Two weeks after the historic ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court knocking down the power of Congress to impose legislative vetoes, lawyers for the mayor and the City Council are still uncertain what the decision means for the District.
Although initial reactions focused on what legal effect the decision would have on Congress' veto power over city laws, officials now believe the ruling also could affect the political balance between the mayor and City Council, potentially affecting dozens of laws that allow the council to veto decisions by the mayor.
"Everybody is studying it," said Council Chairman David A. Clarke, who has asked Gregory Mize, the council's general counsel, to assess the potential impact of the ruling. Lawyers in the office of Corporation Counsel Judith W. Rogers also are poring over the legal ramifications for the mayor.
Congressional aides are exploring whether the city's Home Rule Charter--the 1973 act of Congress granting the city limited home rule--now needs to be altered in any way. "There may have to be some amendments," one aide said.
Clarke said one key question is whether the city, under the Home Rule Charter, is considered a governmental jurisdiction with actual executive and legislative branches, or simply as a federal agency created by the Congress and the president.
If it is the latter, Clarke said, then the Congress' power to veto actions taken by the city could be called into question. The relationship between the mayor and the council, in that event, also could be affected, Clarke said.
Asked for a "worst case" interpretation, Clarke declined to speculate on the possible erosion of the City Council's powers.
However, the general counsel's list of laws that could be affected include the council's authority to pass on teacher salaries, government reorganization plans submitted by the mayor and even decisions on how the fire department is run.
Any actions that limits the council's authority could have significant political effect on the already weak powers of the council, which Barry sometimes treats as little more than a "pit stop," a necessary nuisance between his office and the city's congressional overlords.
Barry showed last week that he won't hesitate to ignore the council.
The council formally opposed Barry's reprograming of funds to cut almost 300 job training slots out of the budget. But Barry invoked the home rule charter provision that gives him almost unilateral authority to do anything he wants to avoid deficit spending and went ahead with plans for the cuts.
Carol Currie, a founder of the increasingly influential Citizens Planning Coalition and head of the group for all of its five years of existence, stepped down last week.
The organization has been increasingly involved in the battle to shape the city's controversial comprehensive plan, and also has spoken out on various development projects.
"I thought we needed a fresh face," said Currie, an aide to Rep. Jim Jones (D-Okla.) and a resident of Ward 3.
Currie, who said she will continue to be active, was succeeded by William Washburn III, a former vice president of the Anacostia Economic Development Corp., who holds a master's degree in city planning from Harvard University. "He's got the degrees and the common sense," said Currie.
Washburn, who is black and lives in Congress Heights in Ward 8, also is expected to improve the image of the planning coalition, which has been criticized for being "too white" in its leadership even though its 400 members are scattered thorughout all eight wards of the city.
"The mayor said the group is too white," Currie said. "But that's where the development was going--Wards 1, 2, 3 and 6." Currie said development now is branching out to other wards, including Anacostia, Brookland and other areas.
The City Council is scheduled to begin holding hearings on the comprehensive plan this fall, but a variety of citizens' associations and the planning coalition are still attempting to get Barry's Office of Planning and Economic Development to make changes in the plan before it is submitted to the council.