as an at-large council member next week. A very smart move on his part.
It’s just that instead of Mr. Orange playing the bully and holding onto his seat until January, the leader of the D.C. Democratic Party, Anita Bonds, has repositioned herself as chief jackass to plop Mr. White into Mr. Orange’s seat while it’s still warm. The musical chairs could begin taking place as early as next week.
This is all in play because of the partisan politics that set up D.C. home rule, which, designed by congressional Democrats, allows their party to sustain control of the 13-member legislature no matter what. In fact, of the four at-large seats on the council, home rule and election laws only allow a minority party to win two of those seats per election cycle.
But I digress.
Let’s get down to the real nitty-gritty. The chairman of the council, Phil Mendelson, doesn’t know what will, should or could happen if the Democrats, his party, choose Mr. White to complete Mr. Orange’s term during the council’s summer recess.
The Board of Elections, an arbiter, doesn’t know either — although that’s not surprising. The board is mindful of the child who recites the Pledge of Allegiance but can’t explain its meaning.
So, as I said in the opener, the very political party considered the architect of D.C. self-governance don’t know nothin’ about maintaining democracy.
Allow me to clue them in. First, while on recess, each of the 13 jokers on the council should see what, if any, laws or resolutions Mr. Orange proposed or voted on after he accepted the Chamber of Commerce post, and then figure out how to make them null and void after they return from recess. Whether Mr. Orange’s vote was a deciding vote is irrelevant.
Second, they should seek and receive a ruling from elected Attorney General Karl Racine, who has said he wants his office to act “without regard to politics” and serve as “a check on the other branches of government.” So it was said, so shall it be.
Third, Democratic Party members should quietly put their chief in her place — a different place. It’s one thing for Ms. Bonds to be an elected at-large council member. Remember, though, that Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida stepped down from running the Democratic National Committee the same week her party smooched Hillary Clinton at the convention.
Not everyone can balance wearing two hats. Indeed, Ms. Bonds has been so focused on electing Dems, she’s lost sight of her other constituents, particularly the 103,000 registered D.C. voters who are not Democrats. It’s like she’s tone-deaf too.
The other issue that demands the attention of City Hall is this: If the charter and laws are silent on the council-vacancy issue as it relates to appointing and seating a member during recess, then officials should jump on the issue ASAP following the Jan. 2 swearing-in ceremonies, when the council will be at full capacity.
It’ll be OK for Mr. Orange to step down and allow his seat to remain empty for a few months. The council conducts a lot of business without the benefit of a vote from all 13 members on every single action.
We’ll gladly hold our noses until the council returns for its first legislative session on Sept. 20.
In the meantime, council staffers who could be out of a job due to Mr. Orange’s departure can tend to the honey do list and paint the guest bathroom. Look for a job in the private sector. Run for public office in the District’s rigged elections.
• Deborah Simmons can be contacted at email@example.com.