DC Council Swears In New Members

Former mayor sworn in as councilman

The new year brought new worries for the D.C. government as new council members were sworn into office Monday.

While the city is growing and is financially stronger than ever, leaders fear the new conservative Republican Congress and White House may interfere with or overturn some of the liberal city's laws.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, longtime delegate to the United States Congress representing the District of Columbia, put it more bluntly.

“Any changes in our criminal justice should be initiated and recommended by the District of Columbia, not the Congress of the United States,” Norton said.

Mayor Muriel Bowser met briefly President-elect Donald Trump in New York in December, but neither has released details. She said D.C. has more than 20 years of balanced budgets and said she'll try to work with Congress.

“Our approach, of course, is to see what the new landscape is at the White House and the Congress,” Bowser said.

Ward 6 Councilman Charles Allen is the new chairman of the judiciary committee. He said the city has to be especially wary now.

“I think we're going to have to be on guard and probably a little bit on the edge of our seat for this,” Allen said. “We've seen we've had a hostile Senate and Congress, sometimes, toward the district, and we've always had President Obama as a backstop. We don't have that anymore.”

District civic leaders said the city has to put aside political differences at home to withstand Congress.

“That is going to be a concern,” said Earl Williams, president of the Federation of Citizens Associations. “They're going to have to stand strong and support the residents of the city and not let us get run over by a new administration.”

Former mayor Vincent Gray and other new council members were sworn in during Monday’s council meeting. Gray, who will represent Ward 7, at-large Councilman Robert White and Ward 8 Councilman Trayon White all took the oath of office while Bowser and others watched.

Bowser defeated Gray for mayor two years ago. She sat nearby as Gray, a potential opponent again in 2018, offered veiled criticism of Bowser sloganeering instead of action.

“Too many people in our city have watched while some neighborhoods have prosperity while others remain stagnant,” Gray said.

Gray blames his loss as mayor a long-running federal investigation into his 2010 campaign. He was not charged in the investigation, but 12 people pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the investigation, which uncovered evidence of more than $3.3 million in illegal contributions to various campaigns between 2006 and 2011.

He said he is looking ahead.

“People ask me all the time about running again for mayor,” he said. “It is not a decision I’ve made. As I’ve said to you, before, a number of times, it is certainly something we’ve not ruled out.”

Bowser said she's running again but hasn't set up a campaign committee. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, another potential candidate for mayor, said he'll make any career decision later this year.

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