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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nation’s capital
by the editor of The Common Denominator

DOWN TO THE WIRE: Barring some fancy footwork by the D.C. City Council to expedite legal requirements for confirming mayoral appointees, the District’s seven-member Alcoholic Beverage Control Board will dwindle to one member on Nov. 3 and be unable to conduct its important liquor-licensing duties. While the board’s scheduled public hearings would be simply delayed by the lack of a quorum, some D.C. events might be forced to be "dry" – or in violation of the District’s ABC laws – if their sponsors cannot obtain the necessary ABC Board approval for a one-day permit to serve alcoholic beverages.

D.C. City Councilwoman Sharon Ambrose, who shepherded through an overhaul of the District’s ABC laws in recent years and chairs the committee with ABC Board oversight, has been among the worried about Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ failure to send new nominees or reappointments of current ABC Board members to the council for timely confirmation. "We’ve been asking him to send down the names for months now. It’s pretty upsetting that he hasn’t," an aide to Ambrose told The Common Denominator on Oct. 16. Numerous other vacancies exist on city boards and commissions whose members must be appointed by the mayor.

Four ABC Board members whose terms expired last May 7 – Interim Chairman Chuck Berger, Vera Abbott, Laurie Collins and Audrey Thompson – will be unable to continue serving when a 180-day "holdover period" ends on Nov. 3. That will leave only board member Judy Moy, whose term expires in May 2004. Two seats on the board remain vacant, following the resignations earlier this year of chairman Roderic Woodson and member Ellen Oppen-Weiner.

Mayoral spokesman Tony Bullock told The Common Denominator Oct. 17 that he "can’t explain" why Ambrose’s staff doesn’t already have the mayor’s ABC Board appointments, which he claimed the mayor sent to the council on Oct. 10. Some ABC Board members and staff contacted by The Common Denominator on Oct. 16 and 17 also were unaware that the mayor had made the appointments.

Bullock said the mayor has reappointed Berger, Abbott and Thompson, with Berger appointed to chair the board. In addition, the mayor has tapped Shaw resident Peter Easley to fill the seat vacated by Woodson and Kalorama resident Peter Feather to replace Collins on the board. Bullock said Oppen-Weiner’s seat remains vacant and he could not predict how soon it would be filled.

Bullock said he was unaware of the mayor’s reason for not reappointing Collins, a longtime Williams supporter who opposed the mayor’s position in the contentious battle over reopening Klingle Road to traffic. Collins has indicated her desire to continue serving on the board. She did not return a call for comment on the mayor’s decision not to reappoint her.

"The mayor’s not going to get into the habit of justifying why he does or doesn’t reappoint someone to a board or commission," Bullock said. "When you’re appointed to a term, that’s what you get. ...He doesn’t owe you an explanation."

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator