Mayoral candidates air transparency records
dcogcadmin | March 18, 2014
The D.C. Open Government Coalition asked candidates in the April 1 Democratic primary seeking the nomination to be mayor: What have you done as a public official, community leader, or resident, to contribute to an open and transparent D.C. government? Please describe with as much specificity as possible. Of the eight candidates — Carlos Allen, Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, Reta Jo Lewis, Vincent Gray, Vincent Orange, Andy Shallal and Tommy Wells — Bowser, Evans and Wells responded. Their answers appear below verbatim.
My most significant contribution to an open and transparent D.C. government so far would have to be the work leading up to and culminating in the passage of the “Board of Ethics and Government Accountability Establishment and Comprehensive Ethics Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2012.”As chair of the Council’s Government Operations Committee, I was responsible for consolidating multiple ethics-related bills introduced by my fellow Councilmembers and testimony from dozens of public witnesses, into one, comprehensive piece of legislation that would ultimately create, among other things, the District of Columbia Open Government Office, inside the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability.
As their website states:
The Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA) investigates alleged ethics laws violations by District government employees and public officials, provides binding ethics advice and conducts mandatory training on the DC Government’s Code of Conduct. The Office of Open Government is an independent office within BEGA, and enforces the Open Meetings Act, monitors the District’s Freedom of Information compliance, and aids agencies with implementing open government practices.
The Open Meetings Act requires that captionany gathering of a quorum of a public body (any government council, including the city council, boards and commissions, directors and advisors) where members consider, conduct or advise on public business offer the opportunity for the public to attend and offer input. The public must be given proper notice of such meetings and afforded the opportunity to review recordings of public meetings upon request. The Office of Open Government is responsible for training agencies, employees, the Council of the District of Columbia and nearly 190 boards and commissions on the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.
One of the most important components of the Office of Open Government is their enforcement authority. Upon report of a violation of the Open Meetings Act, the Office of Open Government can file a civil lawsuit in Superior Court, with penalties up to $250 per incidence. I am proud to have given teeth to the Open Meetings Act by creating an office with budget and authority to enforce compliance..
The Board of Ethics and Government Accountability has already made a measureable impact on transparency in D.C government. As the Washington Post Editorial Board said, BEGA is “… the ‘new sheriff in town.’ Not only has the board filled a void in which city officials were rarely held to account, but its investigation of Mr. Orange, along with its earlier inquiry into council member Jim Graham, shows a grounded and judicious approach.”
This is a legacy I am proud to have in my tenure on the Council.
Since first moving to D.C. in 1978, I have served our city in developing an open and transparent government. Most of my time has been spent finding solutions to making our government work better for its residents. That is what led me to organize the Ward 2 Democrats, to serve on the D.C. Democratic State Committee where I helped the Committee gain financial solvency, and to serve as the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B, as chair from 1989-1991.
After joining the City Council, I immediately went to work to develop transparency and accountability across government agencies. I started with the MPD by instituting the “Citizens Complaint Review,” which (re)established the Independent Office of Citizen Complaint Review. The purpose of this bill was to establish an effective and fair system of independent review of complaints against police officers. The office is independent and provides timely resolution of complaints of police misconduct. The Review Board formed a special committee to investigate police corruption and mismanagement and sent out the first subpoenas ever issued in the council’s 23-year history. I am also proud to have supported the “Open Meetings Amendment,” to require that meetings of government bodies be open to the public, and to establish exemptions, notice requirements, and enforcement mechanisms.
As Mayor, I am committed to making the District government more effective and efficient. I will ensure agencies are using best practices to deliver resources and spend tax dollars wisely. I am dedicated to working with stakeholders to improve accessibility, ensure transparency, champion data collection, and ensure it is used effectively. It is important that our social service programs are properly funded and staffed to serve our residents. I will expand resources, encourage feedback on the city website or agency websites and ensure audits and all public data is posted, easily accessible, and searchable.
An Evans administration will take these steps to ensuring each agency is operating at optimum levels: reduce fragmentation, overlap and duplication; pursue innovative solutions by partnering with organizations that use technology to solve issues facing the D.C. government; and finally, streamline the online permitting and licensing system, thereby cutting the red tape often attached with getting things done.
There is no candidate in the race for mayor who has done more to fight for transparency and openness in the D.C. government. While others have worked against it, I have championed increased oversight and accountability. I have introduced legislation and amendments to increase disclosure laws for candidates and elected officials but the Councilmembers voted it down. All of the others running for mayor opposed it when I proposed simply requiring donors to check a box if they are lobbyists or receive city contracts. And all of them opposed requiring that political contributions come from individuals, not nameless, faceless corporations. When, as chair of the Transportation Committee I tried to publicize information that then-Councilmember Kwame Brown was illegally using government resources, Councilmembers voted to remove me from the chairmanship in an effort to keep the information private.
Perhaps the most glaring is the lack of an independent Attorney General in D.C. I have written, spoken out, voted and worked to get an independent AG. But even after voters approved the creation of an elected AG who would be independent of the mayor, the Council overturned the will of the voters once again preventing desperately needed transparency. And what have we seen as a result? An Attorney General who has served as a defense attorney for Vince Gray rather than providing documents and information needed by prosecutors.
I have worked tirelessly in my seven years on the Council to open all aspects of DC government to the people. Whether through legislation, oversight or simply tweeting details of closed-door meetings, I have done all I can to increase the level of transparency and access to information and would maintain that effort as mayor.