Single Parent Missing

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The 16-member Parents Advisory Council on Youth Drug Abuse, established by Congress in 1998, has yet to meet. It was set up to advise the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) – now John Walters – on drug prevention, education and treatment.

By statute, it can’t meet until the full number of members has been appointed by the president and the party leaders of the House and Senate. While the party switch in commander in chief and Senate Majority Leader has certainly contributed to the non-seating of the council, observers think the Bush administration is also deliberately dragging its feet on bringing the council to life. But for now, the next required move will have to come from Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), because Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) made only three appointments before the Democrats got control of the Senate last year. Repeated irritating calls to his office have resulted in zip responses. Is his office aware that it now has the power to make the last appointment? The repeated response from Daschle’s staff: “We’ll get back to you.”

We might as well be calling the parent council’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Paul Coverdale (R-Ga.), who died in 2000. With 15 persons nominated (and one conservative Republican, in particular, eager to git up and go), the other authorized slots have been filled by former president Bill Clinton (4); former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) (1); Lott (3); Daschle (2); House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) (3); and House Minority Leader Richard Gephart (D-Mo.) (2).

Mystery was also the order of the day at ONDCP as spokeswoman Jennifer deVallance said she “thinks the holdup is Daschle” because of the change of party leadership in the Senate. A request for the list of the current appointments to the council was met with various responses: “I’m not sure it’s available for public scrutiny” (Monday), “Our lawyers are looking into it” (Wednesday) and, finally, a list (Thursday).

Champing at the bit is retired Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, now serving as vice president for policy with the conservative Family Research Council. Appointed by Lott to the stillborn parents council, Maginnis says, “There is an urgency to the things we should be doing, but we can’t begin anything until all the members are in place.” Maginnis, who says he has met with a few of the nominees, was hoping for “a council conference this spring,” and is disappointed that this apparently won’t happen.

At the other end of the spectrum is John Larivee, a Clinton appointee from w-a-a-y back in March 2000. “I vaguely remember the appointment,” teases Larivee, CEO of the Boston-based Community Resources for Justice. “Because of the time delay, it’s been expunged from my memory.”

His qualifications were his organization’s involvement in combating drug abuse and the fact that he’s a parent of teens. “Back then,” observes Larivee, “I was the father of two teens, now I’m the father of one - and this one will soon move into adulthood.” But he did recall that the appointment was “prestigious” and that he “was full of enthusiasm” about putting forth his ideas to the council and the ONDCP director. “I must say my enthusiasm has waned,” he confesses.

Will Larivee be eligible to serve if his youngest child turns 18 before Daschle makes the final appointment? That matter is best referred to ONDCP General Counsel Ed Jurith for further study.

If a White House stall effort is in effect, it fits in with this administration’s apparent aversion to citizen boards and councils. White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., for example, is on record suggesting that both the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and the Office of National AIDS policy are unnecessary. Apparently, advice from parents is unnecessary as well.

Contact: (202) 395-6618, Jennifer_L._deVallance @ondcp.eop .org.

Bill Alexander contributed to this report.