Three examples of L'etat c'est moi/Not invented here/Executive authority (in DC local government)
1. Legality of chickens. Over the weekend there was a story, "Do you raise chickens in D. C.? Their days may be numbered," in the Washington Post about how successfully bested the city in a lawsuit concerning the legality of chickens, not via building regulations and zoning, but the definition of animals within the city's public health laws.
Even though the city talks a good game about urban agriculture, it hasn't moved forward legalizing poultry, although many other (more) innovative cities and counties have already done so, such as Seattle and Salt Lake City (""An update on Block Supported (Poultry) Agriculture").
The original proposal for allowing poultry in some of the discussions in the Zoning Rewrite were so strict that they likely eliminated eligibility from more than 98% of DC residential properties. (50 feet setback from each lot line--meaning a property would have to be about 110 feet wide and maybe the same distance in length.) That being said having some limitations is reasonable, but DC has never proposed reasonable limitations.
Rather than taking the opportunity to correct lack of vision, Mayor Bowser has put language in the FY2018 Budget legislation explicitly and directly changing the definitions in the public health law to ban the practice.
There is a petition organized by the successful plaintiffs, aiming to influence City Council to extract that language from the budget bill.
-- DC City Council: Lay off the hens; support backyard chickens in DC
2. There has been coverage of the battle between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch over how to deal with four nuisance/disinvested properties in the Anacostia neighborhood ("Four Anacostia houses are at heart of an affordable housing struggle," Washington Business Journal; "DHCD Refuses to Comment on Derelict D.C.-Owned Anacostia Houses," Washington City Paper). The properties have continued to decline and languish while under the control of the city's Department of Housing and Community.
Neighborhood residents convinced the City Council to transfer the properties to the housing rehabilitation program of the nonprofit L'Enfant Trust, which has restored a couple of houses in the neighborhood.
Instead of going along with the legislation, the Executive Branch has ignored the law passed transferring the properties, and separately is marketing the properties for sale.
3. The nonprofit National Mall Coalition has been floating a concept for a number of years to build a parking structure/stormwater capture facility under the National Mall. The revenue from parking would pay for the facility. Granted the National Park Service, which controls the land, isn't too keen on the idea. But the NMC has offered to pay $100,000 for a feasibility study by the Army Corps of Engineers, which is willing to do the preliminary study. But the request, even if paid for by a nonprofit or private sector initiative, has to come from a local government.
DC's Executive Branch is not willing to put forth such a request, so NMC is trying to get City Council to pass legislation authorizing the study.
I have some reservations, not about the initiative, but about there needing to be more "visitor management planning" wrapped around the proposal ("A National Mall-focused heritage (replica) streetcar service to serve visitors is a way bigger idea than a parking garage under the Mall"). To their credit, NMC added my recommendation of a visitors center to their original concept.
Still, what's "the harm" in a study, especially because it is in response to stormwater-related floods that caused millions of dollars of damage in 2006 ("With National Treasures At Risk, D.C. Fights Against Flooding," NPR) and maintaining the economic viability of the central business district ought to be a key element of the city's economic development and risk management policies.
What each of these examples share is that the initiative for action did not come from the Executive Branch, which seems to believe that only it knows what's best for the rest of us.
It's not a good way to behave or model behavior and it is definitely counter to language in Mayor Bowser's inauguration speech:
I will encourage creativity, risk-taking and innovation. It is my pledge to take sometimes the road less protected, to see jobs and opportunities when others see only the costs, and to praise my staff when they get it right and be the one to tell you if we get it wrong.
Now you know this, I’m not a “pie in the sky” politician. I believe in making both bold and pragmatic plans and executing them every day. At the end of every day, week or quarter—our team will have to show results. Not just during election season, but for the four full years.