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D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has a reputation for being a cool and guarded person when it comes to his feelings.
It’s one of the most pervasive myths in D.C. politics. The mayor actually has no problem venting spleen. On numerous occasions, Williams has been asked to describe what it feels like to turn around a city that was on the verge of bankruptcy and yet get no love from the D.C. chattering class. In response, he openly expresses disgust, anger, and frustration.
In a rambling Feb. 15 entry in his seldom-used blog, Williams tossed out one of his most probing self-evaluations to date. The backdrop for his ruminations was the grand baseball-stadium debate, a nearly two-year process that appears to have ended happily for the mayor. A new baseball stadium near the Anacostia waterfront is scheduled for delivery in 2008, despite the rocky political process that ultimately endorsed its construction. “I’ve been reading the journalists’ analysis and coverage of the process and it isn’t easy reading. And a lot of the criticism—as usual—is directed at me,” Williams writes. “Seems everyone, whether they support the stadium package or not, is agreed on one thing: the process of getting the train to the station was a tortured one and I’m the conductor at fault.”
In times such as these, when his efforts come under attack, Williams calls on a higher power. “Philosophy and the sciences have their place, but they only take you so far,” Williams concludes in the blog. “Religion for me has come to play a central role. Really. I mean it. I’m not some evangelical wrestling you down…demanding you be saved.”
The mayor reveals that an attorney involved in the stadium squabble compared him to the long-suffering but faithful Job of the Hebrew Scriptures—a gesture he considers a “compliment.” Writes Williams: “Job endured the loss of his family, the removal of his property, the affliction of a terrible disease, and last but not least, a sorrow not even seen on Oprah!” he wrote. “He asked God for a sign and God told him to well, trust Him. And Job did. That’s a powerful lesson of faith and hope against all obstacles.”
The blog entry is titled “Since You Didn’t Ask,” an appropriate setup for a fit of mayoral narcissism: “How do I bear the relentless, incessant criticism? How do I function in a low—make that zero gratification—environment?” he writes. “How do I keep…my wits in the midst of the cacophony we call local democracy? Let’s see, baseball feels betrayed, the council feels excluded, the citizens are anywhere from puzzled, penalized, and/or patronized, and the media is unmerciful.”
How does the mayor actually stand up against the Scriptures’ legendary tortured soul? Take a look.
The Book of Tony
Fire of God burns up sheep and servants.
Chaldeans fall upon camels and carry them away, servants slain with edge of the sword.
Great wind from wilderness smites four corners of house; sons killed.
Sabeans take away ox and asses; more servants slain with edge of sword.
Smote with boils from sole of foot unto his crown.
Mayor of D.C.
Loses chief of staff Abdusalam Omer to resignation in 2001 over fund-raising scandal.
Suffers jet lag on second trip to China.
Fined $277,700 by D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics in 2002 for forged petition signatures; contributors pay fine; Williams re-elected easily.
Cannonball dive marking the start of the summer pool season results in strained dignity.
Endures migraine headaches
FENTY’S NAME GAME
Judging by a Feb. 17 advertisement in the Washington Blade, mayoral hopeful Adrian Fenty is well on his way to locking up the gay vote. The full-page notice invites residents to “Meet and Greet Washington’s Best Straight Ally.” And just to add a little pre-event firepower, the promotion lists a roster of four gay-friendly organizations. Leading the pack is “The Presidents of the Boards of the Mautner Project, Food [&] Friends, and Arts in Action,” along with “[t]he founders of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.” The ad also lists the names of 75 individuals, some of whom are affiliated with the same groups. Just before the ad ran, Fenty volunteer Peter Rosenstein called LL to tout the breadth of support reflected in the promotion.
Next time, the Fenty team should consider checking with the people and organizations they appear to claim as supporters.
In a Feb. 17 statement, Food & Friends Board of Directors President Robert P. Hall III made it clear his group played no role in the formulation of the meet-and-greet invite. “Food & Friends, and individuals mentioned in the advertisement who are affiliated with Food & Friends, had no previous knowledge of this advertisement,” he wrote. As an IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, Food & Friends doesn’t endorse candidates for political office.
“I think any time anybody’s name is used in a political ad, they ought to get a call. Particularly if some other entity they represent is being suggested or involved as endorsing a political candidate,” Hall says in an interview. “There is no endorsement. That may have been the intended inference that the Fenty campaign wanted to present. The appearance is incorrect.”
The ad listed the name of Suzanne Goldstein, a Food & Friends board member and past president. She learned about the ad when she got a call from the group’s executive director. “I was not asked by anyone if my name could be used, and would not approve the use if I had been asked,” she writes in an e-mail. “I consider any contributions I make, either political or charitable, to be private.” (The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance considers political contributions to be a public matter.)
Event organizer Rosenstein calls the implication that all of the listed organizations were Fenty supporters a simple mistake. “I put the ad together back in November and just added names,” he says. The roster also includes individuals who have either publicly supported Fenty or contributed to the campaign, says Rosenstein, who takes all the blame for the snafu. “It was my mistake, and I apologize,” he says.
Food & Friends wasn’t the only group surprised to find its name on Fenty’s public invitation. No one from the Mautner Project or the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) was contacted before the ad ran, according to staff from both organizations. Justin Nelson, co-founder and president of the NGLCC, calls himself “a strong Fenty supporter.” His name is on the invite. But he’s not sure why the Fenty camp felt compelled to list his group without asking. “[The ad] should have been written on personal attributes, not organizational attributes,” he says. “I probably will have a conversation with the Fenty folks on getting any clearance on using my name.”
All of the organizations involved say Fenty promptly called to apologize when the objections were raised. —James Jones
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