D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange, who appears to be angling for a future run for mayor or D.C. Council chairman, wants to limit council members to two consecutive terms but make their jobs “full-time” and raise their salaries to as much as $170,000 a year.
Orange, who returned to the council in April after more than four years in the private sector, gathered reporters Monday morning to announce his agenda for what he called “a new deal for the District of Columbia.”
“Times are changing, and people are expecting more,” Orange said. “I think what I am presenting today is worthy of consideration.”
In a series of bills he plans to introduce at Tuesday’s council session, Orange is calling on his colleague to approve legislation restricting council members, the mayor and the city’s new elected attorney general to two consecutive four-year terms. Orange acknowledges that he had been a longtime opponent of term limits, including during his campaign earlier this year.
“I’m here to say, its time has come,” said Orange. “There are entrenched incumbents, and I am not sure it’s leading to a very efficient D.C. Council…Perhaps with an infusion of new blood we can get other individuals involved in the process and we can get some new ideas to move the government forward.”
Under Orange’s bill, current council members could still seek two consecutive terms after measure is approved. But Orange’s tone could test the patience of some of his colleagues, including council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2).
Evans, who was elected in 1991, plans to seek a sixth full term next year. In 1994, D.C. voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative limiting council members to two four-year terms. But in 2001, Evans led the effort to block the ballot referendum from taking effect.
When asked if his comments were directed at Evans, Orange said his colleague from Ward 2 would be able to run for at-large seat, for council chairman or for mayor.
In a separate bill, Orange is proposing what he calls the “full-time employment and full-time compensation for council members” act. The bill would prohibit council members from holding second jobs. In exchange, council members pay would be $20,000 less than the D.C. Council chairman is paid. Currently, the council chairman makes $190,000.
“This legislation would prevent the conflicts of interest for council members,” Orange said.
With salaries of $125,000 annually for what is considered a part-time job, D.C. Council members are already the second-highest-paid big-city lawmakers in the country, according to a study last year from the Pew Charitable Trust.
When asked if council members deserve to be paid nearly as much as White House Chief of Staff William N. Daley, who makes $172,000 annually, Orange said it would be appropriate to bring their salaries in line with what many District agency heads make.
Orange’s bill would require that voters approve the establishment of a full-time council and the new salaries before they take effect.
Orange, who had served on the council from 1999 to 2007, is offering his legislative agenda as chatter grows that he is already looking ahead to future campaigns. After defeating former interim council member Sekou Biddle in an April special election, Orange plans to seek a full term next year but is frequently mentioned as a candidate for chairman or mayor in 2014.
On Monday, however, Orange learned that D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) remains in charge. Orange initially wanted the council to vote Tuesday on emergency legislation to declare an “ethics and accountability…emergency” so that a special task force can begin assessing professional guidelines for elected officials.
But Brown, who sets the council agenda, told Orange that he wanted the body to consider ethics legislation only after it passed through a committee.
On Tuesday, Orange is to announce legislation to create a “jobs czar” to help match city residents with vacant jobs and is proposing to put a moratorium on new adult entertainment venues in Ward 5. He said he worried that too many strip clubs were trying to open in the area around New York Avenue in Northeast Washington.
“I don’t want the gateway into the city to be known as the new ‘red light district,’” Orange said.