D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) reshuffled some committee responsibilities Tuesday to guarantee that newly-elected Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie has a leadership role on the 13-member panel.
As a new member, McDuffie (D-Ward 5) could have easily found himself without a committee to chair since he was elected mid-year in a special election. But Brown created a new committee Tuesday, Jobs and Workforce Development, and appointed McDuffie chairman.
The Jobs and Workforce Development Committee will oversee the city’s efforts to lower the unemployment rate and train District workers.
In creating McDuffie’s committee, Brown took away some responsibilities from Council member Michael A. Brown (I-At large), who chairs what until Tuesday was known as the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development.
But in a major step that has potentially far-reaching consequences for future growth in the District, Kwame Brown gave up his oversight over economic development issues and merged it into Michael Brown’s Housing Committee. The new committee is called the Committee on Economic Development and Housing.
In his new role, Michael Brown also will have oversight of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. It was unclear whether he also would have oversight of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission and D.C. Convention Center.
In a statement, Michael Brown signaled he plans to use his new power to place a renewed emphasis on affordable housing and other social programs.
“Clearly, the District is experiencing a robust renewal and I look forward to working with Mayor Gray and my colleagues to continue this growth,” Michael Brown said. “However, I intend to bring my lifetime commitment of protecting our city’s most vulnerable into the forefront and will work to ensure all residents benefit from this renaissance.”
Michael Brown is one of the most liberal members of the D.C. Council,
and his appointment may make some developers and business leaders uneasy. In recent years, he has pushed for higher taxes on the wealthy and has been a major supporter of District laws that mandate contractors hire a certain percentage of District residents.
According to council staffers, he failed to show for several key meetings in Las Vegas when Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and several council members traveled to the International Council of Shopping Centers retail convention two weeks ago.
But Brown, a lobbyist on Capitol Hill, said he plans to “immediately attend meetings with business leaders and development leaders” and “others to strengthen plans that will offer D.C. residents jobs and promote a more inclusive and business friendly environment.”
By giving up economic development, Kwame Brown now will only oversee educational issues in addition to his responsibilities as council chairman.