Council Votes Against Fenty's Pick to Lead Parks and Rec
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
The D.C. Council voted Tuesday to block Ximena Hartsock from becoming the next director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, aggravating the tension between the council and the mayor and casting fresh doubt on the future of the troubled agency.
After a long debate, the council voted 7 to 5 to reject Hartsock and remove her as the head of an agency that has had seven permanent or interim directors in the past decade.
It was the first time since Fenty took office in 2007 that the council had rejected one of his nominees to lead a city agency, which could mark a turning point for the administration in how it deals with labor unions and their allies on the council.
The vote followed a contentious hearing Friday night that brought cries of racial and ethnic bias after council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) implied that Hartsock, who is Hispanic, did not understand black culture.
Before the vote, council members strongly denied allegations of bias and sought to distance themselves from Barry, who missed the vote because he was in the hospital suffering from dehydration.
But the Fenty administration seized on Barry's remarks and slammed the council for rejecting a Hispanic nominee.
"Outrageous. Outrageous," Attorney General Peter Nickles said. "One of the most qualified Latinas in the city. A PhD. A principal. . . . She was treated unfairly."
Nickles added, "I hope the community, particularly the Latino community, recognizes how shabbily she has been treated."
Tuesday also saw dozens of activists on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate cram into the council chambers to watch the introduction of a bill to allow same-sex couples to wed in the District.
"We are about to embark on an exciting journey here in the city," council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) told the audience when he introduced his bill shortly after noon.
Catania was joined by nine of his colleagues in sponsoring the bill, which is expected to pass easily. But opponents, including Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, and the Archdiocese of Washington, have vowed to fight the measure.
But after months of anticipation, the introduction of the same-sex marriage measure was fairly anti-climactic, leaving Hartsock's nomination as the most controversial legislation of the day.