D.C. Political Roundup: City Moves Forward Despite Shutdown

James Wright | 10/9/2013, 3 p.m.
District leaders are pleased with the way the city has operated since parts of the federal government shutdown on Oct. ...
Jack Evans (Courtesy of jackevans.org)

District leaders are pleased with the way the city has operated since parts of the federal government shutdown on Oct. 1. The District government is using its reserves to pay employees and keep operations going while the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives and Democratically-controlled U.S. Senate and White House fight over the terms of a continuing resolution that will put the federal government back in business.

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and a candidate for District mayor in 2014 said city operations are going very well.

"We [the D.C. Council] did the right thing by staying open and paying our employees," said Evans, 59. "We did the right thing by collecting trash. We probably can keep operating like this until the end of the month."

Evans said that he hopes that Congress gets its act together and passes a continuing resolution so that it can reimburse the District for the city's operations during the shutdown. D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said he hopes that members of Congress come to their senses.

"People are hurting now," said Graham, 68.

Meanwhile, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) is continuing to push for Congress to allow the District to spend its own funds during a federal government shutdown without an appropriation.

Delayed AG Election Generates Opposition

The D.C. Council's action on Oct. 1 to delay the election of the city's attorney general from 2014 to 2018 has some District leaders upset.

"I am angry and disappointed," Markus Batchelor, the outgoing interim president of the Ward 8 Democrats, said. "It is absolutely ridiculous that a majority of our council did not come down on the side of the people. Council members Anita Bonds, Jack Evans, Vincent Orange, Marion Barry, Muriel Bowser, Mary Cheh and Jim Graham have effectively voted to disregard the will of the people because of their inability and unwillingness to do the work that was necessary to prepare for this election in the time frame that we approved."

On Nov. 2, 2010, District voters overwhelmingly supported an elected attorney general, with the widespread assumption that the first election for the office would be in 2014. However, the D.C. Council voted this summer to delay the election based on confusion about the responsibilities that come with the job and a lack of credible candidates for the office.

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) authored legislation that would have returned the election to 2014 but it failed, 7-6, and he said his colleagues made a mistake by delaying the election.

"D.C. is in the midst of the greatest crisis of ethics since the advent of Home Rule, and the majority of the council has voted to maintain the status quo," said Wells, 56.

D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) supported Wells's bill, saying that the sentiments of District residents should be respected by the D.C. Council.

On Sept. 26, the Ward 3 Democrats adopted a resolution that called for the D.C. Council to restore the 2014 date.

Noted criminal defense attorney Paul Zukerberg shares Batchelor's frustration and has taken action. Zukerberg, 55, filed a lawsuit on Sept. 30 at the D.C. Superior Court in Northwest against the District of Columbia Board of Elections and the D.C. Council, to ensure that the attorney general position is on the ballot next year.

"If the council can cancel the election for attorney general, they can cancel the election for mayor, or their own election, and we will be left with nothing but tyranny," Zukerberg said. "This suit is about respecting the will of the people and the right of District voters to choose their own elected officials. If our elected officials do not respect our right to vote, they have no credibility in demanding from Congress and the president full and equal voting rights for District residents."