January 16, 2013 at 4:15 pm EDT | by Mark Lee
‘Pompous Circumstances’ at the D.C. Council

You’d think that D.C. elected officials could manage to get through a presidential inauguration without embarrassing District residents.

You’d be wrong.

The quadrennial ceremony focuses the nation’s attention on Washington. These days, and for good reason, much of the country hates this place.

Some D.C. Council members have now provided locals with reason to hang heads in dismay of peevish public antics.

At a briefing by federal agencies last week for the D.C. Council regarding inaugural security preparations and protocols, whining immediately ensued. Vehemently voiced by Jack Evans, legislators argued that arrangements bestowed them insufficient special accommodations. They were also disgruntled about a single ticket allotment each for the outdoor oath-taking event.

Evans complained that deference for city lawmakers allowing them to arrive by private car and park within the security perimeter wasn’t good enough. Security officials wanted them to arrive early, after street closures but before the crowds arrived. This would have necessitated getting up early to advantage this special privilege.

This child-like foot stomping, accompanied by declarations of being “totally unacceptable” by Evans on behalf of his colleagues, later won them a three-hour schedule concession from federal officials. Residents likely thought that they should have been sent to bed without dinner.

Impinging public safety and adding to security requirements is apparently secondary to their personal convenience.

Goddess forbid they be required to catch a cab, or – the horror of it all – use public transportation like the plebeian citizenry. Perhaps residents could be enlisted to transport them on covered litters for those last few steps beyond security checkpoints.

Of course, there’s also their desire for extra tickets for swearing-in seats. The public is left only to wonder how they would travel from their parking spots all the way down the Mall. Cue those elevated palanquins again, the local royalty is ready to move.

As it turns out, most Council members are now planning to skip the actual event on the U.S. Capitol steps. Understandable, as they have exclusive use of a glass-enclosed and heated temporary building constructed in front of the Wilson Building from which to view the subsequent parade. It wasn’t merely the recessed interior lighting that brought the structure’s cost to more than $350,000.

Transportation was also of concern when D.C. Council member Mary Cheh, to be accompanied by Council Chair Phil Mendelson, made plans to travel the two blocks from her Council office to the White House by car.

They had scheduled a meeting with an administration functionary to plead that the White House display the city’s “Taxation Without Representation” slogan-adorned license plate on the presidential limousine during the Inaugural Parade. The Council had busied itself unanimously approving such a resolution earlier in the week.

Better to have arranged car service utilizing Uber. A fool’s errand, after all, should arrive in style.

In anticipation of the five-minute trip by government sedan, Cheh had asked police officials about a siren-and-lights escort. The police balked at the suggestion, according to news reports, and Cheh is said to have dropped the inquiry.

When the duo traversed the short distance last Friday under clear skies to the White House gate, visible from their office building, a city employee drove them in a government car. Despite Cheh’s prior concern that they might be followed by a “trail of people” if they walked, their trip went unnoticed by the public. If only Lindsay Lohan had it so good.

The stupefying aspect of these behaviors is the sense of elite entitlement they represent. Council members appear so taken with their self-importance that they no longer exhibit any self-consciousness or regard for public perception concerning the pursuit of perks. Lest they forget, such notions of privilege are what resulted in two of their number having resigned office in disgrace.

Allegations of unethical behavior, possible fundraising violations and other lurking potential scandals continue to taint their collective reputation and fuel disrepute. The defeat of an incumbent colleague only two months ago by an insurgent self-styled reformer should have served as warning.

Continuing unseemly displays of inflated self-regard will only result in needing to worry about making arrangements for one last ride home.

Mark Lee is a local small business manager and long-time community business advocate. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

  • Well said Mark. What could Jack possibly have been thinking? Even if he thought it he should have had the sense to leave it unsaid. This tone deafness will haunt him throughout the campaign and may cost him the mayoralty.

    Any comment on the recent revelation, at least to me, that Catania, Mr. Purety, has been on salary to the tune of 300K per annum from M.C. Dean? To think we thought Jim was the corrupt one.

  • Evans is one of least effective council members. TIme for him to go.

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