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The District’s new way of electing a mayor goes roughly like this: Fixate on a hopeful who has nothing in common with the incumbent. Form a core group of supporters from disparate wards to make phone calls and solicit support. Raise a little money.
“Then you go to the prospective candidate and see if he thinks that you’re out of your mind,” explains Marilyn Groves, a Dupont Circle civic activist and supporter of a movement to draft Ward 4 Councilmember Adrian Fenty to run for mayor.
In recent weeks, a cabal of D.C. residents, primarily from Ward 2 and Ward 4, has been forming an “ad hoc citizens committee” to draft the 31-year-old freshman councilmember to run for the city’s highest elected office. It’s not inconceivable. Detroit elected 31-year-old Kwame Kilpatrick as its mayor in November. Both have local bona fides: Kilpatrick’s mother serves as a member of Detroit’s congressional delegation; Fenty’s parents own Fleet Feet in Adams Morgan.
Even with improper fundraising allegations swirling around him, Mayor Anthony A. Williams—who has some experience with draft movements—needn’t worry about the Fenty corps. For one thing, Fenty insists he’s not planning on running.
For right now, at least.
More important, the Fenty draft is mostly led by provincialists and irascible advisory neighborhood commissioners. “One of the things I realize is that I don’t think the current administration is taking ANC commissioner responsibilities seriously,” explains Fenty supporter Barrington Scott, an ANC chair in Ward 4’s Lamond-Riggs neighborhood.
Scott points to the Williams administration’s introduction of paid neighborhood service coordinators, whose responsibilities for addressing local concerns about trash pickup and street repairs overlap with those of the commissioners.
Then again, Scott admits a moment later, his neighborhood service coordinator does a pretty good job.
So why draft Fenty when other, more experienced councilmembers have been waiting their turn? “Because he has it,” says Mount Pleasant resident Terry Lynch. (Lynch’s work on Fenty’s behalf is separate from his work as executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations.)
“It’s hard to define what it is,” adds Lynch for clarification. “When you’ve got it, you’ve got it.”
Then Lynch finally takes a stab: “That is charisma, political savvy, and that is charisma.”
LL will make it easy for Lynch: It is a young, good-looking, well-educated African-American lawyer, who appeals to well-to-do white voters in AU Park, equally well-to-do African-American residents in Shepherd Park, and the seniors east of the river in Dupont Park who dance the electric slide at Elderfest every year.
It is not a significant legislative record.
To be fair, Fenty has served only one year on the council after defeating Ward 4 incumbent Charlene Drew Jarvis. A review of last year’s council record shows that Fenty has perfect attendance at legislative sessions. He attends most of his committee hearings, as well.
But the most significant piece of legislation he introduced this past year was a moratorium on used-car-lot licenses. He has co-sponsored a few significant bills with his colleagues, but he has mostly busied himself legislatively with ceremonial resolutions and parking prohibitions for tour buses on Eastern Avenue between Riggs Road and Kennedy Street NE.
It is not visionary leadership.
Fenty has made himself omnipresent at Ward 4 community meetings and events. It seems anybody with a pothole or a darkened streetlamp within a mile radius of the Georgia Avenue NW corridor has sat down for a tete-a-tete with the councilmember. He’s relentless about service delivery.
In the past, councilmembers who distinguished themselves as constituent gurus became aimless when they expanded their boundaries. As a freshman councilmember in Ward 6, At-Large Councilmember Harold Brazil impressed his Capitol Hill neighbors with an aggressive approach to constituent services as well as matters involving crime and justice.
Nearly a decade later, though, Brazil has compiled such an inimitable record that he practically had to draft himself to run for mayor in 1998.
With just 12 months under his belt and no committee to commandeer, Fenty hasn’t had the opportunity to do much of anything, of course. The important work of the council emerges from the powerhouse committees such as Economic Development, Finance and Revenue, and Judiciary. Yet Fenty-draft supporters are somehow drawing comparisons between their efforts and those of Williams’ movement, which drew inspiration from the candidate’s monumental work as the city’s chief financial officer. “We didn’t know what Anthony Williams was going to do,” remembers Paul Savage, one of the early supporters of the draft-Williams effort, who now works as deputy director for the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development.
So does Savage have any words of wisdom for Lynch et al.? “I don’t have any advice at all,” he says.
SEX IN THE CITY
Usually when a prospective bidder picks up a request for applications (RFA) from the D.C. government, he can expect to sift through endless pages of bureaucratese accompanied by even more unreadable volumes of attachments packed with charts, pie graphs, and budget blueprints.
Applicants interested in the D.C. Department of Health’s RFA No.1003-01 winced for a different reason: “Try these gay sex establishments if you’re in need of some ‘ack-shun!’” reads the RFA’s supplemental packet of materials, titled “Internet Sex Alert!”
RFA No. 1003-01 solicits applications for the Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Internet Surveillance Grant, intended to promote the control and prevention of STDs in the District by monitoring chat rooms and Web sites that encourage at-risk sexual behavior. After perusing the RFA and other materials, LL admits some bewilderment: What more could Health Department workers possibly learn about the D.C. anonymous-sex scene from the $75,000 contract that they don’t already know?
