THE BACKDROP for the Nov. 6 election of two at-large D.C. Council members is a city in poor political health. A former council member is in prison for crimes committed while in office. The former chairman of the body awaits sentencing for bank fraud. The mayor and other council members may be vulnerable in a wide-ranging federal probe. The city needs leaders of unquestionable temperament and ethics.
The incumbents seeking reelection, Michael A. Brown (I) and Vincent B. Orange (D), don’t fit the bill. Mr. Brown’s unpaid taxes and rent, serial suspensions of driving privileges and lax oversight of his campaign treasury raise questions about judgment and responsibility that were borne out by his underhanded, and ultimately botched, effort to make the District the first jurisdiction in the country to allow online gaming. To this day, Mr. Brown fails to see a problem in his failure to disclose his employment by a firm with an interest in the industry. He is not the person to restore confidence in a discredited legislature.
Mr. Orange’s campaign to win the seat in a 2011 special election is the subject of an ongoing audit by the office of campaign finance and, according to some news accounts, by federal authorities. Mr. Orange said he is not aware of any interest by federal prosecutors, who won’t comment as a matter of policy, and he denied any wrongdoing. Mr. Orange can boast of accomplishments as a former Ward 5 representative, but his at-large tenure has been disappointing. His behavior in trying (unsuccessfully) to persuade his colleagues to promote him to the ceremonial position of president pro tempore was an unsettling display of rank political ambition (“I am the best”) that is too often apparent in his headline-seeking approach to legislating.
Neither Mr. Brown nor Mr. Orange deserves reelection, particularly when there are attractive alternatives in the independent candidacies of David Grosso and Leon Swain Jr. Other candidates on the ballot are A.J. Cooper (I), Mary Brooks Beatty (R) and Ann C. Wilcox (Statehood Green).
Mr. Grosso, a lawyer who worked for former council member Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), understands the issues important to the city and knows how government should work. He supports continued school reform, smart economic development and stronger ethics laws, including an end to the insidious policy that allows the council to interfere with contracts. Mr. Grosso’s experience in running the council’s economic development committee for Ms. Ambrose gives him insights into affordable housing and job training. Rather than falling back on increased taxes to solve problems, Mr. Grosso promises scrutiny of the city’s $10 billion budget.
Unlike many who give lip service to integrity, Mr. Swain has lived it. As chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission, he responded to an offer of a substantial bribe by going undercover for the FBI, at considerable risk and hardship. He brings a hardworking, common-sense approach to solving problems, as when he brought meters to D.C.’s taxicabs and promoted reforms as a board member of United Medical Center in Southeast. As a lifelong Washingtonian with decades of public service, including patrolling city streets as a police officer, Mr. Swain has an unmatched understanding of issues affecting city residents, including the most vulnerable.
Early votingbegins Monday at the Old Council Chambers at One Judiciary Square and will be expanded to each ward from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3.The top two vote-getters from the field of seven candidates will be elected. D.C. law requires that at least one seat be filled by someone who is not a member of the Democratic Party.
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