Acting in the backwash of a controversy created by plans to restrict street vending in the District, Mayor Marion Barry and the D.C. Office of Business and Economic Development are seeking to reorganize the task force that drafted the original proposals.
An order seeking to change the membership of the current task force and to open its meetings to the public is being prepared for submission to the mayor, according to economic development office spokesman Richard Maulsby.
The new group is expected to consist of eight representatives of the business community; one from each of the city's eight wards; eight street vendors, and nine nonvoting members from the city government, including the police department.
The previous task force had about the same number of members and the same proportion of representation, except the governmental members exercised voting rights.
A notice soliciting applications for membership will be published in the next issue of the D.C. Register, said Maulsby. He added that the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the D.C. Chamber of Commerce will each have two voting members, with four "at-large" members from the business community. The Board of Trade previously had one vote, while the D.C. chamber had no representatives.
Maulsby said the group will be chaired by Lawrence P. Schumake III, who heads the D.C. office of economic development. The chairman of the previous group, Ellis Mitchell, will continue to sit on the new task force, as will most of the government representatives, he said.
Neither Schumake nor Mitchell returned telephoned inquiries from The Washington Post about the task force.
Representatives from the recently formed Washington Association of Vendors said they had already submitted applications for seats on the new task force.
The original task force has been the subject of criticism by vendors since its proposal to increase fees levied on street vendors became public last summer. The plan would require vendors, who now pay a $15 annual license fee ($25 if they sell food), to pay a biennial fee of $250. In addition, vendors would be required to rent sidewalk space for $750 a year and roadway space for $1,500 a year. The areas where vendors could locate and the type of goods they could sell would be restricted.
Maulsby said this proposal, which has been supported for the most part by business and government task force members, will be considered as "background" by the new task force. "It's not a recommendation they have to accept," he said.
One major complaint by vendors has been that the previous task force held all of its meetings behind closed doors. Vendors have also complained that their interests were not represented sufficiently in the task force, which they said was dominated by some of the city's most powerful business groups.