After being pushed Vincent Orange finally did the right thing and announced he will resign his Council seat on August 15th the day he begins his new job as the Executive Director of the DC Chamber of Commerce; something he should have done right away. But as the saying goes "better late than never".
Now however on his way out the door he is choosing to get involved in another dispute of his own making about who the Democratic State Committee should choose to fill out his remaining term. This must make those who chose him as the new Executive Director of the DC Chamber scratch their heads and wonder what they are getting into.
The Washington Post reports Vincent Orange "is objecting to Democratic Party officials filling his vacant seat with the political newcomer who beat him in the June primary." He tweeted "Why not appoint a Latino, Asian, LGBTQ person or upcoming millennial person [to] provide exposure for future?" Orange may want to do his research before tweeting because as it happens Robert White is a millennial.
Many think it would be better for all if he just left gracefully instead of getting into this fight. The same Post column reports "D.C. Democratic Party Chairwoman Anita Bonds says party officials will most likely appoint Robert White, the former aide to Attorney General Karl Racine who won the primary. He is already heavily favored to win a full term in the November general election and is pushing for an early appointment to the seat."
Orange's pandering to the LGBT, Asian and Latino communities on his way out the door is just lousy politics and we will now wait to see if with Orange at the helm of the Chamber they will be supporting members of these communities in future elections.
Orange is unnecessarily alienating both the State Democratic Party and the next Councilmember, Robert White, for apparently no reason but personal pique. White will either take his seat on the Council now or in January; I hope it's now. He clearly won't have any good feelings left for Vince Orange which could easily translate to the organization Orange will be heading. Orange's actions make no sense and again give people an indication of some of the reasons he lost his reelection campaign.
This entire embarrassing episode should lead the Council to revisit and review their ethics rules and make some decisions on whether or not they need to legislate new ethics standards or simply enforce what is there. My feeling is they may need to introduce new legislation.
In her last term on the Council before becoming Mayor, Muriel Bowser worked hard and passed a new ethics bill which began to make inroads into the problems the council continues to face with members disregarding obvious conflicts of interest. This drives people away from politics and as I wrote in a previous Washington Blade column is an embarrassment for the District as our leaders work to get Statehood.
There are many good strong members on the DC Council. We are electing new people with each cycle who are making a full-time commitment to the Council and not having outside work. It is my belief this should be the goal for all Councilmembers in the future. It is always easier to make decisions when you have only one boss; the people who elected you.
We also need to get more of the money out of politics both nationally and locally. It may take time to overturn Citizens United but we can find ways to at least partially publicly finance our local elections. As a start the Council may want to look at the New York City model and see how it could be adapted in the District.
It would be great if Council Chairman Mendelson were to take the lead on this issue and began the hard work needed to regain the public's confidence in the Council.