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On the campaign trail, mayoral hopeful Adrian Fenty paints himself as a master of constituent services. Potholes, police protection, you name it—Fenty is all about neighborhoods.
Maybe so. But if Fenty ends up replacing Mayor Anthony A. Williams in the John A. Wilson Building, he’ll be running a constituent-services deficit with the residents of a certain hilltop community in Ward 8.
On Aug. 23, Fenty and a video-production crew set up shop near the Washington View Apartments, where Ward 8 Councilmember Marion S. Barry used to live. The idea was to stage a Fenty TV advertisement against this picturesque backdrop. Nothing gimmicky, mind you, just the candidate walking around the area flanked by supporters, with the entire city spread out below.
The production firm, Wayne Westbrook Creative, acquired the necessary permits from the Office of Motion Picture and Television Development for a series of shots around the ward. The permit indicates that the shoot did not call for road closures or the use of parking spaces.
At several points during the rush-hour shoot, however, D.C. police officers stopped traffic to accommodate the filming.
Some Ward 8 residents might be eager for such a diversion, but not the folks who live at the Overlook at Washington View condominiums, a building in the complex that was completely renovated in 2002. Overlook resident Gregg Justice, who works at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, says the activities blocked two streets, choking off access to and egress from the residences. “This pisses us off,” says Justice, the condo-association board president. “Maybe they thought nobody up here had to go to work.”
Crystal Palmer, director of the motion picture office, says because no road closures were planned, Fenty’s crew was “under no obligation to give notice.” She did add that off-duty officers who are hired to assist in a production do have the discretion to temporarily stop traffic for short periods of time.
City regs notwithstanding, Justice argues that big shots won’t be able to continue steamrolling his neighborhood. “Politicians have been able to do business like that for years in Ward 8. This is a new group of folks who are here. There are professionals here now. You can’t do that any more.”
According to Justice, several neighbors decided to take on the Fenty crowd, and an “angry confrontation” occurred. The Fenty team has a different take: They say only one or two people calmly talked to them that morning.
Overlook resident Jackie Ward, who watched the whole scene from her bedroom window, says people were ticked that no one bothered to notify them of a possible disruption first thing in the morning. “I saw the whole thing with my binoculars,” she says.
But Ward’s concerns run deeper than just the inconvenience. She’s miffed that Fenty made no effort to recruit neighborhood extras for the shot. “He had, like, 10 white folks with him. It wasn’t so hard to figure out these people weren’t from the neighborhood,” she says. “We know our neighbors, and yes, we have Asians and Caucasians up here—two of each, to be exact.”
For Ward, Fenty’s choice of a backdrop is just the same old tale for her block. “It’s disrespectful to just use our view and not let anyone know what is going on. I’m not sure you could get away with that in other parts of the city,” she says.
Fenty did reach out to Ward after the taping. “He apologized to me,” she says.
Fenty spokesperson Alec Evans offered this statement: “Councilmember Fenty has called one of the leaders of the community and apologized for any inconvenience or disturbance that was caused. Although there was a miscommunication, we were pleased to be in Ward 8—as we always are. In the same way we chose Woodlawn Terrace for the debate with Marie [Johns], we chose to film one of our commercials in Ward 8.”
CROPP’S FOOT SOLDIERS
Linda Cropp has made a habit of attacking Fenty for his lack of attention to detail during his brief stint as a lawyer.
She would be pleased to know that the firm hired by her campaign to produce television spots could never be charged with overlooking the finer elements of campaign ads slamming her opponent.
When top-flight political ad firm Doak, Carrier, O’Donnell, Wilkinson, Goldman & Associates needed a Fenty double to parody his door-knocking, sign-waving antics, the company reached out to D.C. talent agency Central Casting.
It didn’t seem to be a tall order for Central Casting’s Mandy Sprinkel, who says there are plenty of attractive, young African-American men with shaved heads or guys willing to shave for money out there. Besides, the shots of “Fenty” would be from behind and in soft focus. No problem.
