D.C. Council Dysfunction: Members Open New Session With Contentious Proceedings

WASHINGTON -- Tuesday's often dysfunctional and contentious District of Columbia Council proceedings, where members uttered profanity, called each other hypocrites, talked over one another and otherwise created an environment of disorder, might have been a low point for local legislative relations in the city.

Granted, no member has resorted to calling a fellow colleague "Shrek" from the dais. Yet. But Jack Evans, the D.C. Council's longest-serving member, summed the mood up by declaring: "This is the worst council I’ve ever served on."

The Washington Post writes that "the frustrations and tensions that have been evident since the new council was seated in January seem to be growing, raising questions about whether the city’s legislative body will be able to function effectively."

For months, the D.C. Council has been dragged through the mud by the local news media, which have turned up scandal after scandal — including Harry Thomas Jr.'s Team Thomas mess; to Kwame Brown's Navigatorgate and 2008 campaign-finance troubles; to the alleged abuse of constituent-service funds by Evans and Yvette Alexander; to accusations of conflict of interest by Michael A. Brown; to Jim Graham not reporting that he was given a bribe (which he had rejected). As Evans was quoted in the Post: "The ongoing investigations involving some of the members hopefully will be concluded in a quick time frame because as long as they’re ongoing, there is a cloud over the council.”

With so many councilmembers under scrutiny for ethical lapses -- alleged or substantiated -- who is actually looking good? Examiner columnist Jonetta Rose Barras, said Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) may be on his way to being the ethics king:

Wells' journey to the throne began when, as head of the Committee on Transportation, he began an investigation into the chairman's leasing of two luxury SUVs. The report from that probe blasted Brown and the city's Department of Public Works. This summer, he also introduced measures that would prohibit procurement of luxury-class vehicles. This week, he went after corporations and lobbyists, limiting the amount of money they can give to campaigns while prohibiting free or discounted legal representation to council members.

And as the council continues to be embroiled in its battles, Wells could carry that mantle to higher office someday. But first, the D.C. Council needs to survive this legislative session.