Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why Fenty Lost: He Embarrassed Us

I've read my share or pre- and postmortems of Adrian Fenty's single term.

Some, such as DC Watch, say its because he didn't listen to civic activists. Others suggest it was because he was arrogant, "a jerk," or disrespected old black ladies.  Many play up a growing racial divide in the city, suggesting Fenty was more concerned about smart transit, dog parks, and development than critical needs in struggling neighborhoods. Or that he didn't appoint enough African Americans to cabinet-level positions. Then there's the Rhee factor - with polls suggesting that she lost as many votes as she gained.

Relying on paid canvassers and staff, rather than the critical grassroots energy that propelled him into office, didn't help.

There's a grain or more of truth to each of those reasons. Some are more valid than others. I have a different theory, however. And I say this as a supporter...

He embarrassed us.

For years, District resident had to go into work each morning and face the inevitable question from their suburban coworkers. It also came up on the weekend phone conversations with family. "What is up with DC?"

With bow-tie Anthony Williams in office, residents had nearly eight-year respite.  Aside from Marion Barry rejoining the Council, there wasn't a whole lot of drama.  The mechanics of government were perfectly uneventful. We liked and got used to it. 

But lately, we've had a lot of 'splaining to do again.
How is it the Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer don't agree on how much is in the schools' budget before she enters into a new contract with the teachers?  Why would the city fire hundreds of teachers a few weeks into a school year?  Oh, because they have sex with their students.

The Mayor and D.C. Council are fighting over free baseball tickets after spending millions on a new stadium. Really?

The D.C. Attorney General is refusing to disclose records to the D.C. Auditor (same last name spelled differently). What's he hiding?  Contempt?

The city massively over spent on the summer jobs program, but the Mayor wants to expand it again? And in this economy?  And what the heck are 20,000 kids getting paid to do anyway?

Why is one nonprofit group, Peaceoholics, getting paid millions in public grants to stop violence that hasn't stopped and not expected to document any results?  And how is the founder of that 501(c)(3) taking such an active role in the campaign?  You know, Ron Moten, the guy who helped donate the DC fire engine to the Dominican Republic.  Why doesn't Fenty cut him off already?

60 beds for the entire male youth offender population of the city?  No wonder kids are running around shooting and getting shot.

Why is a very able Attorney General, the public official who is supposed to represent the entire city in court, repeatedly sound like the mayor's criminal defense lawyer, personal counsel, spokesperson, and political attack dog?  And does he really live in DC?

He put running buddies up for appointment to boards and commissions?

What's this about transferring millions from the Parks to Housing departments to avoid procurement rules, giving contracts to renovate parks to frat buddies turned developers, and firing officials who raise questions?

Why don't executive branch officials just show up for Council hearings as expected?

How come he just keeps doing it... despite all the questions, critical media coverage, op-eds, and concerns raised by those who supported him?
The election is over, but those questions from coworkers, friends, and family are not.

For the next several months, expect a new one. "What happened to that Adrian Fenty?"

And I'll be asking myself, how could he dash our hopes?

No comments: