Greater Greater Washington

Biddle's next challenge: Showing independence

It's good news that Sekou Biddle won the Democratic State Committee's nod last night, as it's very likely he'll be a good Councilmember. However, he would be wise to start branding himself as an independent person and distancing himself from the distasteful process he had to participate in to get the appointment.


"Kitchenette caucusing." Image from video by Martin Austermuhle.

Just a month or two ago, Sekou Biddle was just a smart guy few had heard of outside Ward 4 and upper Northwest, with a number of good ideas. Now, his most prominent supporters include Kwame Brown, Harry Thomas, Jr. and Marion Barry, all of whom whipped State Committee votes for him in a kitchenette last night, leading Martin Austermuhle to dub Biddle the "kitchenette Councilmember".

None of that means his good ideas have gone away, of course. He has hired some great staff with an unquestionable commitment to many of the issues we believe in. He also had the support of fantastic councilmember Mary Cheh.

His recent Ben's fundraiser includes such excellent host committee members as former HPRB member Andrew Aurbach, who consistently pushed for good urbanism and voted to allow a little more change in some controversial cases, and David Bowers, who inspired the crowd at the recent CSG forum on housing.

Also, the DC Young Democrats, with 6 votes on the State Committee, endorsed Biddle well before Kwame Brown or any Councilmembers did, though Brown and his family as well as other insiders had been privately helping him for some time.

We also know that a number of people support Biddle just because they hate Vincent Orange. Thomas said his main reason for supporting Biddle was to support Brown.

As Alan Suderman asks, "How beholden will Biddle be to the [Councilmembers] who got him his gig?" This fear likely underlies some of the nervous reactions from folks like Dave Stroup, who has been pushing for Bryan Weaver to enter the race:

Between each round of voting, you could literally watch the dealmaking. Or at least you could watch the back room used for the dealmaking. Those on the fence, or who controlled blocks of votes were taken into a back kitchenette by various players who traded God only knows for votes. It was a very visible reminder that yes, this is how politics operates. ...

Sekou Biddle might very well do a fine job on the Council. But, if you ask me, I cannot support anyone who won in this fashion. I cannot support someone who was anointed through a supposedly "transparent" process that was sausage-making at its worst.

I hope Dave Stroup meets with Sekou Biddle, because I suspect he'd be impressed. I also hope most voters let the quality of the candidates outweigh the process by which they got into office. I like the idea of having more points of view in the campaign, but am skeptical that drafting Bryan Weaver into this particular race is the answer, now that Biddle has the interim appointment and a head start in the election.

A year from now, all that will matter is who has an office in the Wilson Building and how they behave. If the slimy process that got Biddle in office leads him to be an unquestioning puppet of other members, then it is a problem. If he develops his own agenda and his own ideas once he doesn't need the others' support quite as much, he could be a great Councilmember.

From talking to Biddle, I have reason to believe that he'll be making his own decisions, at least most of the time. Now that he has to face the voters in what's likely to be a crowded field, he'd be well served to prominently show his independence. He should staff up his new Council office with some legislative people with serious policy chops who aren't all former staffers for members who endorsed him. He should also demonstrate that he's not afraid to vote against his colleagues or even his chairman.

Biddle could also make a huge statement by sponsoring a bill to end the ridiculous practice of having the state committee choose interim appointments, but only for partisan at-large seats. A real election is the way to go. If people are concerned about 5 Democrats splitting the vote and electing 1 Republican who doesn't really have the support of most residents, introduce instant runoff voting or a similar system.

Let's make Sekou Biddle the last Councilmember chosen through this archaic, backroom practice which leaves a stink of corruption on even good candidates.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Agreed. I found Biddle to be sincere and a good choice, though the process by which he was selected was less than optimal. In fact, it was mostly comical, especially when Mays loudly announced after the first round that his votes were pretty much up for grabs.

Oh well, that's party politics for you. Sadly, the local Democratic Party is very, very outdated, in my opinion.

by Martin on Jan 7, 2011 1:44 pm • linkreport

Sekou Biddle's grassroots campaign submitted more petition signatures of registered Democratic voters than any other candidate did to qualify for placement on the Democratic State Committee ballot.

Endorsements by the Young Democrats, Greater Greater Washington, individual members of the Democratic State Committee, scores of neighborhood activists, and yes, indeed, members of the DC Council, led to Sekou's victory.

I have volunteered for Sekou Biddle for several weeks because he inspired me. I am now beginning to work for him on staff.

by Dennis Jaffe on Jan 7, 2011 2:06 pm • linkreport

But, if you ask me, I cannot support anyone who won in this fashion. I cannot support someone who was anointed through a supposedly "transparent" process that was sausage-making at its worst.

This strikes me as shortsighted and hopelessly naive. It's shortsighted, because he's holding an otherwise good candidate responsible for the deeply flawed system he's forced to work within. And it's hopelessly naive to think that any candidate for citywide office gets elected without this exact kind of dealmaking. It just doesn't usually happen in a kitchenette with reporters watching.

by jcm on Jan 7, 2011 2:35 pm • linkreport

It was an absolutely awful spectacle reading the tweets on how this went down last night; the hashtag of fake democracy was a perfect description of the Kitchenette Councilmember's selection.

It's pathetic that some of the candidates were saying they'd be beholden to the Party hacks, rather than the city's residents.

Also, based on some of the photos tweeted, it doesn't look like the Dem state party committee is anywhere close to being representative of the city's demographic diversity.

by Fritz on Jan 7, 2011 2:45 pm • linkreport

Good luck with that...

by Richard Layman on Jan 7, 2011 3:04 pm • linkreport

No one forced Sekou Biddle to participate in this process. There were several other people who would have made perfectly good Councilmembers who stayed out of the appointment process at least in part because of these flaws. Because it was not a fair process. It was not a representative process.

