Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fenty Fired Who?

Clark Ray, then-the new head of Washington’s Department of Parks & Recreation, greeted children at the Harry Thomas Sr. Community Center pool. (Photo Joey DiGuglielmo, Washington Blade)

District residents should be shocked and disappointed this morning to learn of Mayor Adrian Fenty's firing of DC Department of Parks and Recreation Director Clark Ray, The Examiner reports.

Prior to Ray's tenure, the District went through something like five DPR directors in six years. Leadership was absent. Communication was nonexistent. Plans stood still or fell apart. Getting a light bulb, gate, or fence fixed in a park took a monumental effort. Parks were no fun.

Clark Ray's appointment by Adrian Fenty was a sign that our new mayor was going to put competence over politics. Ray had previously served as a Ward 2 neighborhood service coordinator and led Office of Community Relations & Services, among other positions. He had a reputation for getting things done. He knew the neighborhoods and the residents.

As DPR Director, Ray lived up to expectations. When streetlights were out or a park was trashed, he had it promptly fixed, such as the New York Avenue / 1st Street NW park just this past week. He took and interest in fixing once abandoned parks, like that at 2nd and Massachusetts Avenue NW. He moved forward with the construction of dog parks, which was on the wish list of many residents for some time, and several other park renovations. Ray was responsive, returning e-mails quickly. He had to work within resource and political constraints, but he was not shy about advocating DPR's mission. Now, I've been a harsh critic of some of our parks, but Ray was moving us forward after years of neglect. Competence is sometimes so hard to find.

He's fired. Not the person who authorized the transfer of a fire engine and ambulance to the Dominican Republic. That person's not fired. Ray's fired. Not the person who unexplainably reclassified decades old abandoned houses as occupied so that Shiloh Baptist Church would not have to pay higher taxes on it. That person's not fired. Ray's fired. If the Mayor has the urge to fire someone, we can find someone worthy of a 7pm Sunday visit to the Wilson Building.

I'm looking forward to Amy Poehler's sitcom because this one isn't funny.

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