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.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Executive Power vs. the will of the people and the DC Attorney General

Unlike most other jurisdictions, DC doesn't have control over criminal prosecution of adults, a responsibility retained by the federal government as a vestige of federal control over the "District of Columbia."

While I didn't vote for Karl Racine, who won election to be DC's first popularly elected Attorney General, I have advocated for years that DC have an elected Attorney General, for a number of reasons.

-- Another reason to support an elected Attorney General in DC (2009)
-- DC Attorney General election (2014)

In the 2010 election voters approved a charter amendment to make the AG elected, to balance the sometimes conflicting responsibilities of representing the executive branch as well as the people, whose will is expressed through the creation and implementation of law.

The "people" voted in favor of an elected attorney general to provide a check on executive power, and to specifically have a representative of the people's interests vis a vis "the law" as it relates to the executive and legislative branches.

In addition, I like to believe the support was in part to create another element of the maturation of the city as a polity, in extending the structure of political organization to include an elected AG, which hopefully upon sound execution of the responsibilities of the office, could eventually lead to the federal government devolving responsibility for adult criminal prosecution to the local government.

At all levels of government, there are myriad examples of the need for an independent attorney general, to act in the breach, in the face of executive branch malfeasance and overreach,

In the meantime, to limit checks on the executive branch, Mayor Bowser proposes to create a separate executive branch legal structure ("D.C. mayor seeks to curtail power of new elected attorney general," Washington Post). From the article:
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has proposed diluting the role of the city’s elected attorney general by consolidating power to review city laws, land deals and other legal business with attorneys on her staff, the attorney general said Friday.

The move calls into question whether the District’s first elected attorney general will be able to carry out the job envisioned in 2010, when 76 percent of D.C. voters chose to directly elect a chief attorney “responsible for upholding the public interest.”
Because the AG position was created by a charter amendment, the Mayor's proposed changes, which would change the responsibilities of the AG and the AG office, should be put to a vote of the people, as an additional amendment to the city's Home Rule Charter, and not addressed legislatively.

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