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In the early stages of the 2006 mayoral campaign, Ward 4 Councilmember Adrian Fenty will step up to the microphone at a candidate forum and be asked to list his legislative highlights.
Here are the big-ticket items he can talk about after five years on the D.C. Council:
•a 2004 amendment to restore full funding for a city trust used to jump- start construction of affordable housing,
•legislation mandating that the city close the troubled Oak Hill juvenile-detention facility by 2008,
•amendments to the Juvenile Justice Reform Act,
•a ban on single-container alcohol sales in Ward 4, and
•funding for a new aquatic center in Ward 4.
After Fenty takes his seat, another likely mayoral contender, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, will stand up and offer his own greatest-hits list:
•passage of the financing plan for a stadium to house the Washington Nationals,
•the massive new Washington Convention Center,
•income-tax cuts that Evans pushed over the objections of Mayor Anthony A. Williams,
•a more citizen-friendly cap on property-tax escalation,
•a grab bag of big downtown development deals, and
•tough budget cuts that led to the removal of the financial control board.
Evans will sit down wearing a big grin.
Fenty’s legislative record is a touchy issue for the second-term councilmember. He knows he’s a popular politician. He knows he’s a favorite quotemeister for the local press. But his calm, reassuring MO shifts into replay mode when the topic turns to his performance on the council dais.
“All I can say to that is just look at my record,” Fenty says. He repeats that over and over, with only a hint of discomfort.
Perhaps Fenty should build a campaign platform based on the things he has opposed. That list is about as long as his more proactive accomplishments. For starters, Fenty has:
•opposed the financing of a new ballpark,
•opposed the mayor’s school-takeover plan,
•opposed ending term limits for the council and mayor,
•opposed measures to make it easier to lock up juveniles and open their hearings to the public, and
•opposed cuts to a wide variety of social programs.
Aware that his record leaves him vulnerable from Palisades to Benning Heights, Fenty is now scrambling to add some bulk to his legislative frame. His version of political steroids is his chair atop the council’s Committee on Human Services.
For starters, he’s pushing a bill to reform the city’s programs for the homeless. The city’s troubled Office of Youth Rehabilitation Services is also in his sights. Despite focused efforts by the mayor’s office, the juvenile-justice system remains a mess. “If we don’t fix the problems, that agency will go back into receivership,” Fenty says.
This week Fenty dropped his biggest legislative bomb to date. He wants to use D.C. Lottery money to fund a $1 billion bond to repair and modernize schools. The bill was referred to the Committee on Finance and Revenue, which is chaired by his good friend Evans.
The clock, however, is working against the young mayoral-candidate-to-be. Even in hurry-up mode, over the next year Fenty won’t be able to compile the oversight record of an Evans or even a Vincent B. Orange, the Ward 5 councilmember who’s also likely to run for mayor.
The situation calls for rhetoric—a campaign message crafted to highlight Fenty’s assets and downplay his slim record. In recent get-togethers, Fenty has tested several, and LL hereby places them in chart form.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The political action committee created to advance the career of Evans will no longer bear his name.
Jack PAC is now the much more boring D.C. Fund, according to its treasurer, David Julyan.
D.C.’s Office of Campaign Finance asked for the name change in an April 7 letter from the office’s general counsel, Kathy Williams, to then–Jack PAC Treasurer Mark Grummer. Williams expressed concern that “[m]aintaining ‘Jack’ in the PAC’s name causes a problem because it is confusing to contributors” to Evans’ personal campaign committee or constituent-services fund.
Jack PAC has been used to fund a variety of Evans’ political activities, such as contributions to local political organizations, dues to the Democratic National Committee, and travel expenses related to his political agenda.
The PAC provides another great avenue for big developers and other influence-seeking citizens to let Evans know how much they appreciate his efforts. Besides, they can help Evans avoid having to ask the city to pick up the tab for expensive business trips.
