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Analysis: D.C. Council Regroups, While Silver Line Project Drops PLA

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Bob McCartney, Washington Post columnist

It's been a week of turmoil for the D.C. Council. Kwame Brown now faces charges for bank fraud and campaign finance violations. Mary Cheh is filling in the chairman's seat until council members vote for the interim chairman from the at-large council members Wednesday. Meanwhile, in Virginia, the Silver Line to Dulles clears one of many financial obstacles that remain. Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney discussed this week's top stories.

The competition between Phil Mendelson and Vincent Orange for interim council chairman: "As of today, it seems that Phil Mendelson is the strong favorite and some council members say he's already locked it up. He has long experience — he's been on the council for 14 years. And, particularly important, he's well-liked throughout the city, both in white and African American neighborhoods. He's consistently one of the highest 'vote-getters' in at-large races. Very liberal , earnest, idealistic, not charismatic, but solid," McCartney says. "Orange is quite a contrast, [he's a ] African American of Ward 5. He has a big personality. He has a reputation as a deal maker. He likes religious rhetoric. I think that Mendelson has the edge, partly because he won't rock the boat, and some are afraid that Orange might do that. Also, Orange is very ambitious. He ran for chairman before, and it's believe that he wants to be mayor. And some other members may not want Orange to move up because they may want to be mayor themselves."

Whether the D.C.Council will be able to pull together during this transition period: "I think they can avoid themselves embarrassing themselves even more than they already have. But I can't see them accomplishing anything really big," McCartney says. "The mayor, Vincent Gray, he doesn't have a robust legislative agenda going in the first place for the council to consider, plus he's distracted by his own legal troubles. A lot of them are looking at running for higher office. There's a lot of in-fighting and tension among them... The good news is that they just approved the budget, so at least that's out of the way."

The financial momentum for the Silver Line in Loudoun County: "It's looking pretty good. The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors have to vote on July 3 on whether or not to remain part of the project. They still have some tough decisions to make on financing. Based on two events this week, I do now expect that Loudoun will approve it. The airports' authority voted almost unanimously to drop a contract provision that was friendly to the labor union and that was politically necessary both to get Virginia state funding for the project, and to get Loudoun County's approval. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors are all republicans and there's no way they would've voted for this with that pro-union provision," McCartney says. " Another thing that happened, there was a big hearing Monday evening in Leesburg, where supporters and opponents from the public spoke up as whether Loudoun should support extending the Silver Line. More than 100 speakers spoke, four hours long, and the supporters clearly outnumbered the opponents. So they still have to work out the financing, but personally I think it's be approved now."

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