Four Black D.C. Council Members Set to Chair Committees

by: James Wright Special to the AFRO jwright@afro.com
/ (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) /
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Four Black members of the District of Columbia City Council will preside over key committees in the latest session.

In a D.C. Council organizational meeting on Jan. 2, at the John A. Wilson Building, D.C. Council members Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), and Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), were approved by the D.C. Council to chair committees for the 2017-2018 session. The recommendation was made by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) with consultation from his colleagues.

Reelected D.C. Council member Vincent Gray will chair the council’s Committee on Health. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Reelected D.C. Council member Vincent Gray will chair the council’s Committee on Health. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

McDuffie, also re-elected as the council’s chairman pro tempore, will head the Committee on Business and Economic Development, while Bonds, the lone Black female lawmaker for this council period, will lead the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization.

Todd will manage the Committee on Government Operations while Gray will oversee the newly constituted Committee on Health. D.C. Council members Robert White (D-At Large) and Trayon White (D-Ward 8) won’t be committee chairs because of Mendelson’s rule against freshman members in that position.

“Over the years I have found that a freshman legislator needs to have a couple of years of experience dealing with issues and the legislative process to understand how to run a committee effectively,” Mendelson told the AFRO. “That experience is a great asset for a new chairman to have.”

The chairmanships were announced after the council swore in re-elected council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), and David Grosso (I-At Large), and newly elected council members Robert White (D-At Large) and Trayon White (D-Ward 8). The event took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown Washington before a crowd of 550 area residents.

Chairmanships are prized assignments on the D.C. Council because it gives the council member a chance to consider legislation they are interested in and can serve as bargaining chips for bills and other legislative actions in other committees.

McDuffie told the AFRO he is ready to tackle the responsibilities of his new committee assignment. During the previous council session, McDuffie was the chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary.

“On my committee, we will be focusing on business development and seeing that small and local businesses have the chance to fairly bid on D.C. government contracts,” he said. “We will also review and monitor participation in the Certified Business Enterprise program and keep an eye on the economic development projects that are going on in the city.”

Bonds told the AFRO that she will work to see that the District is a more affordable place to live. “We are going to do more work on rent control,” she said. “We will also do what we can to apply pressure to make sure that more housing units in this city are more affordable. I want to help senior citizens and returning citizens with their housing issues.”

Mendelson felt Gray should have a chairmanship and the former mayor selected the committee that he felt affected his constituents the most. “I want to create a health care system on the east end of the city,” Gray told the AFRO. “This system will primarily benefit the residents of Wards 7 and 8. These wards have the worst health care outcomes with high levels of cancer, diabetes, asthma, and other ailments. “To help the people in those wards, we need to focus on this.”

Todd will have his first full chairmanship with Government Operations. In 2016, he was the subcommittee chair of Board and Commissions because Mendelson broke up the then Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs because of Orange’s resignation.

Todd spoke about the focus of his chairmanship in remarks made after he was sworn-in.

“As the new chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, we will enter a new era,” he said. “We will make sure that all government agencies are accountable for their actions and that they operate efficiently. We want D.C. residents to get the best service that their tax dollars pay for.”

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