Tenant complaints about a Dupont Circle apartment building--ranging from unreliable electricity to rats and lead paint--have directed an unwelcome spotlight on Ward 5's freshman D.C. Council member, Vincent B. Orange Sr.

Orange (D) serves as the property manager for the Bristol apartment building at 1833 S St. NW, which is 83 years old.

Since last year, tenants in many of the 25 apartments have been complaining to landlord Beatrice Whitfield and Orange, trying to persuade them to make repairs. The electrical system, they say, is unsafe and so unreliable that when appliances such as air conditioning or microwaves are turned on, the power often goes out. Lead paint in the building, other residents say, resulted in elevated blood lead levels in a 3-year-old child two years ago.

Orange was pressured during his council campaign last year to repair what tenants called the "slumlike conditions" at the building. Protests were organized outside his Northeast Washington house and during Ward 5 candidate forums.

Well, unfortunately for Orange, the issue has not gone away.

A D.C. Superior Court jury ruled Friday against Whitfield on two suits she had filed against a tenant who had withheld her rent since last year to protest the conditions.

"My goal is to have the building fixed or sold to someone who will take care of it," said Galek Ianta Summers, the tenant. "He is a fraudulent property manager. If he can't handle one building in Dupont Circle, how can he handle all of Ward 5."

Orange did not return calls requesting comment.

Error of Etiquette

Rude, rude and rude. For months, the D.C. Council's Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation had planned a hearing this past Tuesday about security in the city's public schools, at 10 a.m. sharp.

But when the nearly two dozen witnesses who had signed up to speak showed up in the hearing room at the designated time, they got a surprise. Turns out that council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) had, days earlier, decided to call a full council meeting at the same time, in the same location.

The problem was that nobody from the committee, chaired by council member Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7), bothered to warn the school witnesses. Some of them sat for several hours waiting for the hearing to begin, while the council covered more than a dozen other issues. By the time the hearing started, three hours late, some witnesses had given up and gone home.

Chavous seemed somewhat chagrined by the episode, saying to his first panel of witnesses, with a chuckle: "I'm sorry you had to wait so long. It wasn't my fault. It was Chairman Cropp's."

Nobody laughed.

Two Parties Merge

The D.C. Statehood Party elected Kevin M. McCarron as party chairman at its 1999 Annual Convention. The party also voted to merge with the D.C. Green Party by Feb. 28, 2000.

McCarron was elected in a three-way race, with Thomas E. Smith, of Ward 2, and Michael Binder, of Ward 3. McCarron, a resident of Ward 4, is employed as an economist with the federal government.

"I have two immediate goals," McCarron said in a statement. "One is to bring the issue of environmental racism to the fore, and the other is to have the District demanding statehood."

Outgoing party chairman, John Gloster, said of the merger: "This merger would show that progressives are ready to come together in a serious way to offer the voters a true alternative to the status quo. The D.C. Statehood and the D.C. Green parties offer a vision of government in which the people will really matter."

The Green Party had 99 registered voters in the city as of May 31, according to the D.C. Board of Elections; the Statehood Party had 3,424. Together, they make up 1 percent of the city's 316,847 registered voters.