To wit: The 17-page packet of instructional materials accompanying the RFA offers a Zagat guide to the District’s popular clubs, national landmarks, and government-office bathrooms where these sexual encounters anecdotally occur. It includes a comprehensive list culled from cyberspace that provides tips for scoring at the Mayflower Hotel, the National Cathedral, and the Russell House Office Building. It also includes Web sites where more information on local gay cruising spots can be found and exchanged.
After putting the RFA out on the street Oct. 3, the Health Department pulled the grant proposal in December. “[M]aterials pulled from the internet were never issued as attachments or supporting documentation to the RFA,” wrote Acting Senior Deputy Director Michael Richardson to one prospective applicant, who wondered what work was left to do. “The Division of Sexually Transmitted Disease Control used such material merely in illustration to our grants management agency of the types of information available through the internet.”
The RFA is now suspended and under review, explains Health Department spokesperson Jack Pannell. In the meantime, LL suggests that the department might want to conduct STD outreach and education at the cruising locations expertly identified in the RFA materials.
After all, Health Department personnel appear pretty hip to the local scene. Page 10 describes bathrooms designated the “Connecticut Connection,” including one in the gas station at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Fessenden Street NW. “Fessenden is closer to Chevy Chase, MD than to the City,” it notes in all practicality, after describing the signal for a sexual rendezvous at that location. “The cross streets off Connecticut Avenue are alphabetical. So, Fessenden Street is between the streets that start with the letters E and G.”
In a priory in deepest Southwest—wedged in between I-395 commuters, L’Enfant Plaza bureaucrats, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration—live 26 Dominican friars, who busy themselves worrying about the spiritual state of the universe and the well-being of the dispossessed. So they probably have little time to consider a matter of contention at the Wilson Building: the ANC in which they rightly belong.
When the District reconfigured its ward boundaries following the 2000 Census, much of Southwest switched from Ward 2 to Ward 6—save a swath of land in the quadrant directly north of the Southeast/Southwest Freeway, which the friars of Saint Dominic’s and—according to At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson—seven other D.C. residents of undetermined religions call home. And when the ANC redistricting task forces met, they had to decide whether to keep Southwest in one discrete ANC—or divvy it up among the two wards.
After the task forces stamped out small fires in Chevy Chase, Foxhall, and elsewhere, Southwest remains the only hot zone. Mendelson, who chairs the council’s Subcommittee on Labor, Voting Rights, and Redistricting, favors the creation of one ANC for all of Southwest. Following some deft diplomacy, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans agreed to let the friars participate in the Ward 6 ANC. But he’s insistent on keeping the land surrounding them within ANCs 2C and 2F in Ward 2.
And he disputes Mendelson’s claim of seven displaced residents. With the brothers taken care of, Evans claims, no other D.C. residents are affected.
“I think one might live at the Best Western,” says Mendelson. After cruising the streets in search of the elusive Southwest Seven, LL must correct the detail-oriented councilmember: The Best Western Capitol Skyline Hotel has an address of 10 I St. SW and lies south of the freeway, safely in Ward 6. The Holiday Inn Capitol at 550 C St. SW, on the other hand, sits right in the middle of the turf dispute.
But that’s secondary: Why the big brouhaha anyway?
Evans believes that ANCs should not cross ward boundaries. But Mendelson asserts that the Southwest Seven have much more in common with their Ward 6 neighbors across the freeway than the quarrelsome busybodies who inhabit Ward 2’s Shaw and Logan Circle neighborhoods. “In one way, it’s analogous to our situation with Congress,” Mendelson loftily claims. “They will have to go up to Shaw or Logan Circle…where nobody there was elected by them or is answerable to them or has any reason to be interested in them.”
That’s not totally true. Mendelson knows of at least one Ward 2 resident who might be interested in what happens in D.C.’s tiniest quadrant: Evans, who has been a good friend to the city’s real estate and development communities. If the ANCs in Ward 2 included the Southwest Seven, they could bring their “great-weight” opinion to lucrative Southwest development projects.
“Ward 2 is defined by the Mall and the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor,” Evans says. “To give up all the area up to Independence Avenue makes the ward smaller and much less defined by what it used to be.” Plus, he says, the Ward 6 ANCs could still throw around their “great weight” on neighboring development projects such as those involving the Portals site and other spots along the Southwest waterfront.
And with God now on their side, that’s a voice hard to ignore.
D.C. GENERAL’S OLYMPIC VILLAGE
Ever since District officials began plotting to seize control of the federal grounds around the former D.C. General Hospital, local activists have been spinning interesting theories about how the city would use the riverfront property. Under current law, the land must be devoted to health-care uses, but the transfer of jurisdiction would strip all conditions on its deployment.
At a Tuesday D.C. Council hearing on the matter, statehood activist Debbie Hanrahan addressed rumors that D.C. General’s environs would morph into a training ground for Olympic hopefuls, in the spirit of Washington’s bid for the 2012 summer games. Or perhaps a baseball stadium. “Does anyone on the council know of such plans, and do any have a responsibility to let the citizens of the District know about them?” asked Hanrahan.
Council Chair Linda Cropp retorted, “I honestly have not heard of any specific use, for the Olympics there or for a stadium there.” Then she chuckled: “One of the things I thought of was that the Olympics might need an emergency health-care center,” she said. CP
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