Trying to find parking in downtown Washington can be frustrating to motorists. Yesterday the topic was enough to ignite some tempers in the D.C. Council chambers.
A name-calling and finger-pointing exchange erupted between council members Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) and John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2) as they debated a plan to create city-owned parking lots downtown. Council Chairman David A. Clarke ordered a five-minute recess to cool them down, telling his colleagues to "grow up."
Eventually the council approved a bill establishing a 17-member citizens advisory task force to recommend areas where such parking lots should be placed -- but not before Winter and Wilson clashed bitterly.
Wilson, saying he was speaking "at the risk of annoying everyone," said he opposed the measure because it would adversely affect his ward, which includes much of the business community.
At one point, Winter was talking about the benefits of the bill to the community when Wilson began to talk above a whisper.
"Mrs. Winter has the floor," Clarke admonished Wilson.
"Oh, shut up," Wilson said to Clarke.
Winter asked Wilson to repeat what he had said. Wilson said he had not said anything.
"So your mouth moves without saying anything," Winter shouted back.
"Lady . . . " Wilson began.
"I'm glad you called me 'lady,' " Winter interrupted. "I can't call you a gentleman." She then asked if Wilson might want to continue the discussion outside.
Later, after Wilson criticized Winter for allowing politics to dictate her support for the bill, Winter angrily asked Clarke to rule Wilson out of order. The chairman did so, but the council combatants continued to rail at each other. Finally, Clarke called for the five-minute recess, admonishing his colleagues to "grow up."
As most of the council members were leaving the chambers, Winter said to Wilson, "I don't know why I bother to dignify what you say. Why don't you grow up?"
"If I get as old and dumb as you, I don't want to grow up," Wilson replied.
When council members returned from recess, Winter said, "I have never had my integrity impugned as I have on this dais today."
Wilson apologized to Winter and his colleagues. "I apologize to anybody whose integrity I offended," he said, adding that he no longer had "any respect for this government or this body."
The bill approved yesterday would allow the task force to recommend that city-owned parking lots be built in major commercial areas, such as Georgetown and downtown, in competition with parking garages that have been maintained by private business people.
The council voted 7 to 4 in favor of the measure. In addition to Wilson, those opposed to the action were John Ray (D-At Large), Hilda H.M. Mason (Statehood-At Large) and Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8).
In other action, the council gave final approval to a bill that would require restaurant owners to designate a certain section of their establishments for nonsmokers.