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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nationís capital
by the editor of The Common Denominator

A NOVEL APPROACH: A group of Ward 5 civic activists, frustrated over the dearth of information surfacing about mayoral candidates' views during a plethora of forums held since the end of last year, is creating a series of public "interviews" to add some depth to the campaign.

The series, scheduled to be held on Wednesday nights in May and June at McKinley Technology High School, will focus each two-hour session on a single candidate, who will be expected to answer a set of questions provided to them in advance of the event.

"They will get the questions ahead of time … so when they come, we're expecting real answers," said Patricia Mitchell, a Bloomingdale resident and member of the Coalition For Voter Empowerment, which is sponsoring the series. The coalition so far includes civic associations representing Bloomingdale, Edgewood, Eckington, Bates Street and Hanover Place - all located near the North Capitol Street corridor.

Five of the Democratic mayoral candidates have been invited to participate. The series is scheduled to begin May 10 with Ward 5 Councilman Vincent Orange, followed by former Verizon executive Marie Johns on May 24, lobbyist Michael Brown on June 7, Ward 4 Councilman Adrian Fenty on June 21 and Council Chairman Linda Cropp on June 28. Each session is set to run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in McKinley's amphitheater at 151 T St. NE.

THE FIGHT INTENSIFIES: The battle over leadership of the Ward 8 Democrats apparently isn't over yet, despite claims last month by party activist Philip Pannell that the D.C. Democratic State Committee had decided to allow him to assume the presidency and other members of his "Progressive Democrats" slate to take over the positions they thought they had won last fall.

Sandra Seegars, the political organization's second vice president who was re-elected without challenge in the Sept. 17 balloting, tells The Common Denominator that a lack of established procedures for addressing the challenge to the election results she and others mounted has resulted in confusion among members of the state committee, who are responsible for resolving the dispute. Seegars claims a March vote by the state committee simply accepted a report, while Pannell claims the vote dismissed Seegars' challenge. In the meantime, Mary Parham Wolfe - the incumbent whom Pannell claims to have defeated for re-election - continues to hold the organization's helm.

Pannell acknowledges that all except one member of his slate - Darryl Ross, who was re-elected as treasurer - missed the deadline to declare themselves as candidates for the leadership posts. However, members of his slate were listed on the election ballot and drew an overwhelming majority of votes. Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer newspaper who ran on Pannell's slate and won the balloting for first vice president, has since then notified the Ward 8 Democrats that she has decided not to assume a political leadership position.

Seegars says she has "no idea" where resolution of the dispute stands right now, because the procedure for state committee action on her appeal remains unclear. Seegars and the candidates who lost the balloting say the election's losers should be seated as the winners, reasoning that they followed the election rules and met the deadline for getting on the ballot. "I can see myself filing something in court," Seegars said.

Copyright 2006 The Common Denominator