The D.C. Council made news this year for the ethics scandals that led to resignations and guilty pleas by two members, but it didn't accomplish much in the legislative arena beyond the minimum mandated by law, critics say.
The council, which headed last week into its last break of the two-year session that started in January 2011, has passed two balanced budgets, took on the once-a-decade redistricting process and created a health care exchange as mandated by President Obama's health care law. But the 13-member body has to do those things, critics noted.
Perhaps the most heralded piece of legislation passed was ethics reform, but many say the final bill, which increases reporting requirements for officials and established a Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, lacks teeth.
|Major bills so far:|
|• Ethics reform|
|• Easing gun registration requirements|
|• Anti-bullying law|
|• S. Capitol Street bill: targeting youth violence& mental health|
|• Two balanced budgets|
|• Health care exchange established|
|• Education reqs aimed at college entrance|
"That's the only thing I can think of they did that was above the legal minimum, but the publicity glare made it essential that they tackled that issue," said Terry Lynch, a civic activist and executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations.
Political consultant Chuck Thies said the council missed a chance to stand out.
"They absolutely had their opportunity with ethics and blew it," Thies said. "They had what are now two convicted felons voting on the legislation. I think for that reason alone they need to revisit it."
But supporters say the body should at least be given credit for fighting for funding for the city's less fortunate.
"It's worth noting the council has worked through two budget cycles and in both cases worked to address some of the harsher elements of the mayor's budget," said Ed Lazere, executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. "They restored funding for, in particular, housing and homeless services ... and for [welfare]."
Still, the lawmakers certainly didn't earn any style points during the many back-and-forth sessions with the mayor on the decision to ultimately raise the income tax for the city's high earners and then later when the two branches stalled on how to spend budget surplus money.
"I don't think it was something to point to with pride ... but I wouldn't say it was a sign that it was a terrible council and that they can't get anything done," Lazere said.