Cindi Scoppe had a good column in the paper today — one I might have written myself (ironic, self-mocking smiley face).
She was praising Leona Plaugh for attitudes that used to be fairly common among elected officials, but now are alarmingly rare — and practically nonexistent within the District of Columbia.
Ms. Plaugh, you might recall, helped lead the opposition to Mayor Steve Benjamin’s rush job on the contract the city signed this summer promising tens of millions of dollars in incentives to Bob Hughes in return for his developing the old State Hospital property on Bull Street in accordance with city desires. She criticized the way the deal was rammed through so quickly that people didn’t know what was in it and she criticized what she did know about its contents. And she was happy to repeat those criticisms when she met with us.
But when my colleague Warren Bolton asked her what happens next, she said, essentially, we make it work.
“Once you vote for something and it’s done, it’s done,” she said. “We all need to get on the bandwagon now and hope it’s the best it can be.”
A few minutes later, when she was talking about her surprise at ending up on the losing end of a 2010 vote to turn control of the Columbia Police Department over to the Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, and we asked why she hadn’t brought that idea back up as the department’s woes have mounted, she recalled all the debate and public hearings that had preceded that vote.
“I don’t think you continually go back and harp on things that this council has already voted on,” she explained, “unless someone on the other side is ready to change their position on it.”
Then we got to the city’s decision this spring to purchase the Palmetto Compress warehouse over her objections, and the news in that morning’s paper that a local development group had tentatively agreed to buy the property, at a small profit to the city. And there wasn’t even a hint of sour grapes when she told us, “I hope I lose my bet with the mayor and that that will be a roaring success.”
What put an exclamation point on all of this was the timing. Our conversation with Ms. Plaugh took place at the very moment that what passes for grownups in Washington were racing the clock to reach a can-kicking agreement to keep the federal government out of an elective default. An agreement that we weren’t at all certain they’d be able to sell to their colleagues.
Which is just mind-boggling….
As Cindi went on to say, Leona was expressing the attitude of a member of the loyal opposition, “a concept that no longer exists in Washington, outside the occasional Senate gang, and is falling out of favor at the State House, replaced with open disdain for the idea of even talking with people in the other party, much less accepting defeat and moving on.”
And our republic is much, much worse off for that quality being so rare.