Incoming Council Chairman Kwame Brown pretty much kept the status quo when it came to selecting committee chairs last week. But there were a few big changes.
The big winner was Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells.
Instead of the demanding -- and sometimes heart-wrenching -- Committee on Human Services, Wells will head the Committee on Public Works and Transportation.
These committee subjects are at the heart of Wells’ interests as a council member. He’s a strong supporter of changing the streetscape to make the roadways safe and accessible to vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.
The Committee on Public Works and Transportation also has oversight of parking meters and parking tickets. That’s not so much fun. The District really needs to get a handle on simplifying parking meters and clarifying parking policies in the city. On the scale of “most hated” city matters, parking woes have replaced the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham, who was formerly in charge of Public Works and Transportation, has been shifted to human services.
Ward 3’s Mary Cheh had wanted to take on an education committee, but chairman-elect Brown decided to follow Vincent Gray’s lead and keep that subject in the chairman’s office. Cheh lost out and will continue to chair the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment. Some think for her it’s been there, done that.
At-large Council member David Catania very publicly had sought the education committee. He’ll remain head of the Committee on Health. Some believe heading education could have boosted Catania if he were to run for mayor or take on the race to become the city’s first elected attorney general.
Another big winner was Harry “Tommy” Thomas from Ward 5. He’s leaving the Committee on Libraries, Parks and Recreation to take over the Committee on Economic Development. His new committee introduces him to the big business players in the city. Some believe Thomas wants to run for mayor some day, too, and this is a part of the city power structure he needs to learn more about. At minimum, it’ll give him a better citywide perspective.
When you have a winner, you have to have a loser. In this case, Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry isn’t very happy. He wanted economic development. (The mere prospect of that made many business leaders cringe.) But Brown put Barry in charge of the Committee on Aging and Community Affairs. In one small concession, Barry was restored to a seat on the Committee on Finance and Revenue.
Barry had wanted to be more in the center of power after the council censured him and took away his committee posts last winter for allegedly abusing council contracting rules. The new committee assignments, though an improvement for him, are just more signs that Barry’s influence is waning.
At-large Council member Michael A. Brown also had wanted the Committee on Economic Development to help develop his career. He’ll remain with the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development. He may benefit in at least one way: Mayor-elect Vincent Gray intends to radically make over the Department of Employment Services, and Brown could have a hand in that.
Ward 7 Council member Yvette Alexander has more authority. She’ll head the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs.
Two heads of powerful committees are staying in place -- Ward 2’s Jack Evans over Finance and Revenue and at-large member Phil Mendelson over Public Safety and the Judiciary.
Ward 4’s Muriel Bowser, who some feel may face a tough re-election bid in 2012, becomes chair of the Committee on Libraries, Parks and Recreation. Those are all important matters in her ward, so it’s a good thing for her.
A special election will be held April 26 to fill the at-large seat that Chairman-elect Kwame Brown is vacating. Whoever wins may have no committee or something toothless, like self-determination.
• Fenty winding down.
Has anyone noticed that Mayor Adrian Fenty is fading mostly quietly from public life? It’s a remarkable change from four years ago when he stormed into the mayor’s office.
Fenty has refused to give traditional end-of-term exit interviews to The Washington Post, NBC Washington and other news outlets. Kudos to the first reporter or interviewer who can get Fenty to open up honestly about what happened over the past four years and how it led to his defeat.
• Gray staffing up.
The mayor-elect is busy filling his cabinet and key posts. He won’t make a decision, apparently, on interim Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson until sometime after he officially takes office this Sunday.
But Gray couldn’t give more hints that he will reappoint her.
Gray invited her last week to attend a press conference where Gray named a new deputy mayor for education, De’Shawn Wright, and a new state superintendent of education, Hosanna Mahaley. Gray repeatedly praised Henderson but said a 2007 law requires him to consult with the school community before taking action. (This was particularly interesting to The Notebook because we had reported on television that Henderson would be named. We still feel we are right; we just had the wrong timing.)
• And finally.
Here’s something that has almost nothing to do with city politics.
According to The Marist Poll, the word “whatever” remains the most annoying word or phrase in our everyday conversations. The poll said 39 percent of Americans “despise” how the word is tossed around so often. The annoying word “like” as a conversation filler scored 28 percent for irritability.
And “you know what I mean” scored worst for 15 percent of the people who responded.
So this 2010 year is, like, over, you know what I mean. Happy New Year to all.