All About Politics: Observations on the District Council Swearing-in — and the Convention Center

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson welcomes council members and guests Jan. 2 at the Washington Convention Center.

I just came from the District of Columbia Council’s formal swearing-in. By law, all newly elected Council Members must be sworn in by noon, Jan. 2. Even though it was a holiday, the event had to be completed.

The site was the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The large, attractive venue was dedicated in March 2003. They still have not gotten around to erecting a statue of D.C.’s first appointed and elected mayor in front of the building. He deserves one.

I’m sure many of the convention-goers from all places here and abroad attending conventions, assume that the building is named after the city (Washington), not for the D.C. mayor, who served from 1967 to 1979, the last four as an elected official. I asked Mayor Muriel Bowser if she was for a Walter E. Washington statue. She said it was a “good idea” but also added there should be a statue of Marion Barry, the mayor who served 1979 to 1991 and 1995 to 1999.

Mimsy Lindner is a Georgetown resident and — more to the point — is a member of the D.C. Convention Authority. She should be contacted and urged to make this “good idea” happen.

Well-known and respected community activist Dorothy Brazil remarked that there was “no art on the walls.” Very good point! We don’t do a very good job of telling our story (local D.C.) to the country or the world.

**The Proceedings**

Bruce Johnson of WUSA9 was once again the master of ceremonies. The hall on the first floor was about half filled. That’s disappointing and says something about our lack of civic pride.

I saw no one from the outgoing Obama administration or incoming Trump administration. If there was someone invited, they did not show and were not acknowledged from the podium.

Johnson did cause a bit of stir when he mentioned that they should be finished in time because “David Catania is not here.” In fact, he brought up his absence not once, but twice.

Before the speeches, a protester with a sign, reading “Javon Hall” stood up in the front row. Hall was shot by Metropolitan Police on Christmas morning. (He died at the hospital.) Hall’s family disputes the MPD account of the incident.

Now for a brief critique of the following speeches by the elected officials.

Mayor Bowser said this will be “best council ever.” Bit of massive hyperbole.

Eleanor Holmes Norton: What was remarkable was her lavishing praise on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as she affectionately called him “Newt.” One would think the former disgraced Speaker was her greatest friend. Norton obviously and conveniently forgot that the very first thing he did after assuming power in January 1995 was to remove Norton’s limited vote in the Committee of the Whole. Ned Sloan told me he is running against her in 2018.

Karl Racine Attorney General Racine spoke of his accomplishments in the new office. Racine also swore in Ward 8 member Trayon White. He also reminded the audience that newly elected At-Large member Robert White worked in his office. Watch for Racine to run for Mayor against Bowser in 2018.

**Three Newly Elected Members and Incumbents**

Vincent Gray of Ward 7: The former District Council chairman and mayor returned to his first elected position, Council Member from Ward 7. His opponent and past Council Member Yvette Alexander was in attendance.

The retired Chief Judge of the D.C. Superior Court Lee F. Satterfield swore Gray into office and then said, “Welcome back.” Nice touch.

Watch for Gray to run for mayor again in 2018. He keeps his ward seat. He has nothing to lose. He is not the president of the Muriel Bowser fan club.

Robert White, Jr.: The new At-large Council Member gave a very nice tribute to his wife, calling her “his foundation.”

Trayon White, Sr. of Ward 8: By far, he was the “star” of the day. He brought a galaxy of admirers and supporters. Ward 8 was by far the best represented ward in the hall. Everyone dressed in their Sunday best. Plenty of hugs and kisses and picture taking.

David Grasso, At-large Council Member: Said nothing of lasting value. But in the program informed D.C. citizens that he lives in Ward 5 with his wife Serra and “their dogs Frida and Diego.” (Oh, almost forgot — Robert White recognized his “rescue pit bull.” His name is Roscoe.)

Jack Evans of Ward 2: The longest serving Council Member reminded everybody how far the city has come since he was elected in a special election in 1991. He starts his eighth term. Evans’s triplets — John, Christina and Katherine — were on stage with. Evans said he was the only member elected in the previous century. Graciously called out the names of his staff and thanked them.

Finally, Phil Mendelson, District Council Chair: He received by far the faintest amount of applause when introduced. He did acknowledge former members of the council. I heard they had not been formally invited as in past years. I guess poor staff work by the Chair’s office.

One final note: Sam Ford, longtime and well-liked reporter from Channel 7, passed out some nice pens.

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