In a move normally reserved for disciplinary action, DC Council Chair Kwame Brown removed Councilmember Tommy Wells as Chair of the Transportation and Public Works Committee.
To date, Chairman Brown has failed to provide a coherent reason behind the removal other than a meaningless stream of platitudes such as, “effectively consolidate areas of similar interest,” and, “the council must be responsive to the climate of change.” This grand reshuffle came about as a result of the need to replace Harry Thomas, Jr. after he stepped down from the Economic Development Committee for extensive ethics concerns. Transportation and Public Works shouldn’t have been affected at all, and the obvious inference is, as David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington said yesterday morning, that is a deliberate and not terribly subtle retaliation for Tommy Wells’s proactive leadership in the “fully-loaded” SUV scandal.
There is really no way to interpret this as anything other than a double plus ungood move for the Hill. At a time when the H Street Streetcar program needs strong leadership to avoid being bogged down, when Capitol Bikeshare must build on it’s early success to grow into a accessible and reliable mode of transportation, and when a myriad of smaller but no less critical improvements must be made to shift our transportation focus away from commuter access to resident quality of life on the Hill, our Council Chair has decided to go back to the drawing board and thrust a functioning and active Committee into chaos. As an added insult, Brown is replacing Wells as the DC Council’s rep to the WMATA board. Because that organization doesn’t need any credible oversight?
For those lucky souls that don’t follow DC politics, one might wonder what the big deal is? After all, Mary Cheh seems responsible enough, and unlike the majority of her peers, she hasn’t been accused of wrong doing. She has an exceptionally strong record on environmental issues. Why not Cheh?
Councilmember Cheh may very well grow into her new role. Maybe she will educate herself beyond the only transportation issue I’ve ever seen her take an interest in: extending Circulator service to Palisades. But this issue is that this imposes a period of dislocation where the Committee has to hire new people, get used to new ways of doing business, craft new strategies, and all the other grunt stuff where the real work of governing really takes place. Councilmember Wells has this in place. Councilmember Cheh has next to no record on these issues.
Capitol Hill can wake up with pride this morning and say we are well represented on the DC Council. The rest of the city; not so much.