Of course there is dealmaking in politics. However, I'd rather be called shortsighted and naive while fighting against that than to resign myself to the status quo because "that's just how it goes."

I wish Biddle the best as the interim at-large Councilmember, but let us be real here, he will have zero chance to govern before the April 26 election. He will need to campaign while also learning the ropes and hiring a staff. It's a terrible process for the Council and for voters.

I'm sick and tired of settling for "perfectly okay." Thankfully I'll have the opportunity to vote on April 26, unlike last night. I just hope that on that day, I'll be able to cast my ballot proudly for a candidate, rather than having to swallow "bad process" and "hopefully he'll be good."

If we don't have a real campaign, then the special election will simply be a battle of Orange's base versus Kwame's base. Everyone else will be turned off or won't even care. We'll see 5% turnout and no one will care. That would be the most tragic part of this entire mess.

by Dave Stroup on Jan 7, 2011 3:05 pm • linkreport

Oh, grown up people!! Pluuueese. This politics, just good old-fashioned rough and tumble politics. Lucky this wasn't Chicago, the losers are never heard from again (at least politically).

That said, I think Sekou will be a very good and thoughtful councilman. I have discussed issues with him in the past, and I while I disagreed with his conclusions at times, his supporting reasons were well thought out.

by Some Ideas on Jan 7, 2011 3:23 pm • linkreport

David S, I really haven't followed this closely. But after reading the article + posts, is it correct to assume that the Committee selected Biddle to serve as interim until the 4/26 election and that if he doesn't win, his appointment would have been temporary?

I guess what I'm saying here is that isn't this similar to what states do when they "select" an interim person to fill out another's term. Think, Gilibrand or even Burris. When time for the election, Gillibrand won and Burris lost. Are you really that outdone with the "process" that 4 months of waiting wouldn't resolve?

by HogWash on Jan 7, 2011 3:25 pm • linkreport

I think Mr. Bibble is nice person, in fact my daughter worked for JumpStart this past summer. But as a candidate for the At-Large seat in April, I look forward to debating him on issues that speak directly to our budgetary constraints. Hard decisions are going to have to be made as we face a $440 million deficit. We need an independent public manager willing to put people over the politics that were displayed last night.

by Jacque D. Patterson on Jan 7, 2011 3:45 pm • linkreport

We should all keep in mind that the last time this happened was when Linda Cropp was elected council chair in 1996, midway through her term as at-large councilmember. The DSC appointed Arrington Dixon, himself a former council chair, to the position, and he cruised to victory lost to David Catania, running as a Republican, in the April 1997 special election.

by thm on Jan 7, 2011 3:45 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure I understood your last sentence, HogWash.

As far as similarities to other processes, what is terrible about this is that the appointee is selected by a body that is not elected or accountable to voters. Sure, the governor appointing senators is "political" but at least the governor was elected.

by Dave Stroup on Jan 7, 2011 3:46 pm • linkreport

I apologize for misspelling Mr. Biddle's name incorrectly in my comment.

by Jacque D. Patterson on Jan 7, 2011 3:47 pm • linkreport

Mr. Stroup, I would have to disagree with you concerning the appointee being selected by a Body that is not elected or accountable to voters, a majority of the members run for election city-wide, and others run within their respective Wards.

by Jacque D. Patterson on Jan 7, 2011 3:52 pm • linkreport

Mr. Patterson,

While I am a registered member of the Democratic Party in D.C., there are people who are not. There are people with no party affiliation, STG affiliation, independent or Republican Party. While I support most Democratic Party ideals on the national scene, I don't think it's fair at a city level for the insiders of one party to wield this much power. Those who selected Biddle for this seat are not accountable to the voters in the same way as say, Chairman Brown or Mayor Gray.

Furthermore, we do not know how those members voted. You can't hold them accountable if you don't know how they voted.

by Dave Stroup on Jan 7, 2011 3:56 pm • linkreport

Mr. Patterson:

If the DCDSC would post the roll call vote results, we could see how many of Biddle's 40 votes were by members who were elected at a poll by the DC Democrats. As stated in a prior post on GGW, here's the recent composition of the DCDSC:

http://odd.greatergreaterwashington.org/files/2010/dcdscmembers.pdf

It's simply not a credible proposition that it's accountable to the voters at large, which is the public we should be concerned with here.

by Mark Jordan on Jan 7, 2011 4:04 pm • linkreport

Anyone know why those listed as ex-officio ending 12/2/10 were still voting last night?

by Dave Stroup on Jan 7, 2011 4:16 pm • linkreport

It appears that list is outdated, so nevermind on my last comment.

by Dave Stroup on Jan 7, 2011 4:29 pm • linkreport

I would like to think that part of the reason that the DSC voted for Biddle was because he demonstrated the broadest base of support and the most turnout for the petition drive and other hoops laid out in the process. In short, he provided evidence of being the most viable candidate for the April 26 general election.

No disrespect to Mr. Patterson, Mr. Orange and others who considered or actually endured the process, but Mr. Biddle seemed to have the best organization in the late fall.

