Why DC needs a full-time council
For Immediate Release: February 2, 2012 at 2:19 pm
The District can no longer afford to have a part-time council. The cost and the burden are just too high.
First of all, it’s clear that the problems facing the District require full-time attention — I doubt any of the council members I serve with would disagree — and there’s a high price to be paid for allowing these problems to go unsolved. This is why I have proposed the Full-Time Employment for Council Members Charter Amendment Act of 2011.
But there is a deeper cost to having a part-time council. Quite simply, it is difficult for residents to accept that outside employment does not carry the potential for conflicts of interest, unethical behavior, corruption and divided loyalties. Residents have every right to wonder about this. Why does an elected representative earning $125,583, with full-time benefits (including summer recess), need outside employment that brings in as much as $280,000? More important, which employer will be such a council member’s first priority? In the minds of most D.C. residents, $125,583 is already a full-time salary.
This proposal is not revolutionary. The D.C. mayor and council chairman are already full-time employees who are barred from outside employment. Individual council members have responsibilities to their constituents that are every bit as important as those of the chairman and mayor.
This proposal is not meant to be a cure-all. To do the most good, it should be accompanied with two other changes: term limits and ethics reform. Taken together, these three steps can have a powerful effect: preventing the establishment of entrenched incumbency, promoting new ideas by encouraging more people to get involved in city politics, and eliminating a potential source of powerful conflicts of interest.
This foundation can be used to jump-start our mission on the council, generating new energy for our work to promote the safety, education, employment and the general welfare of those we are elected to serve. Most important, a council with a full-time commitment to the needs of the public can serve with integrity, accountability and honesty.
My legislation would place this question of a full-time council on the ballot, so that D.C. voters get the final say. That’s how it should be — it’s your council. I’m voting for it. How about you?
The writer is a member (D-At Large) of the D.C. Council.
The Orange Vision
Vincent's vision for Washington, DC, is that of a world-class city operating at its fullest potential. An extremely vibrant city that continues to beckon individuals, couples and families to live in, visit and experience its culture, arts, restaurants, retail, entertainment, sports venues, neighborhoods and tourism. More
Get to Know Vincent
As an attorney and certifiedpublic accountant, Vincent Orange has the skillset DC needs to make the citygreat again. In his earlier tenure on the DC Council, Vincent helped the cityturn a $518 million deficit into a $1.6 billion surplus reserve. Sincere-joining the DC Council last year, he has been at the forefront of efforts torestore ethical integrity to the Council, root out government waste, providejobs and continue education reform.More