The Failure of D.C. Government in Microcosm: The Work Order Edition

And I’m referring to the District’s territorial government, not the den of inequity known as Mos EisleyWor-Shing-Tun.

Recently, the D.C. Council has been investigated the failure of the Department of General Services (DGS) to fix D.C.’s public schools in anything remotely resembling a timely manner. As a result Ward 4 Council Member Janeese Lewis George has proposed legislation to require DGS to get approval from a school staff member (like a principal or foreman) before closing a work order in their school.

This is good legislation, but, if D.C. had a functioning executive branch, we wouldn’t need it. We shouldn’t need it. It should not take years for repairs to occur, ever. There’s also another, related problem: what if they don’t follow the law? Or even if they do, this still won’t make repairs go any faster.

My point is not to bash any of the Council members sponsoring this legislation–it’s worth a shot. But this whole episode highlights a longstanding (very longstanding) problem in D.C. governance: the Council often passes good legislation*, but the executive branch–the Mayor–fails to execute (often at all). This problem pre-dates Bowser, though she hasn’t halted its slide. Then the Council will pass additional legislation, which (again) is not enacted.

When year in and year out, the executive branch fails, then it’s time to get a new mayor. There is only so much Council oversight can do here: someone needs to exert control over these agencies and get them to execute at a basic, competent level. This is greatest crisis D.C. faces. Governance matters**.

*Though I’m sure Kenyan McDuffie has some thoughts about the legislation governing the qualifications for D.C. Attorney General. I wrote good, not perfect.

**I’ve been meaning to write a post about the tragedy of the Robert White mayoral campaign, but the tl;dr version is that he never made the election about Bowser’s inability to have the executive branch do its job competently, despite occasionally raising the issue (sort of). Not a twelve point plan, but ‘Bowser is the problem, and I am the solution’ type stuff.

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