Marion Barry: D.C. Council is ‘in serious trouble’
The Washington, D.C. Council selected Phil Mendelson as interim chairman of the scandal-scarred D.C. Council, swearing to restore trust in a legislative body that has lost two significant members this year to criminal convictions. Harry Thomas Jr. was charged with embezzling city funds and sentenced to three years in prison, and former council chairman Kwame Brown pleaded guilty to felony bank fraud charges and a misdemeanor, and is scheduled for sentencing in September.
As Mendelson’s colleagues voted unanimously to inaugurate him in the interim post, the fight over interim chairman pro tempore, a largely ceremonial position, was contentious and exposed deep divisions in the 12-member council. Vincent Orange, an at-large Democrat, shouted, “I’m the best! I’m the best! Right now, Vincent Bernard Orange Sr. is the best candidate for chairman pro tempore,” as he challenged an at-large independent, Michael A. Brown, who is of no relation to Kwame Brown. Councilmember Marion Barry supported Orange and called this year’s turmoil the most serious crisis D.C.’s government has faced since the beginning of home rule in 1973. “The city’s in serious trouble, credibility trouble,” Barry said. “We are the laughingstock of the nation.” The council voted 8-4 in Michael Brown’s favor, and then 11-1 on a resolution to install both Mendelson and Brown. In opposition of petty arguments among councilmembers, Councilmember Yvette Alexander reprimanded Orange for his tactics, saying they reflected poorly on the council. “When we’re so self-righteous, tomorrow we could be in handcuffs,” she said before fighting back tears. “Stop promoting yourselves by the demise of others. It’s sickening.”