Obviously we will have to see how he matures as a legislator and how he multitasks managing a campaign at the same time. However, my interest in the Council is to have smart and principled representation to actually help manage the city. Given the current make up of the Council, I would say that nary half fit that bill. Mr. Biddle at least helps balance the scales in the right direction.

by William on Jan 7, 2011 4:46 pm • linkreport

Non-partisanship tends to be a fantasy land full of people who disdain politics, in part because they don't understand it. Non-partisanship was pushed by early 20th century reformers, most often affiliated with the GOP. In practice and probably in intent it served as way to make elections more likely to be between members of the same party (in places where one party dominated) or between elites. Much of the push came from anti-immigrant sympathies, much as was the case with Prohibition (which was supported by largely teh same people). In practice, non-partisan races tend to look like this. The open seats most likely would have been decided by Democratic voters and the plausible candidates would have been Dems. Most independents vote for one party or the other most of the time and their affiliation probably represents a distinterest in politics rather than some principled stand. then you have the undecideds, which often include people who can't tell the difference between stark contrasts like Obama and McCain. This may not be the best process, but the high minded talk here is totally out of synch with reality.

by Rich on Jan 8, 2011 9:43 am • linkreport

I agree with William's assessment of Biddle's level of organization and his outreach. My interest is in seeing elected leadership that is engaged, aware and focused on not only working for the people but working with his colleagues on the council to get the best outcomes for District residents.

I won't argue that people weren't confused by the State Committee election process, but I also find a ton of inaccuracy in the coverage. There's a basic lack of research and footwork, and lot of reporters who are focused on being pissed about the State Committee's role clearly approached the evening with a forgone conclusion-- that anyone participating must be corrupt or "slimy" and therefore couldn't possibly represent any of the people who elected them to the body.

I think the assumptions that the press have made throughout this process drove their coverage of what happened. Besides inaccurately representing what what was going on, the press was also surprised that there were organized voters present who actually thought about what they were doing and wanted to talk to each other about it. It *had* to be corrupt! It *had* to be that there was back door dealing. Otherwise how could you explain a press corps that couldn't even spell Stanley Mayes' name correctly the next day?

by Tania Jackson on Jan 8, 2011 9:46 am • linkreport

Tania,

I don't think spelling Mayes' name wrong (which I also did) disqualifies everything every journalist and blogger who was there said. Additionally, my guess is that most reporters and bloggers there (I include myself) approached the selection process openly, but yes, with a critical eye. And to a certain extent, the fact that the ballots will not be made public somewhat bears out the concerns we expressed along the way.

I think the DCDSC committee members are all well-intentioned people and surely represent those that helped elect them. Regardless, the process was still limited to party insiders -- and because their votes will never be known, party insiders whose decisions on an interim councilmember will remain unknown.

I think reporters and bloggers would have been critical of this process has it happened with the D.C. GOP or Statehood Green Party -- but it doesn't. Additionally, the DCDSC is the city's primary political organization, but it has long lacked the basic openness and accountability that one would expect from such a party.

by Martin on Jan 8, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport

Martin, the misspelling doesn't disqualify you, but it points to the bias that people brought to this process.

Why not ask questions? You all had lots of time in the run up to the election to talk to people, like the candidates did. I'm not saying that reporters and bloggers shouldn't be critical; you should. But you should also do some research and try talking to the people who make up the body of which you are so critical. The same reporters who were shouting at us as we tried to have a conversation in the kitchenette with the rest of the Ward One delegation (NOT any of the councilmembers, as reported, and as is clear in the video tape DCist so helpfully posted) never asked us any of the basics. They all assumed that we were going in to make some "deal."

Further, if it was as closed a process as everyone is making it out to be, there wouldn't be open DCDSC meetings (regularly attended by journalist who still couldn't bother to talk to any of the delegates to get their thoughts or feelings about the process) or any of you all at the actual election, where each ballot was held up for inspection. I, for one, expressed my willingness to talk to anyone about the process and my thoughts before and after the election. The ballots are numbered so that they are available to be viewed. It's not true that they aren't viewed-- we are bound to open balloting by the DNC's rules (again, research!).

I'm not saying that there shouldn't be criticism. It's imperative in the democratic process. BUT so is caucusing and discussion-- to portray that kind of conversation as anything other than that is purposely misleading. So also is it important for those reporting on the process to ask some basic questions-- and to take the time to get a candidate's name right in print.

by Tania Jackson on Jan 8, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

I thought the Dem Party apparatchiks already said the ballots would not be revealed to show which party hack voted for which candidate? Wasn't the line that there was "too much confusion" at the ballot box, so therefore no open ballot information for the public?

Just call the Biddle election what it is: a Tammany Hall-style appointment.

by Fritz on Jan 8, 2011 12:41 pm • linkreport

@ Tania: You can't blame the press for not asking questions. Questions do not change the procedure which fails any definition of representative democracy. It's up to the DCDCS to make sure that it's democratic. No up to journalists "asking questions".

The fact that DCDSC meetings are open to the press and/or public does not make anything more democratic. To me it shows that the DCDSC is not even embarrassed about its lack of democracy. DCDSC clearly has contempt for DC voters.

Whining that the press does not function will also not make the press function better. It only antagonizes the press, which is - I will admit - utterly unable to see its own failure to report properly. If you do not like what information does or does not come out, nothing is stopping you from putting out press releases, or creating a website with the relevant information.

by Jasper on Jan 8, 2011 12:59 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: You've completely missed my point. And I'm not whining.

by Tania Jackson on Jan 8, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

Ms. Jackson,

I understand that you want to defend the process. I don't know what happened in the back room with Stanley, and to be honest from the results it looks like he couldn't whip his supports either way, they split for both Biddle and Orange. Which is fine. It was after the tied vote, when the power players began to take people in the back that most of us became frustrated. It was power games, and we all know it. Look who all showed up once it became clear the vote was going to be close, and that Biddle didn't have it in the bag.

I know that's how "politics works" and you know what, that's fine, if we want power games for internal DC DSC positions whatever, that's what you all choose to do. However, what I do know is this--a group made up of a whole lot of unelected people decided the fate of an open Council seat that represents over 600,000 District residents. The people who made the choice are accountable to no one because no one knows who voted for who, and also because a lot of those voting aren't even elected by the people to serve on the DSC. So that's my problem.