The Jack PAC Jan. 31, 2005, expense report included a Dec. 16 expenditure of $6,772.72 labeled “Reimbursement for expenses incurred during China delegation trip.” The recipient was Jack Evans. The reimbursement caught the eye of Office of Campaign Finance Auditor Renee Coleman-Bunn, who questioned the propriety of “certain PAC reimbursement expenditures” for Evans. She asked Williams to take a closer look.
Williams says that the committee “did nothing out of compliance with the regulations.”
But she did say it’s time that the “Jack” be officially removed from the PAC.
•oAt-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz is gearing up. But it has nothing to do with preparing for a fifth mayoral run.
Schwartz has been zipping around town in a bright-yellow 2002 Pontiac Trans Am. A black convertible top and black racing stripes call to mind the traditional Schwartz campaign colors.
The signature red 1988 Chrysler LeBaron convertible that carried Schwartz through four losing mayoral campaigns will be retired.
“In case anyone doubted I was going through a midlife crisis, they can be sure now,” the always boisterous Schwartz tells LL.
She says the yellow-and-black color scheme is “just a coincidence” and does not suggest any new political ambitions.
Schwartz calls her new eye-catching ride a complement to her big personality.
“That car makes me look subtle,” she says.
•oLobbyist and D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commissioner Michael Brown will also be sporting a new look on the streets as he explores a possible mayoral bid.
Brown has been informed by the mayor’s office that he will no longer be issued one of those low-numbered license plates. The plates are doled out as favors to the District’s politically connected class.
Brown found out about his less-than-elite status late last month in a letter from mayoral Chief of Staff Alfreda Davis. She tells LL that there are lots of reasons why a plate could get yanked: relocation, death, a switch to vanity plates. Brown was in another category: “Frankly, we have some people who no longer share the mayor’s vision,” she says.
That’s for sure—Brown is almost assuredly running for mayor. And along the way, he’s imperiled his low-number tags through various attacks on Mayor Williams. Here’s a sampling: “We need a mayor who gives everyone a seat at the table.”
Brown says he nabbed the No. 60 plate when Marion S. Barry Jr. was mayor. His number dropped to 43 after Williams took over. He was moving in the right direction—the lower the better.
Now he’s just like the rest of us two-letter, four-digit bums. So much for being rewarded for expressing an interest in city affairs.—James Jones
On the Record
How Adrian Fenty is rushing to fill the gaps in his legislative history
Issue: Crumbling D.C. School Buildings
Fenty Record: Advanced amendment to ballpark bill to use portion of business tax to fund school improvements. (It failed.)
Campaign-Trail Salve: Calls for deputy mayor for education
Skinny: Hey, lightweight: Since mayor has no power over schools, Deputy Mayor for Education would have no one to supervise.
Issue: Public Safety
Fenty Record: Informed press of every Ward 4 homicide, met cameras on the scene. Set up press tours of crime-infested neighborhoods.
Campaign-Trail Salve: “The police are doing a better job, but people still don’t feel safe.”
Skinny: Speaking of clichés, try this one, too: “One homicide is too many for me.”
Issue: Lifting Up the Poor
Fenty Record: Chairs Committee on Human Services. Pushing sweeping reform for homeless programs.
Campaign-Trail Salve: “For too long we have ignored the needs of the most needy in our city….We all know that we all have a stake in helping the least among us.”
Skinny: Thus spoke Dave Clarke, Marion Barry, Kevin Chavous, Harry Thomas.…
Issue: More Responsive Government
Fenty Record: Always connected to BlackBerry. Personally responds to e-mail, even from the council dais.
Campaign-Trail Salve: “The residents of D.C. are not going to let the government off the hook [just] because their calls are being answered.”
Skinny: Long live the Citywide Call Center!
Issue: Local Business Climate
Fenty Record: Micromanages big-single-beer sales.
Campaign-Trail Salve: “People elected me to address quality-of-life issues.”
Skinny: Fenty risks support in alleys of Kennedy Street NW.
Issue: Surge in Nationals Fever
Fenty Record: Opposed publicly financed ballpark.
Campaign-Trail Salve: “This election will not be decided by one issue….The baseball vote was last year. It’s time to move on.”
Skinny: Yeah, to the playoffs!
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