Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Complaints about DC City Council processes for appointing commissioners to the Public Service Commission could be addressed by converting the PSC to an elected body

The question of DC Statehood is in the news again, given President Obama's recent statement of support ("Obama on D.C. statehood: 'I'm for it'," POLITICO), although for a variety of reasons achieving statehood is nowhere being likely to happen.

DC maybe deserves to be a state because all US citizens are supposed to be entitled to representation in Congress, but the "District of Columbia" was created as a non-state under the authority of Congress, out of the belief that a state government could not be trusted to provide police or militia-based protection to the federal government.  An unintended consequence is that residents of the city don't have representatives in Congress, Rep. Andy Harris to the contrary ("Activists take D.C. service requests to Md. congressman Andy Harris," Associated Press via WJLA-TV).

(Like other non-states, DC has a Delegate serving in the House of Representatives, active and usually able to vote in Committees, but lacking a full vote on the floor, and has no representation in the Senate.)

One point I make continually is that if DC wants to be a state, rather than merely assert that the city deserves to be a state, it should act accordingly, and set high standards for governance and the practice of democracy.

One way to do that would be to have more positions within government subject to the electoral process (although there can be just as many problems with that as benefits).   See the past blog entry, "Incremental piecemeal fixes to DC politics and governance mostly don't help."

Given the complaints by involved citizens about a rigged process for appointing Commissioners to the city's Public Service Commission (see the July 16th issue of themail, a e-letter on better government in DC), which regulates utilities, primarily PEPCO, the electric company, and Washington Gas, the natural gas distributer, why not convert the PSC to an elected body, and take the Council and Mayor out of the equation (at least somewhat)?

While the majority of representatives on PSC-type bodies across the country are appointed, 14 states elect commissioners, many with six-year, staggered term.  This listing is from the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions website:

Conclusion. The next time I update this post, "Incremental piecemeal fixes to DC politics and governance mostly don't help," I'll add electing Commissioners to the Public Service Commission to the list of items.

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