Had the process been more transparent, perhaps I'd have less of a problem with it. In the end, though, the problem remains. We have a bunch of political insiders acting as kingmaker for a seat that belongs to the residents of the District of Columbia. I'm sick of this feeling that a seat is OWNED by one party or the person who vacated the seat. If Kwame Brown wanted to ensure he knew would would sit in his char, he shouldn't have run for another position. I'm sorry that being Council chair isn't enough for him, and that he has to make his former seat into a game of Orange vs. Brown.

If the person filling that seat for four months had promised not to run for re-election in April--to act as a caretaker, then I would have ZERO problem with the process. But that's not what this is. Whoever gets that seat immediately gets an advantage. That's not fair to the city, the hundreds of thousands of voters who couldn't cast a ballot Thursday night deserve a voice.

That's my problem.

by Dave Stroup on Jan 8, 2011 1:10 pm • linkreport

Mr. Stroup,

The DCDSC is an elected body, by and large.

My interest is in talking about my actions as an elected official, and pointing out that it's dangerous to make assumptions when reporting the news-- I speak for no one but myself.

I respect the rights of the citizens of this city (more, apparently than Congress, but hey) and enjoy reasoned debate, criticism and analysis-- I think all of these things are imperative. I ran for the State Committee because of the criticism that I'd leveled at it.

I'm not defending the process as perfect. I'm not saying I have all of the answers. I logged in to ask that the person reporting on the events here take the time to do so accurately.

The questions and concerns you raised have absolutely been raised with the body, and continue to be raised. It is my understanding that we are required to have an open balloting process that allows people to know how we voted. If you've heard differently, then please let me know.

I don't disagree with the need for transparency in all election processes, and I have and will continue to work for it.

So I hope we're now clear on each other's concerns.

by Tania Jackson on Jan 8, 2011 1:19 pm • linkreport

@ Tania: I respect the rights of the citizens of this city (more, apparently than Congress, but hey)

Respect can not be quantified, so whether Congress or you respect the rights of DC citizens more can not be determined. Actions however, speak for themselves. It seems that there is very little difference between the citizens of DC voting for a non-voting member in Congress and a very select group of DC citizens (DCDSC) voting for a voting member in the City Council. Furthermore, DC citizens do not have the power to change the rules of Congress. You do have the (part of the) power to change the rules of DCDSC. But that does require more than "raising questions and concerns". That's what we do here: talk. You can act.

And by the way: Why would Congress respect the rights of DC citizens? DC citizens (in the DCDSC) don't respect the rights of DC citizens. Time and time again, Washingtonians give the anti-democratic forces in Congress plenty of fodder to maintain the (unfair) status quo.

by Jasper on Jan 8, 2011 2:48 pm • linkreport

Jasper,

I was elected. I'm just as "select" as Kwame Brown.

And I'm well aware that I can act, which-- if you read what I wrote in reply to Mr. Stroup-- has been both my intention in running in the first place, and my action since being elected.

I represent you, if you're a registered Democrat in the District of Columbia, and am happy to bring your questions, concerns and ideas to the body of the DCDSC. My name and contact information are known to the general public, and I have, from the start of this discussion expressed my willingness to talk to and answer to the people of this city. Please feel free to contact me and help me participate as a member of the body, as many of the other people who voted for me did in the run up to the election.

I hope that you'll take the real time effort to allow me to be representative by actually engaging me in (a non-anonymous) discussion.

by Tania Jackson on Jan 8, 2011 3:37 pm • linkreport

@ Tania Jackson:

I respect that you debate us here. However, talking and answering to the public are not actions, they are side-activities of your function.

I represent you,

No you don't.

if you're a registered Democrat in the District of Columbia

I don't live in the District, nor am I allowed to register myself for voting at all in this country because I am an immigrant.

However, I do work in DC, so your actions (and lack thereof) do affect my life. Whether you represent me or not.

This is Washington, DC. The Capital of the United States of America. A country that is fighting and has fought many wars to spread and protect democracy around the world. Yet in its own capital, politics are nothing more than a one-party rule aristocracy. Just like Havana and Beijing. That should not be defended. There is no defense. It is a shame and an embarrassment.

by Jasper on Jan 8, 2011 6:28 pm • linkreport

You had me til Havana... what an ill-considered metaphor!

-- What's your solution to the fact that we're majority Democrat in DC? Are we supposed to start a program to convert residents to other parties? I thought the point of American democracy was that one can choose one's party affiliation, political views and vote one's conscience, accordingly?

-- The fact that you don't live in DC means that you have representatives who have more say in my city's government than I do.

Talking and answering to the public are actions, as is voting in a way that represents their ideas, thoughts and beliefs.

Since my actions as a DCDSC member so grossly affect you, and your congressional representation's decision-making so grossly affects me, I hope that you too are taking actions to ensure that my basics rights as a citizen aren't being denied.

by Tania Jackson on Jan 8, 2011 6:50 pm • linkreport

It is sad that most of the people attacking this process weren't at the meeting. Even more shocking is how some of those who were at the meeting are out right lying about what happen. First Mays NEVER announced his votes were up for grabs. NEVER. He only asked to meet with those who had supported his campaign after it was clear he would not be able to win the seat.

Second the meeting was open, the members sat right in front of the public and cast their ballots. No one was locked out of the meeting and everyone, including the public were allowed to lobby committeemembers.

