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D.C. Political Roundup: Mendelson Discusses Council Activity

James Wright | 8/14/2013, 3 p.m.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) provided an update on recent legislative activity when he addressed members of the Ward 8 Democrats on July 30 at the Brighter Day Ministries Church in Southeast.

Mendelson, 60, figuratively pounded his chest with both hands. He’s proud of the 2014 city budget that the council passed in June.

"We have $100 million in affordable housing in the budget and we managed to lower the city's sales tax,” he told the group of 35 who attended the meeting. “The sales tax is the lowest in the Washington region.”

The 2014 budget is the first that Mendelson has managed since becoming chairman of the D.C. Council in 2012. Traditionally, the chairman has the most impact in terms of the allocation of funds. Mendelson noted increases in the arts, public safety, economic development and education.

He said, however, that the D.C. Council also voted for legislation that he did not support.

One bill that passed its first reading, the "Elected Attorney General Implementation and Legal Services Amendment Act of 2013," sponsored by D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), failed to get the thumbs-up from the chairman.

District voters overwhelmingly approved the new elected position of attorney general in the November 2010 general election but Evans, and other council members, pointed out that no candidates have shown any interest in the position to date. Evans' bill would delay the election of the city's legal officer until 2018 and Mendelson frowns upon that.  

"The attorney general will serve as a check on the actions of the legislative and executive branches of the city,” Mendelson said. “We do have a chance to change that bill because we will have a second reading of it in either September or October."

Mendelson said that he thinks that the bill – "The Primary Election Date Emergency Act of 2013" – that would change the District's 2014 political primaries from April 1 to the second Tuesday in June, should be passed but acknowledges staunch opposition to the bill.

"The lag time between winning the Democratic Party primary, which means in most cases winning the office, is way too long," he said noting that elected officials will be sworn into their positions in early January 2015. "Someone who loses in the primary in April will have nine months to make mischief because they will not return to the office. That is not right."

Evans Gets Key Endorsement

D.C. Council member and 2014 mayoral candidate Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) officially received the first formal endorsement in his quest to be the city's top elected leader.

Evans, 59, is being supported by the DC and MD State Council of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. An affiliate of the AFL-CIO, the union represents blue-collar workers in the health, transportation, automotive and manufacturing industries in the Washington region, and its president, Lonnie Vick, said that his organization is committed to seeing Evans become the next elected leader of the District.

"Over the last couple of weeks, candidates had the opportunity not only to 'talk the talk' but 'walk the walk,'" Vick said. "When the moment arrived, Jack Evans was the only mayoral candidate with the guts to take that walk and stand with District workers and that is the type of leadership we need in the [John A.] Wilson Building. Jack Evans has shown time and time again that he can bring people together to get results for hardworking families here in the District."

Evans said he’s pleased about the endorsement.

"I am proud to stand by the District's working families and honored to have the endorsement of the State Council of the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers," he said. "By bringing together a diverse coalition of business and labor, residents of all eight wards, ages, races and economic backgrounds, we will have the strongest campaign in this race."