City Desk

Fenty & Friends Take a Shot at Phil Mendelson

Not too often these days that you see overt displays of executive-legislative interbranch friendship. Yet, this was one of those days, with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Attorney General Peter J. Nickles, police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, and two members of the MPD brass joining legislators Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, and Jim Graham on a Ward 1 street corner this afternoon.

The ostensible purpose was to urge passing of a sprawling anti-crime bill before the start of the traditional summer crime season. The clear subtext, however, was that the parties were taking a shot across the bow of At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who as chair of the public safety and judiciary committee holds the legislative fate of the bill in his hands.

Each of the parties urged that the 56-page bill, encompassing a number of crimefighting proposals, be passed on an emergency basis (meaning the bill goes into effect immediately for 90 days upon mayoral signature, bypassing congressional review) at the Council's June 2 legislative meeting. Mendelson has committed to getting an emergency bill through by the council's summer recess, which kicks off in early July.

"We need the new tools in this legislation," said Graham, citing recent shooting on the 1400 block of W Street NW (full disclosure: also LL's home block). "We need the tougher approach."

Evans was even more strident: "If we do not act...this bill going through the regular process next March. Next March!...That is unacceptable!" Later he added, in a swipe at Mendelson's meticulous ways, "What's process? It's the enemy of progress!" and "I want this thing moved pronto!"

OK, "pronto." Question is, where was Mendo?

If everyone's so committed to making this happen, wouldn't you want to have the chair of the relevant committee in attendance?

LL asked why he wasn't invited. Fenty said "everyone's been invited." Evans said that he had called Mendelson. Mendelson says he got a phone call this morning from Evans, but he didn't leave a message.

Furthermore, Nickles acknowledged that he and his staff have been meeting regularly with Mendelson and his staff to produce a workable bill. Is that, LL pointed out, what the legislative process is all about? Not calling a press conference and throwing a fit?

"The legislative process is not working," Nickles said.

Replies Mendelson, reached after the presser, "Of course, we know that Peter Nickles doesn't seem to believe in the legislative process."

Mendelson reiterated his pledge to have the bill ready for the mayor's pen by the council recess, and added that he's happy to pass an emergency bill at that time—it could happen even earlier, he says, if parties come to an agreement by the time the bill comes out of committee in June. As for Evans' "next March" statement, he says, "he needs to do his math."

Crime, Mendelson says, "lends itself to grandstanding....It just seems that there's this desire to grandstand and score points over this," he says. "I would rather do it correctly."

LL asked those in attendance if they thought they had the nine votes necessary to pass an early emergency bill—a tough sled for Fenty when his relations with eight of 13 councilmembers are strained at best, nonexistent at worst.

"You have my vote," Nickles said.

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  • Wrack

    Stick it to 'em, Mendo! Civil liberties are worth the fine-tooth comb approach.

  • Versatile

    This is interesting. Cathy Lanier spoke at my community association meeting this week. She commented that the MPD tries to stay out of politics -- but she also said how much the crime bill is needed and she mentioned Phil Mendleson by name as the head of the public service committee as someone to call.

  • Mike DeBonis

    Ooh. Good info, Versatile. Care to disclose which meeting?

  • Once again

    STICK TO YOUR GUNS MENDELSON! I am sick of Fenty & Co spending so much energy circumventing laws and the legislative process. Maybe it's not working for Nickel/Fenty et al because they are not interested in what anyone else thinks, feels, wants... to include the citizens of the District. Well Fenty et at.... get all that you can now because if your not in jail by the end of this term, you definately wont be re-elected.

  • BobinDC

    Unfortunately, the Omnibus bill submitted by Fenty is a really, really bad bill that would do nothing to reduce crime but would do quite a lot to reduce civil liberties. THis is beneath Evans who should know better. It is an embarassment for Graham who doesn't know anything about rights or crime, but loves a microphone. Bowser just owes the Mayor and does his bidding.

    Mendelson has been working for months on this turkey, trying to find a rare nugget of a good idea that can be made into a viable crime-fighting effort that does serve solely to make DC a police state as Nickles would like.

    Thank goodness we have Mendelson to protect us and the Constitution from Fenty and Nickles.

  • candycane1

    Well the ususal suck-up council members were present. That says it all right there. What else would you expect from Bowser? Only a lobotomy would change her way of thinking. Hang in there Mendelson. Keep doing the right thing! That conversation belongs in the legislative arena and not on a street corner.

  • crime

    Phil Mendelson is the worst possible person to be in charge of the crime problem in DC. He's the type of liberal that makes me embarrassed to be a liberal.

    This article describes how ridiculously soft on crime he is:

  • fedupcitizen

    hey crime, mendelson is far better then the jerk of a mayor. All the photo opts in the world will not deter crime. I've said it before and I'll say it again he doesn't know anything about crime except how to commit it. This man middle name is arrogrant.