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.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

DC Attorney General election: why I won't be voting for Karl Racine...

A few years ago, citizens voted in a referenda to have an elected Attorney General.  It's a bit tricky because in other jurisdictions, the "Attorney General" (or Prosecutor) has responsibility for trying crimes.  In DC, those responsibilities rest within the US Attorney's Office, one of the many effects of DC being under the control of the federal government.

For that reason, DC's top legal officer has been an appointed official, focused more on meeting the legal needs of the government, particularly the Executive Branch.  Over the past few administrations, the office and position have been reorganized to be more like an AG office, and strife between the legislative branch and the executive branch over this office and "who it represents" led to the referendum.

While the referendum passed in 2010, opposition to the creation of the position by the Executive Branch and quiescence amongst the Council led to the City Council voting to delay the election for four years to 2018, because they said the ability to organize the functions of the office wasn't present.

Paul Zukerberg, a lawyer who has in the past run for City Council on a pro-legalization of marijuana platform, was key to getting the election up and running by taking the city to court, and winning.

Since then four others have joined the race:  Lorrie Masters; Karl Racine; Edward “Smitty” Smith; and Lateefah Williams.

The Post, which routinely editorialized against creating an elected Attorney General, as part of its general somewhat authoritarian agenda on local politics and governance (see the 2010 blog entry, "Another wrong judgement by the Washington Post: an elected Attorney General is a good idea and should be supported"), endorsed Karl Racine  ("Karl Racine for DC attorney general"), and I hate to say, that's probably the best reason to not vote for him.

It makes sense that the Post endorsed Racine, because as a letter writer to the paper pointed out, "In DC attorney general race, Karl Racine represents the influence of money."  Also see "DC’s Attorney General Jumps Into a Race He Didn’t Want: Did Irvin Nathan use a staff meeting to endorse Karl Racine?" from the Washingtonian.

Another is Racine's pandering in campaign literature.  In the last few days I got a couple different pieces of campaign literature from him with one focused on early childhood education and providing "wrap around" services for impoverished families.

While I do think childhood education must be focused upon in order to interdict multi-generational poverty, it's not the job of the Attorney General, and is mission creep of massive proportions.  

Everybody values education.

I want an Attorney General to represent the people's interest in law, civil rights, etc.

They are connected.  But the AG position was never conceptualized as a primary element of the K-12 education infrastructure.

In any case, I'm inclined to vote for Zuckerberg because of his efforts to get the office back on the ballot, the way that the electorate intended.

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7 Comments:

At 10:05 AM, Anonymous charlie said...


Agreed with you on Zuckerberg. He deserves it.

The man is a bit off though. That is his house on Massachusetts yes? With the diesel and bike contraption?

That said, as you pointed out, the AG position here is a bit wierd. I don't think it should be elected; any more that the federal AG is elected.

The primary focus needs to be removing criminal authority from the US attorney's office and putting it into a local prosecutor. You could argue whether that should be an elected office or not, but what you want is accountability.

(As I have said on GGW, the leaks coming from the US attorneys office re: the Mayor need to be heavily investigated)

The various carnival sideshows on autonomy (height limits, budget, voting in congress) rate about a 4 compared to the US attorney issue (maybe a 91).

The District would be well served by just removing EHN and replacing her with a Official Lobbyist. Which she basically is.

 
At 10:11 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

not that DC has a good track record of making its case for statehood by acting and executing like a well-run state, but I think that a highly functioning AG office would make the case that transferring local criminal prosecution to DC won't be a disaster.

Right now, we haven't made the case...

2. It happens that I believe that thee federal AG should be elected too, because the law belongs to the people, not the president (Executive Branch).

But recognize it is a very theoretical position.

3. wrt Zuckerberg, I am kinda weird intellectually, while I believe in drug legalization, I am not in favor of drug use. So I am torn. Except for the fact that his efforts are making the independently elected AG a reality. For that he deserves my vote.

 
At 10:43 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

well that is the rub, though. Z is so strange that he makes the argument for a local prosecutor weaker, not stronger.

But as you said, sometimes the core democratic values are more important and he has demonstrated those. You don't want a politican that will agree with you -- you want one that will respect your views and not pander (too much).

(doubly so with AG type elections)

Interin step could be a US attorney with a locally run office. One big problem is AUSAs have very different incentives that local residents would want.

So moving them to a DC water situation (not federal, not DC) could be good as well.

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

yes, I hadn't thought about it, but AUSAs are looking to rise in the Dept. of Justice, they are not so much locally focused, even if they live here, and of course there is the community prosecution initiative.

One of the cases my grand jury dealt with was led by a guy from DoJ who only worked in the local office one day/week.

And another person I know who was in community prosecution is now at DoJ, and never looking back.

I'm sure that happens a lot.

 
At 12:10 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Yes, the incentives don't match. The AUSAs are all very smart, bright people but their future is not the District.

We can argue about the value of lawyers, but almost everywhere else the prosecutor's office is a place where future mayors hang out.

 
At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

... well, too, in the rest of the country, even the federal AG office can be a step to local office, e.g., Giuliani in NYC.

But you do see what you're talking about a lot in Maryland, not necessarily just for county executive, but for other political offices too.

 
At 11:04 PM, Blogger washcycle said...

My wife has worked with Paul Zuckerberg and is adamantly against him as a result. She has nothing good to say of him, and that's uncharacteristic of her.

 

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