“[Phil Mendelson] is thoughtful and hardworking and is in public office because he wants to make a contribution; his 14 years on the council have been untouched by even a whiff of wrongdoing.”
— Sunday, 28 October 2012, The Washington Post
PHIL MENDELSON (D), tapped by his D.C. Council colleagues to take the chairman’s seat vacated by a disgraced Kwame R. Brown, is almost certain to win the upcoming special election for the remainder of Mr. Brown’s term. He faces token opposition and, as his past contests have shown, enjoys deep support throughout the city. What is less certain is whether Mr. Mendelson can provide meaningful leadership of the council.
There’s no question that Mr. Mendelson is a better choice than challenger and perennial candidate Calvin H. Gurley (D). He is thoughtful and hardworking and is in public office because he wants to make a contribution; his 14 years on the council have been untouched by even a whiff of wrongdoing. His understated demeanor may be welcome after the drama of Mr. Brown or the clashes with the executive under then-council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D). But being council chairman requires more than getting along or having your colleagues like you. Mr. Mendelson, who talks about the urgent need for the council to restore public trust, has been silent about his colleagues’ wrongdoing, most recently when evidence emerged of misconduct by council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). He has yet to take action on council use of personal e-mail for official business. Having built his reputation as a nitpicker, Mr. Mendelson would do well to step back and think about the tone and overall direction that are so badly needed.