**FILE** The D.C. Council chamber at the John A. Wilson Building in D.C. (Courtesy of dccouncil.us)
**FILE** The D.C. Council chamber at the John A. Wilson Building in D.C. (Courtesy of dccouncil.us)

ERIN PALMER

Ward 4 • Democrat • Age: 40

DC Council Chair • Ethics lawyer

www.erinfordc.com

Why do you want to chair the D.C. Council? I am a mom, an ethics lawyer, and a dedicated public servant. I am the only candidate in this race with a plan for a more modern, more ethical, and more accountable DC Council. My DC Council Accountability Plan will empower the Council to legislate and conduct oversight well and efficiently, so our government works to the benefit of all DC residents, particularly those who have been the most underserved.

What consideration will you give to reinstating the Education Committee? If none, then why?

I have repeatedly called for reinstating the DC Council’s standalone Committee on Education with dedicated, nonpartisan support staff to bring consistent oversight of DC’s public schools. DC is the only jurisdiction where education governance is almost completely controlled by the Mayor, including our state education agency, and the only “state legislature” without such a committee. Council oversight and independent data collection are essential to ensure accountability.

Does the current system for public testimony, i.e. length of time and schedule, provide enough opportunity for D.C. residents from all walks of life to participate? If not, what changes will you implement?

I strongly believe in working constantly to make government more inclusive and accessible. Individuals who are most impacted by proposed laws, regulations, and policy should be heard and have easy access to information. My DC Council Accountability Plan includes proposals for more inclusive and accessible Council proceedings, including a centralized website to share materials; permanent virtual and hybrid options to testify; and hearings with day, evening, and weekend options and timed panels.

If elected, will you continue to prevent freshman council members from chairing council committees? Please explain your answer.

Freshman Council members can be equipped to chair committees well. My DC Council Accountability Plan includes proposals to support the Council and Councilmembers, including more institutionalized support staff and a nonpartisan, objective research service. My interest in collaborative Council action means that not only will I come in ready to legislate, conduct oversight, and hold the Executive accountable, but that every Councilmember will be equipped to do so.

Are you in favor of or against term limits for committee chairmanships? Please explain. If in favor of term limits, how many terms are sufficient? I am in favor of a Council committee chair appointment process that is neutral and does not risk the appearance of impropriety (e.g., seeming to be motivated by obtaining a desired vote; punishing or rewarding Councilmembers for their vote; limiting certain Councilmembers from influencing specific issues). A neutral process could include term limits for Councilmembers serving as committee chairs, and I would support working collaboratively with all Councilmembers to make that determination.

Are you in favor of a nonvoting youth D.C. council member?

I strongly support a youth DC Councilmember and expanding and improving our democracy to bring youth voices to the table. We already have a model for this in our State Board of Education, which has non-voting student members. Empowering young adults to weigh in on the many issues affecting their lives – like community safety, education, and climate change – brings them into the democratic process and shows them their voices matter. Let’s invest in our youth and show them they matter.

Do you support legislation clarifying attorney general qualifications? Why or why not?

I support legislation clarifying the attorney general qualifications. There were problems with the current Council Chair’s drafting of the existing legislation, which we’ve recently seen play out at cost to and confusion for DC residents. The question of the statute’s intent has been raised over the years. The DC Council could easily consider legislation that is more broad and does not require the practice of law, which the Council considered and rejected originally.

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PHIL MENDELSON

Ward 6 • Democrat • Age: 69

Chairman of the Council

www.mendelsonforchairman.com

I have the experience, skill, and progressive values. Go to my site to see my record and commitment to continue working on public safety, affordable housing, im- proving public education, etc. But being Chairman of the Council is more than just where I stand on issues, it is the ability to work with colleagues, forge consensus, and get things done (unlike the other legislative body in DC). I have 10 years experience.

What consideration will you give to reinstating the Education Committee? If none, then why?

I’ll ask all members what they want at the end of this year, before we adopt a new committee structure. Currently education is in the Committee of the Whole. As a result, every member is a member of the “education committee,” and we have more professional staff dedicated to education than before. We’ve held almost as many education hearings in the past 16 months (29) than the previous Education Committee held in 24 months (33). The decision for next Council Period will be made by the Council.

Does the current system for public testimony, i.e. length of time and schedule, provide enough opportunity for D.C. residents from all walks of life to participate? If not, what changes will you implement?

I’m open to suggestions. However, how each hearing is structured ultimately is up to the committee chair. The hearing, for me at least, is just one way that the public can provide comments. Stakeholders can meet with me in the community, or come to my office, etc. Since becoming Chairman I’ve slowed down the legislative process so that there will be more opportunity for public comment, and I got the Council’s rules changed to require a public hearing on all bills (it used to be optional).

If elected, will you continue to prevent freshman council members from chairing council committees? Please explain your answer.

The decision will be made by the Council, but my recommendation likely will be that freshmen not be committee chairs. That would be consistent with practice under several previous Chairmen. Learning the legislative process and how best to conduct oversight takes time, and many members have told me after the fact that they appreciated having their first two years without being a committee chair. Indeed, it gave them the opportunity to participate in all of the Council’s committees more broadly.

Are you in favor of or against term limits for committee chairmanships? Please explain. If in favor of term limits, how many terms are sufficient? No. I believe chairmanships should be assigned based on interest and experience. Neither of those qualities are time-limited. Since the advent of Home Rule the average tenure of members has been about 8 years. Before becoming Chairman of the Council I chaired the Judiciary Committee for 8 years. My abilities got better with time and I could have gotten much more accomplished in the realm of public safety if I had remained Judiciary Chair longer than 8 years.

Are you in favor of a nonvoting youth D.C. council member? No.Wedogetyouthperspectivesonlegislation through the public hearing process. Moreover, the Home Rule Act would have to be changed.

Do you support legislation clarifying attorney general qualifications? Why or why not?

Yes. I believe the court got it wrong. I was present in 2010 when the law was written (I managed the bill through the Council) and I am certain that the Council expected that councilmembers qualified and could run to be attorney general. Yes, I support legislation to make this clear now that the court has interpreted the law the wrong way.

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