Thirdly Kwame Brown arrived only minutes before the final round of balloting started. He DID NOT pressure anyone to vote for Biddle. When Barry arrived (and he did so earlier than others) he did speak to some committeemembers, but spent most of his time sitting behind me in the public seats near the back. I guess that is why the majority of the committeemembers from his ward voted for Orange. Harry Thomas may have did some lobbying but again he arrived only minutes before Brown did. Tommy Wells if I remember correctly arrived during the balloting. This notion that his powerful backers bought this process off for him is only vindictive Orange backers who wanted the support Biddle had.

Finally to take issue with this process that GGW has taken like the Post is just a shame. Where was the cries from the likes of the Post and others when other vacancies across the country opened up and laws allowed their political parities to select a replacement. It is not the fault of the Democratic Party that they outnumber the GOP and to use these attacks as comfort to why the city as a whole is not represented in Congress is even more shameful. I mean should WY not be represented in the Senate because when Sen. Craig Thomas died it was the GOP who selected the nominee that the then-Democratic Governor had to pick? How about in Maryland where after the death of Senator G. Britt the county central committee selected a replacement that the governor had to select?

by Joseph on Jan 9, 2011 1:03 am • linkreport

@ Tania: You had me til Havana... what an ill-considered metaphor!

How is Havana different from DC? In Havana, just like in DC, the city's government is hand-picked by the ruling party without hearing the voice of the people. What exactly is the difference?

-- What's your solution to the fact that we're majority Democrat in DC? Are we supposed to start a program to convert residents to other parties? I thought the point of American democracy was that one can choose one's party affiliation, political views and vote one's conscience, accordingly?

That is true. Voters in DC are free to choose whatever party pleases them. I have no problem with the democrats dominating DC politics, just as I don't have a problem with republicans dominating Idaho politics.

However, a consequence is that DC's closed primaries end up functioning as general election. This is bad because it excludes all citizens who are not registered as democrats from using their full voice. It would be more democratic to have open primaries, or instant run-offs in the general elections. I am not suggesting that it would lead to different results, but the process would be more democratic.

This has however little to do with my original point, namely that it is not democratic when a small group of select party members gets to appoint a council member. It gives the appearance that democrats "own" that seat, which is not a pretty sight, true or not. Furthermore, as it has become clear that the sitting council members pretty much pushed that small group to follow its will. The only difference between Havana and DC is that in Havana, they don't pretend it's democracy. That is intellectually more honest.

-- The fact that you don't live in DC means that you have representatives who have more say in my city's government than I do.

Well, not entirely. Senators Warner and Webb and Congressman Connolly did not just appoint a City Council member in DC. You did. Furthermore, they are just three out of more than four hundred. DCDSC is much smaller than that.

Finally, as an immigrant, I have no say in who represents me. Just like you, I get taxed without any representation. Except that I am legally prohibited from voting at all in the US. I only have the right to petition. On the other hand, back home, I get representation without taxation :-)

Since my actions as a DCDSC member so grossly affect you, and your congressional representation's decision-making so grossly affects me,

I never said your actions grossly affected me. They affect the city council's decisions, and those affect me. There is quite some dilution there.

I hope that you too are taking actions to ensure that my basics rights as a citizen aren't being denied.

As I said, I only have the right to petition, nothing more. I use that right sparingly, only for practical issues (don't cut my bus line, please fix the side-walk, fix metro, keep the internet neutral), because quite frankly, I am not convinced that as an immigrant, I should meddle too much with American politics. You have to realize that I am covered by two constitutions at the moment, each with different obligations. This is not my country, and that forces me to modesty in taking true political action here. I would not be happy when Americans (or any foreigners) would start meddling with my home politics. I am a mere guest that does not want to impose on his host. I can try to convince Americans on what the right action is, but I will leave the actual actions up to you. It's your country.

That said, I have no problem using my free speech rights to speak out on forums like this. So, for what it's worth: Give DC normal voting rights! [and it would be nice if DCDSC would start behaving more like a normal democracy as well]

by Jasper on Jan 9, 2011 11:56 am • linkreport

Ms. Jackson:

I'm a registered DC Democrat and live in DC.

I never voted for you and have absolutely no idea who you are. The same goes for all the other Party "leaders" who participated in the fake democracy show last week.

Yet you all voted for the person that will represent 600,000 DC residents, many of whom are not Democrats and a tiny number of whom actually voted for you.

That's a sham process and needs to be done away with. But, given this city's one-party rule, it will never be agreed to by the DC Dem Party or its members on the City Council.

If I could wave my magic democracy wand, I'd do away with the appointment of anyone to fill a vacant DC Council seat. It should be filled the proper way: an open special election where all DC voters can choose their representative. I'd also do away with the primaries for all elections and open it up. It's offensive to democracy that only Democrats have an actual voice in determining who governs the entire city.

Until the Dem Party apparatchiks agree to actual voting rights in DC for DC voters, it's little more than hypocrisy for them to complain when Congress does the same thing to DC.

The current system is unaccountable to all DC voters and is undemocratic. The fact that the local Dem Party is also ignoring DNC rules that ballots be open just further exemplifies the fraudulent nature of the appointment.

by Fritz on Jan 9, 2011 12:58 pm • linkreport

Jasper,

In DC all of the city council is elected by the people. Period. Don't try to make Washington, DC into a dictatorship where people have no vote over their local elected leadership. Because you don't like the people we elect doesn't mean that it's unjust. It just means that you don't like it. Biddle has the seat until April, when he must run in an election where there entire city has the opportunity to vote. Either you're saying the entire population of DC is too dumb to make a good choice or you're saying the DCDSC is a great puppetmaster who has the ability to some how mind-control everyone into voting for a bad candidate (and what's really funny is that the original outrage was that Vincent Orange was too much of an insider and the assumption was that all of us evil DCDSC would just vote for him. Then it was, everyone likes Biddle, but he has to get the stink of being liked by the other councilmembers and us evil State Committee members off of him).

