The D.C. Council has new chairs of committees that will have far-ranging powers in the John A. Wilson Building for the next two years.
On Dec. 20, council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) announced that council members Trayon White (D-Ward 8) and Robert White (D-At Large) will become the leaders of the Committee on Recreation & Youth Affairs and the Committee on Facilities & Procurement, respectively, for Council Period 23.
“I made these decisions based on consultations with council members and based on members’ interests,” Mendelson said at an informal council meeting. “I got a lot of comments from people outside the council on this. I tried to make sure that council members chaired the committees that they wanted to chair.”
Mendelson said the committee structure hasn’t radically changed but adjustments took place to accommodate the increase in seniority of Trayon White and Robert White. Since becoming the chair of the council in 2012, Mendelson has mandated that freshman members of the District’s legislative body won’t chair committee because they are in the learning stages of the council process.
Robert White expressed approval of his assignment.
“I am grateful to Chairman Mendelson for his confidence in leading such an important committee,” White said in a statement. “I will prioritize strong oversight and focus on government accountability, transparency and efficiency.”
Robert White’s committee’s jurisdiction includes oversight of the D.C. Department of General Services (DSG), the Office of Contracting and Procurement, the Contract Appeals Board, the Office of Returning Citizen Affairs, the Commission on Re-Entry and Returning Citizen Affairs and the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.
White said he is familiar with DSG.
“In my years on Capitol Hill [as an aide to D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton], I focused on federal government construction, leasing and land disposition, so I came up with ideas about how we can taxpayer money and use government resources to better help our neighborhoods,” he said.
Trayon White’s committee’s jurisdiction consists of overseeing the Commission on Fathers, Men and Boys; the Departments of Parks and Recreation and Youth Rehabilitation as well as the Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity and the Juvenile Abscondence Review Committee.
Jacque Patterson, who has served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 8, said Trayon White has a good assignment that will benefit his constituents.
“I am very excited about his oversight on recreation centers,” Patterson said. “Council member White can make sure that the recreation centers are properly funded. I look forward to working with him regarding that.”
The other committee assignments largely remained the same from Council Period 22. However, jurisdiction over the issue of truancy and public education matters K-12 will be handled by jointly by the Committee on Education, chaired by David Grosso (I-At Large), and the Committee of the Whole, managed by Mendelson.
Patterson said he respects Grosso but would have liked to have seen Trayon White chair the Education committee.
“I believe Trayon White has the capacity to carry a weightier committee and Education would be it,” he said. “Council member White’s service as a D.C. State Board of Education member qualifies him to lead that committee. With almost half of the children in the city living east of the Anacostia River and 30 percent of children of children living in Wards 7 and 8 going to other wards to get an education, I think he can provide a good perspective on those issues.”
Kwame Brown, who served as chairman of the council from 2011-2012, said there are a number of factors that go into choosing committee chairs and members.
“The committee process is important and vital to the council as an institution,” he said. “The chairman has to factor in council members and the government agencies they will oversee, the seniority of the council member and who sits on those committees.”
Brown said if a committee chairman has members who have a different perspective on how it is run, things can become unruly. Nevertheless, he said the Committee on Finance and Revenue, chaired by Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), is without question the most desired chairmanship and assignment.
“Government is about the allocation of resources,” he said. “I don’t know any council member who would not want to serve on [the committee].