Gray backs bill to let more sunshine into council proceedings
D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), a potential candidate for mayor, has signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill that would open up more city government and council meetings to the public.
The legislation, introduced by council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), would probably end the council practice of holding closed-door meetings in which they deliberate - and often casually decide - public policy.
Gray's decision to join six of his colleagues in supporting the bill is noteworthy because he cast the deciding vote in 2006 to kill an open-meetings bill.
Since then, Gray said he has pushed to open up more council proceedings to the media and public. But even though Gray admitted the media to most - but not all - of the council's budget deliberations last summer, the public largely remained excluded.
Bowser's bill states: "The public policy of the District of Columbia is that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the actions of those who represent them. Formation of public policy and conduct of public business shall not occur in secret."
The bill includes numerous exemptions, including bargaining sessions with union leaders and matters involving attorney-client privilege. But it appears as though the bill would dramatically change how the council makes some of its decisions.
Gray's decision to sign on as co-sponsor comes as he considers whether to challenge Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the September Democratic primary. If he does, Fenty (D) will probably try to portray Gray as too aligned with the old ways of doing business in Washington. Gray, by signing on to Bowser's bill, has begun to try to neutralize Fenty on that issue.
Council members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Kwame Brown (D-At Large), Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), David A. Catania (I-At Large), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) also signed on as co-sponsors of Bowser's bill.
Although the bill appears to have majority support, it remains to be seen whether it ever gets moved out of committee for an up-or-down vote. But it is an election year.
-- Tim Craig
Washington Post Editors
March 16, 2010; 11:57 AM ET
Categories: City Life , D.C. Council , Mayor Fenty , Tim Craig
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