You also fail to see what IS unjust and dictatorial-- the total impact that the Congressional representation of this country has on DC. They get to vote on everything that goes on this city, deny us funding, review our budgets and tell us what to do with our tax money. Congressional representation makes key decisions about our lives.

The State Committee made a decision, based on an election process, that has a four month time limit. Congress affects our total lives. We are the ones with the small role, and Congress, and its larger membership has the bigger one. Don't diminish that in your effort to cast me and my state committee colleagues as demons.

Your posts accuse me (who was elected by 17,000 plus voters in the District of Columbia) of failing to understand the electoral process, and the importance of a representative government and of being some sort of dictator because I helped elect someone for a four month term. I would argue that there are some basic things about our total rights that you fail to comprehend.

Fritz,

I have no idea who you are, either (because you're speaking anonymously). There are city councilmembers representing me for whom I did not vote, as well. I don't find it undemocratic, though, because more people voted for them.

Again, the last decision I heard from the state committee said that the ballots would be open. They were all numbered; they will be searchable. If you know something I don't know, cite the source and I will give them a call.

by Tania Jackson on Jan 9, 2011 1:27 pm • linkreport

For those who have not embraced this concept yet, most of the DSC are elected by vote during the regular election process by, yes, registered democrats.

The City charter has the provision that if a seat is vacated, as is the case by Kwame Brown moving from At-Large to Council Chair, then the party for the official has the right/ability to replace that seat. If this had been a republican, then the DCGOP would have appointed someone.

Many jurisdictions simply have the Governor or Mayor appoint someone. However this is the process in DC. Whether we like it or not, it is what it is.

Maybe the more productive conversation is to determine a better formula for replacement, or simply let the seat remain open until there is a general election.

by William on Jan 9, 2011 2:48 pm • linkreport

@William: or do what some other jurisdictions do...hold a special election. With all the voters, not just DCDSC.

by Froggie on Jan 9, 2011 4:09 pm • linkreport

@Froggie

This is insane DC will have a special election to fill the seat but just like almost every other area they are using a temporary appointment. It is furthermore insane for the debate to continue to center on

"Until the Dem Party apparatchiks agree to actual voting rights in DC for DC voters, it's little more than hypocrisy for them to complain when Congress does the same thing to DC."

It is just stupid. This is the same process that takes place all over the country and the Congress still allows their representatives full voice in the people's house. Get off of it. This is nothing more than a desire to continue to undermine the work of the DCSDC who are filling the same role that the DCGOP would be if it was a GOP vacancy.

by Joseph on Jan 9, 2011 4:14 pm • linkreport

@ Tania Jackson: What Fritz said. And I rarely agree with him.

As for the anonymous remark. Fritz is Fritz, Jasper is Jasper, Tania is Tania. That's how the internet works. It's not anonymous. There's a name and a certain consistency in comments. That's how we know "names" aren't stolen. Furthermore, we argue on merit of argument here, not on the authority of a person. The "name" is not so relevant. If you hang around a bit more here, you'll find out plenty about the folks that hang around here. That's how we "know" each other. And for that matter, we have no way of verifying that you are really Tania Jackson, DCDSC member. We take you at "face text value" that you are who you say you are. So, you are just as anonymous as we are.

by Jasper on Jan 9, 2011 6:42 pm • linkreport

We are all entitled to our views on the DC DSC process. I, for one, do not think it provides the best for our city. I'd disagree with the DC GOP doing the same thing if it was "their" seat.

What in the world do we do if someone like Catania resigns? Oh boy, would it sit vacant? He's an independent!

And Ms. Jackson, it was Tim Craig at the Washington Post who confirmed with the DC DSC that the results with which member voted for which candidate would NOT be released. That was reported in the Post on Friday.

For those curious, feel free to view this Storify, which includes Tweets from various candidates, observers, DC DSC members and reporters while the process took place.

by Dave Stroup on Jan 9, 2011 6:46 pm • linkreport

This is my last reply... Mr. Stroup, what I'm saying is that teh DNC rules require that the vote be known, and regardless of what Tim Craig printed (and this is part of the reason why I pointed out the misspelled name; there are also inaccuracies in the tweets to which you are linked), the vote has to be open. Period. And the rules of the day clearly stated the protocol for the availability of the votes.

by Tania Jackson on Jan 9, 2011 9:33 pm • linkreport

Part of my problem is that the rules are apparently not being followed. I also asked the night of the vote and was told they would not be releasing the vote information. The ballots were numbered but they were NOT keeping track of who got what ballot.

by Dave Stroup on Jan 9, 2011 9:34 pm • linkreport

Oh geez - Jasper and I agree on something! Mark this day down on your calendar.

Ms. Jackson: Dave Stroup provided the WashPost article that stated the Dem Party fake democracy vote ballots would not be made public. You had asked for a source and said you'd contact the Dem Party to see if that was actually true. The source has now been provided to you and your response is to say that you're essentially taking your marbles and going home.

Also, your attempt at comparing the sham selection to an actual election is rather laughable. You don't seem to get the main difference: A candidate you don't like may win the general election and then represents you even though you didn't vote for him/her. But that representation is based on an actual election where all qualified District voters can partake. Not a sham selection where 70 people get to choose who will represent 600,000 residents.

You've said several times here that you didn't know where the talk about secret ballot results was coming from. It came from the Post and from Dem Party leaders. As a DSC member, will you stand by your word and confirm whether or not this is the case?

by Fritz on Jan 10, 2011 10:07 am • linkreport

First of all, the reason I said "This is my last post" is because I thought we'd gotten into really circular and non-helpful territory.

