Photo by Pcora on Flickr.

DC’s primary will likely move to April, people will get solar rebates, and bills introduced in the DC Council yesterday could establish a taxi medallion system, make transit free for schoolchildren, add diagonal parking, and put requirements on large retailers like Walmart.

The Council approved the first reading of a bill to move DC’s presidential and local primary to April 3 next year. The presidential date allows DC to potentially band together with Maryland and Delaware and get bonus delegates from the political parties, which are trying to incentivize regional primaries after March.

For the local primary, March is more problematic. Since DC’s primary essentially determines the winner in races including the mayoral race, a primary at the start of March could mean that one person will hold the seat for 10 more months while another is already virtually certain to take over.

We saw Mayor Fenty essentially stop making significant decisions once he lost the primary, but Gray was not yet mayor to start making any decisions, and so little happened in the government in the interim. Having this last for almost a year is dangerous. Councilmembers Phil Mendelson (at-large) and Tommy Wells (ward 6) raised this same objection in the session, but won over no colleagues.

Also during the legislative session, the Council gave those solar rebates to people who had qualified but suddenly found there was no money; unfortunately, this comes out of other sustainable energy funding.

They also delayed a vote on a nominee to the Board of Zoning Adjustment, Gray campaign attorney 1998-2000 DCRA head Lloyd Jordan, in part because of opposition letters from some neighborhood groups.

Sekou Biddle (interim at-large) introduced a bill to make transit free for children traveling to and from school. He argued that this will reduce truancy. It might, but it would also cost money which DC doesn’t have, and there was no indication where the money might come from to pay for this.

Harry Thomas, Jr. (ward 5) introduced three car-related bills. A pair of bills asks for regulations to allow diagonal parking in business corridors, when 60% of businesses in an area ask for it, and religious institutions on Sundays, with the approval of the area ANC.

Diagonal parking can be a fine way to fit more parking into an area when there is room on the street that’s not already being used. DDOT is proposing this between Tenleytown’s Whole Foods and Wilson High, for instance. But in most places in DC where church parking is scarce, there isn’t room on the street to add diagonal parking.

Area business corridors, ANCs, and churches should be able to petition DDOT now to consider diagonal parking if they want to. They should also be able to ask DDOT to consider removing parking, or changing a street from one-way to two-way or vice versa, or adding a bike lane.

So yes, diagonal parking should be a part of the overall toolbox, and if DDOT lacks the authority to implement it now, they should get that authority. But diagonal parking will only make sense in a very small number of cases. Thomas talked about holding town halls around his ward, and it’s hard not to wonder if he’s just introducing this to be able to say he’s doing something at those town halls, even if that something is almost always impractical for the specific situation.

On a side note, Thomas seems to be trying to keep the bill from singling out one faith by referring to “religious institutions,” but by limiting the rule to Sundays, it does exclude religious institutions which celebrate on Saturdays, for instance.

Another bill that’s likely to generate more serious debate is a measure from Thomas, Michael Brown (at-large) and Marion Barry (ward 8) to establish a system of taxicab medallions, with separate categories for DC resident drivers and non-resident drivers, as well as special categories for taxis operating in underserved areas and low-emission (hybrid) taxis. This topic is worth its own, separate post.

Phil Mendelson introduced a pair of bills largely targeted at Wal-Mart. Both apply only to retailers of at least 75,000 square feet, requiring them to negotiate Community Benefits Agreements with their neighborhoods and pay living wages and benefits.

Observers think these have little chance of passing. The bills will go to committees chaired by Thomas and Michael Brown, who both court the union vote but also who have shown little interest in interfering with Walmart’s expansion into DC.

Other bills included ones to require food trucks to pay sales tax, as we discussed yesterday, and expand low-income property tax relief, from Jack Evans (ward 2); to publish Council procurement information online, from Chairman Kwame Brown and Mary Cheh (ward 3); to allow L3Cs, a type of hybrid nonprofit/for-profit business entity; and a number of measures from Cheh to improve transparency.