D.C. Council Members Are Peeved, and the City Pays a Price
THE D.C. COUNCIL was shamed Tuesday into apologizing for the racist and sexist comments that marred the confirmation hearing of Ximena Hartsock for director of parks and recreation. The bigger shame, though, is that the council, acting largely out of political spite, refused to confirm this eminently qualified and capable woman. No doubt Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) suffered a political loss, but the real loser is the city.
Following a grudging apology from council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) about the ugly tenor of a hearing he chaired, the council voted 7 to 5 to reject Ms. Hartsock's appointment.
We respect the council's legitimate role in confirming or rejecting appointments, but it seems to us that the worth of the individual is what should matter. So it was perplexing to hear council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) extol how responsive and hardworking Ms. Hartsock has been and then vote against her. Similarly, council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) acknowledged the outpouring of support for her and then voted against her. Kwame Brown (D-At Large) voted no after explaining the deep respect he has for Ms. Hartsock. Also voting to reject her nomination were council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), Mr. Thomas (D-Ward 5) and at-large member Michael Brown (I). Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), whose offensive comments Mr. Thomas repudiated, was reported ill and not present.
We know that some council members don't like how the mayor is firing workers, or disagree with his policies, or think he plays fast and loose with the law. But council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) had it right when he said the problems between council and mayor (for which Mr. Fenty carries much blame) should not be the issue. Because they are annoyed at the mayor, council members rejected a woman of extraordinary educational and professional accomplishment who worked 18 hours a day to produce results. As Mr. Graham said, "It puzzles me why we wouldn't embrace this nominee."