October 23 2012

D.C. Considers Soda Ban

Julie Gunlock

 

It comes as no surprise that the D.C. city council plans to consider a bill that would limit the size of sugary beverages sold in the District.  As they say, as New York goes, so goes the nation. But it’s galling just the same. D.C. residents should ask themselves, are these the issues on which we’ve asked our elected officials to focus?  Will restricting soda make us any healthier?

More importantly, the citizens of the District of Columbia should be looking at the other issues on which the council should be focused.  Here’s just a small list:

  • Addressing the District’s high unemployment rate which currently sits at a whopping 8.7 percent.
  • Focusing on reducing violent crime--homicides, sexual assaults, robberies and assaults with deadly weapons—which has increased 40 percent in 2012.
  • Working to fix the city’s broken metros system which is so badly maintained that each day, one out of eight escalators leading to the metro is out of service.
  • Looking for a solution to D.C.’s traffic congestion which is considered the worst in the nation; so bad in fact that according to analysis of the problem, drivers spend more than three days out of every 365 caught in traffic (probably sipping a soda to stay awake!)
  • Addressing affordable housing in the District. According to the National Association of Realtors Affordability Index, the Washington region ranks as the 5th least affordable major metro area overall, with only San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Boston less affordable than our region.

Of course, I would bet most District residents would give the council a pass on the list above if they would simply clean up their own act.  According to Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King, the current D.C. Council has the distinguished honor of being the most investigated municipal legislative body in America. 

Wow, proud moment!

King explains:

Thus far this year, two council members, former Ward 5 representative Harry Thomas Jr. (D) and former chairman Kwame Brown (D), have been convicted of felonies. Thomas is serving his sentence in a federal prison. Brown is to be sentenced in November.

They are done deals. What’s still hanging fire?

Let’s start with Ward 1 Democrat Jim Graham.

The Metro board is conducting an independent review of the handling of an unsuccessful development project in the city and Graham’s role in it.

In March, a federal grand jury subpoenaed some of the council members’ campaigns for records — e-mails, invitations and meeting notes — related to political contributions and gifts from Jeffrey E. Thompson, the businessman who has long held the city’s largest contract and whose interests are part of a federal probe into District campaign-finance irregularities.

This unusual demand set off a tizzy downtown. The full scope of the prosecution’s interest is unknown. But according to media reports, the grand jury served subpoenas on the campaigns of Brown; at-large council members Phil Mendelson (D), Michael A. Brown (I) and Vincent Orange (D); Graham; Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Mayor Vincent Gray (D).

Then there is Orange. His chief of staff, Estell Mathis-Lloyd, assured me last week that there are no outstanding issues with the council member’s reelection campaign.

Tell that to the FBI.

A source who has proven reliable in the past told me that the FBI recently interviewed Vicky Wilcher, who worked on Orange’s campaign last year.

The Post reported this spring that, according to Wilcher, a Republican, “Orange’s campaign decided not to pay her directly because it did not want her to show up on campaign finance reports.” Wilcher, who helped lead the 2004 effort to bring slot machines to our nation’s capital, said that the Orange campaign initially sent her payments to a friend, Yvonne Moore.

Guess what?

After The Post found Orange campaign finance records detailing three $1,000 payments to Moore and sought comment on Wilcher’s claim, Moore hung up on our reporter.

So, according to King, Mayor Gray and eight of the 13 members of the D.C. Council have attracted the attention of authorities. And these are the same folks who want to police your beverage choices? 

Maybe the D.C. city council should start cleaning up their own habits before meddling in your private life.

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