But Doak put forth a rather strange requirement for the Fenty doppelgänger, one that Central Casting failed to fill.
“We couldn’t find a guy with the right shoe size,” Sprinkel says. “It had to be an 11 and a half.” The only thing she can figure is the company had already purchased the shoes or filmed the feet for a street scene in advance. “[Doak] ended up finding someone independently,” she says.
One scene in the Cropp ad does show “Fenty” walking down a sidewalk, but shoes do not play a prominent role in the spot.
A spokesperson for Doak refused to provide the name of the actor who played Fenty or reveal whether the mystery man in the size 11 and a halfs is an actors’-union member.
LL believes the firm might be doing a disservice to some struggling thespian who could have had a bright future in a possible Fenty administration. No doubt the mayoral security squad would love to have a body double on retainer to throw off hecklers.
WILLIAMS’ PIECE OF LAND IN GHANA
The first building bearing the name of Mayor Williams could be in the perfect place for a guy who set the standard for D.C. mayoral travel: Accra, Ghana.
The idea was dropped by the mayor of Ghana’s capital city, Stanley Nii Adjiri Blankson—one of the dignitaries Williams hung out with during his spring break on the African continent.
“Mayor Williams, we have thrown a big challenge to him,” Blankson told reporters at Williams’ Aug. 23 press conference. “We have acquired vacant land in the heart of the city. We want Mayor Williams to adopt that land so that we can build a secondary school, which will be named after Mayor Williams.”
The mayor’s press office had no details on how Williams would go about adopting land in the West African nation. The Ghanaian Embassy wasn’t sure about Blankson’s offer, either. Let’s just say it seems like Williams will have to cough up more than a key to the city if he wants school-naming rights.
The Anthony A. Williams Secondary School would not only be a testament to the mayor’s hefty frequent-flier account. Blankson’s offer raises the real prospect that Williams will purchase, acquire, or at least adopt land overseas before ever owning property in the District.
Williams was surprised by the challenge but appeared ready to step up. “As a private citizen, I do want to help, in a number of ways, the people of Ghana,” he said.
DESPERATE POLITICS POTPOURRI
With fewer than two weeks before Election Day, candidates who are lagging in many contests are coming up with inventive policy options for the District. Although the mainstream media—in a true local scandal—is ignoring these brainstorms from city leaders, LL will not allow them to go unremarked upon. Here goes:
•Michael Brown: Fill in the hole that is now dug for the new ballpark. Brown has decided that as mayor he would scrap the stadium deal and move the whole operation over to RFK. As Brown boasted during an Aug. 26 debate sponsored by the Washington Times, “We can fill in that hole!” He also said lawsuits over the city reneging on the stadium deal wouldn’t be a problem. “I’m going to get everyone to agree to the plan,” Brown said.
•Marie Johns: Create a D.C. Tax Scoreboard. On Aug. 28, Johns unveiled a model for a Tax Scoreboard that would be placed in front of the Wilson Building. The scoreboard would tick off the tax dollars paid by D.C. residents in a given year, despite the fact that the residents have no meaningful congressional representation. Johns showed remarkable perspicacity in borrowing this idea, which was proposed by NewsChannel 8 host Bruce DePuyt and WTOP reporter Mark Segraves about two years ago. “I didn’t recall hearing it,” she told reporters. “But I wouldn’t mind sharing it.”
•Paul Strauss: Jump on the one-on-one debate bandwagon. The Ward 3 council candidate wasn’t even mentioned by the Washington Post editorial that endorsed his rival Mary Cheh for the seat. So Strauss took a page out of the Cropp playbook. Immediately following the endorsement, he sent out an e-mail proposing individual debates with four candidates who did make the Post A-list: Cheh, Bill Rice, Robert Gordon, and Erik Gaull. To be fair, Gaull has also proposed a one-on-one debate with Cheh.—James Jones
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