I absolutely will follow up-- I knew that the Post piece was printed (and have been contending all along that it was in error) and I will find out what the plan of action is, since what was reported directly contradicts what was said in the rules of the day for the election.

I assume that means you're taking me at my word that I'm actually Tania Jackson. That goodness for small miracles.

by Tania Jackson on Jan 10, 2011 10:13 am • linkreport

@ Tania: I assume that means you're taking me at my word that I'm actually Tania Jackson. That goodness for small miracles.

Only if you take us at our word that we're what we say. Thank goodness for civility.

But anyway, thanks for hanging out with us. It was fun, despite our different opinions. I hope to see you more here.

by Jasper on Jan 10, 2011 11:04 am • linkreport

Fritz: I'm sure it's futile given the number of times I've asked, but there's no need to frame your comments in such a confrontational manner. In this case, unusual as it is, I agree with you on the substance. However, you are being very belligerent toward Ms. Jackson and this is unnecessary.

Please focus on discussing the facts of the case instead of using confrontational rhetorical techniques like "You don't seem to get the main difference" and challenging people to "stand by your word" and the like.

by David Alpert on Jan 10, 2011 11:10 am • linkreport

Jasper,

I post here all the time. I chose to use my real name because of the importance of this discussion. I took you at your word from the beginning, and so continued in conversation (and with civility).

by Tania Jackson on Jan 10, 2011 11:15 am • linkreport

@Fritz--you are so wrong about the diversity issue! furthermore, open primaries are wrong and I disagree with them, let the other parties organize etc. better yet just move to VA since you hate our system, better yet get up off your duff and do something about it instead of just complaining...typical political commentary hack!
@Stroup--The process is what it is! It is representative as voters choose the DSDSC members! Fair it was very fair; probably more fair that the votes weren't tracked as people would vote their minds and not the political presurres that were put out there and they were! Notice was given it was done publicly..ballots were seen and visible they vote was even reocrded and observers saw the ballots. You want to change it then get on it...sounds like you sit back like everyone else and complain but don't act! Typical! An as far as the other parties not having a voice in this short temp appointment...when they get the seat they will be able to...until then they won't. That's fair! Where is your mind! Anyway bitch at Congress not the DCDSC...Please!
@Jasper--If you don't live here and you're not a citizen then you really have no business whatsoever speaking to our process or matters to do with Politics in the USA, you are guest...remeber that! Furthermore, if you don't like it paying taxes for the services you recieve, then I strongly suggest you leave the USD's right here in the US and quit your job so a US citizen can have a job and head back home to make a difference there. Otherwise, get your citizenship and step up!
@Stroup---will you get a life...the Ex-offico's were elected again in Dec 2010...what is your problem...you're mad your candidate won't win in April...PLEASE get a life!

by Barrie Daneker on Jan 10, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

Mr. Daneker,

"it is what it is." Similar to "you can't win if you don't play the game" and all of that. Sure, yes, that is the process. Doesn't mean I have to like it. That would be why I showed up at the meeting to observe and also to make it clear that there are people who don't think it's a very good process. That's why I'm urging the Council to consider changing the process. That's why I'm attempting to get a campaign going where that would be one of the issues.

Also, interesting to note that we're hearing two very different storylines. One is that Marion Barry, Thomas, and Brown were just there to watch. That they didn't pressure anyone! At the same time though, voters ID was protected because of all the pressure. So which one was it? Was it an unpressured, fair vote? If so, then who voted for who should be released. If it wasn't, and there was so much pressure that the DC DSC had to violate it's own rules... then clearly there is a problem.

by Dave Stroup on Jan 10, 2011 12:21 pm • linkreport


I participated in the process Thursday as an elected Committeeman from Ward 1. Overall, I thought Thursday went well and more or less and represented the democratic process well given what the process is today. I think it is better than the mayor making the temporary appointment or leaving the seat vacant. It would good to see the Democratic Council Members there attempting to influence the selection, would have liked a more issue focused process vs. one of personalitiy, but that the politics. My goal was to ensure that the experiences and issues of Ward 1 got a hearing and respected while balancing the needs of the city and party. Ward 1, I believe has alot to share with the city at large on issues from community development to transportation policy to social policy, which have over the last 6 years not gotten much attention. Now my goal is to translate/leverage this controversy in a way to better highlight these issues.

I believe much of this controvesy is really about avoiding some of these issues.

by W Jordan on Jan 10, 2011 12:48 pm • linkreport

Two quick thoughts:

@Jasper--If you don't live here and you're not a citizen then you really have no business whatsoever speaking to our process or matters to do with Politics in the USA, you are guest...remeber that! Furthermore, if you don't like it paying taxes for the services you recieve, then I strongly suggest you leave the USD's right here in the US and quit your job so a US citizen can have a job and head back home to make a difference there. Otherwise, get your citizenship and step up

Not quite sure why DC residents--or the insular club that is the DCDSC--should be immune to criticism from anyone, DC resident or not, US citizen or not.

This is especially true when your counter-argument is essentially, "This is the way we do it here! If you don't like it, go back to wherever you came from!" Which is a patently stupid nativist jibe, and doesn't even really rise to the level of argument.

Finally, I'm generally neutral on the question of how the Council seat was temporarily filled. But having actually read the slate of potential candidates--which featured Vince Orange, Robinson, and a host of other raffish individuals--I figure any process which denied the position to Orange in favor of this relative outsider was fundamentally sound.

;)

by oboe on Jan 10, 2011 12:51 pm • linkreport

@ Tania Jackson: I post here all the time. I chose to use my real name because of the importance of this discussion.

So, you normally post under another name? Why exactly are you berating Fritz for being anonymous? And if you hang around here more, then you do know more about Fritz.

@ Barrie Daneker: If you don't live here and you're not a citizen then you really have no business whatsoever speaking to our process or matters to do with Politics in the USA, you are guest...remeber that!

Dude, stay cool. Behave like a good host and be nice to the guest. Especially when the guest already made that point, in somewhat more nuance. Just read my comment from Jan 9, 2011 11:56 am, 12 hours before yours, and see if you still want to keep that tone.

Furthermore, if you don't like it paying taxes for the services you recieve

Never said that. I just explained Ms Jackson why I don't to too much political action myself.

you leave the USD's right here in the US and quit your job so a US citizen can have a job and head back home to make a difference there

On that note, I got to stay here because my employers were not able to find qualified Americans. That's what the visa process requires for pretty much every work visa. So, from a DHS/USCIS/DOL POV, I am here helping out. You're welcome.

Otherwise, get your citizenship and step up!

Why? Compared to my current situation, American citizenship only gives me voting rights. And I pay by losing my social security rights back home and going through another ridiculous amount of paperwork. I just have better things to do with my time.

by Jasper on Jan 10, 2011 12:52 pm • linkreport

Sorry, I meant to redact the 's-word' in my previous comment. In the spirit of New Years' equanimity. Stupid on my part...

by oboe on Jan 10, 2011 12:54 pm • linkreport

@David A - With all due respect, if someone says they're a member of the DSC and wants proof of X in order to do Y, proof of X is then provided, and then they say they're done with the discussion, that merits a direct question as to whether they meant what they originally said.

Having said that, Ms. Jackson, I appreciate you following up on the issue of whether the ballots will actually remain secret or not and I thank you for your diligence.

@Daneker: Your post is a great example of why your ANC residents voted you out of office.

by Fritz on Jan 10, 2011 2:02 pm • linkreport

Jasper,

I wasn't berating Fritz. He was the one who said, "I have no idea who you are." I responded in kind, "I have no idea who you are, either, because you're posting anonymously." That's not berating-- that's pointing out a simple fact.

Because it's often difficult to make out tone online, let me say this, as well: I have a very dry sense of humor in person, and generally communicate with sarcasm when speaking to people. But when I'm speaking to people in a public forum I try to go for civility and clarity. None of the things that I have written here should be interpreted as an attempt to berate, yell at or humiliate anyone. I'm responding to the questions asked of me to the best of my ability.

And yeah, I do know more about Fritz and his "normal" tone when replying to comments, commenters and posting about articles.

by Tania Jackson on Jan 10, 2011 2:25 pm • linkreport

@Stroup--It is the law, that is the process here in DC, and other states have thier process too! You obviously haven't been paying attention. There was unneeded political pressure but on members, and furthermore there is no DCDSC by-law that states an open ballot has to be used in the process to elected a tmeporary appointment to the council. Sorry again Mr. Stroup...you're wrong because you don't check youro facts. Great that you don't like the process, but going to council isn't going to get you too far. GO TO CONGRESS! They make the LAWS!
@oboe- My pint was if you were in Russia or Italy or China or any ohter country in which you were a guest you wouldn't be speaking about how wrong their political process is! When in Rome do as the romans do is my point! This process works for us, I'm not commenting on what works for his nation nor should I! It's disrespectful at best!
@Jasper--When you got your H-1 I'm sure that was the case but with unemployment so high, I'm sure it's the case now. Maybe the US should do what the British are doing and not renewing them or giving anymore out. You are complaining no matter what. It is a guest who should be respecting his host and should be thankful which you don't express in the leasst bit. As for not getting your citizenship, it's typical...take our jobs, our homes, and our money anc complain but do nothing to give back to those that have given to you! It's ashame frankly...only in America can you give and give and give, where people take and take and never give back!
@Frtiz--Great because the blunt truth hurts sometimes!

by Barrie on Jan 10, 2011 2:50 pm • linkreport

Good grief - And you people complain about MY tone...

@Jasper & oboe - I don't like that we agree on something. Bike lanes suck. There, now we can go back to being virtual enemies. ;)

by Fritz on Jan 10, 2011 3:02 pm • linkreport

@Fritz,

Like the mighty sperm whale and the reclusive giant squid, we are ever destined to remain mortal enemies. And yet...you have my grudging respect...

by oboe on Jan 10, 2011 3:22 pm • linkreport

@ Barrie: Sigh....

@ Fritz: @Jasper & oboe - I don't like that we agree on something.

What, are the three of us now agreeing on something?! How the hell am I gonna waste a large chunk of 2011 here arguing with you guys now? This is insane! Yuk! The end of my dead work minutes. Thank god we have Barrie now... ;-)

by Jasper on Jan 10, 2011 4:53 pm • linkreport

Ok, let me try to understand this "appointment". 40 out 74 people voted for Biddle and he is supposed to represent 600,000 people of DC on the council for the next 3.5 months, while he campaigns for "re-appointment/election" in April. And some of the 40 votes were influenced by the council chair because they were in homeroom together in high school?? Is this true? High school? You have got to be joking!! LMAO! Like Malcolm X said "By any means necessary". But come on, do you think he had this way in mind?
There is better talent in DC than this, please folks encourage more people to get involved and run for office! We have not had a politician to capture the minds and imaginations of the citizens of DC in.... almost like forever. (Some say Barry the first term, maybe but that was before my time). But we are long over due!!
"Homeroom buddies"?? That is laughable! "Double triple secret ballot". Come on, DC. We can and will do better.

by dropem on Jan 10, 2011 5:05 pm • linkreport

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