A quick look at the District’s Democratic primary lineup reveals some worrisome features of our more-or-less one-party state. Serious opponents are lacking for most candidates, including Mayor Muriel Bowser — and we have not even mentioned the 27,000 Republicans who live in the nation’s capital, which just hit the population mark of 600,000.
According to the D.C. Republican Party, there were 27,094 registered voters affiliated with the party two years ago, 6.29 percent of all registered voters in the District.
Another telling example is the race between Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and challenger Kim Ford, who worked in the Obama administration. While Norton has been dedicated and led the good fight, could we even think about hearing what Ford has to say and seeing what she might have to offer?
However things turn out, we know we need fresh voices.
Change in the District should be encouraged and embraced. Today, our politics seem defined — from the top down — by a stagnant air of self-congratulation. Problems such as education scandals, violent crime and the lack of affordable housing are played down as the city pursues a bigger-is-better strategy.
The list of those involved in community and political life seems fixated on the same faces. It’s great to have such dedication, but how can we expand the pool of those willing to help? Given the influx of newcomers, let’s find a way. Are term limits needed at all levels?
With all the opportunities for service — such as board membership in local groups like the Citizens Association of Georgetown and various business organizations — care must also be taken to avoid conflicts of interest. A District Council bill, stuck in committee, outlines a code of conduct for D.C. government employees as well as for those who sit on advisory neighborhood commissions. Some commissioners, who are involved in other community groups (churches, senior clubs, Boy Scouts, etc.), have expressed concern about the ambiguity of the constraints and the severity of the penalties, but at least we have a starting point.
How about a spirit of rotation all around, as that becomes increasingly possible? The pool will expand — and the possibility of conflicts of interest arising will diminish — as more and new residents get involved. Or so one hopes.