I have been a reader of Washington City Paper for many years, and therefore it should not have surprised me to discover that Julie Wakefield’s article “Grandma Mason” (10/31) was replete with exaggerations, distortions, and omissions. The overall impression this writer attempted to convey in this poorly researched article was that Mrs. Mason’s contribution to the District of Columbia is largely ceremonial and thus typifies the entire council’s role in the District’s political arena.
Although Wakefield failed to ask a single informed question about issues facing the council during the entire day she was in our office, she attempted to portray Mrs. Mason as disinterested in the substantive issues. Referring to the fact that Mrs. Mason did not ask many substantive policy questions of a newly hired school administrator, Wakefield apparently mistook the administrator’s courtesy call for a high-level policy meeting and expected Mrs. Mason to be other than the way she would be to any informal visitor to her officewelcoming and gracious.
In her search for selective information to support the “City Paper angle,” Wakefield took issue with the fact that Mrs. Mason, along with some of her fellow councilmembers, had spent the previous night late into the evening listening to testimony relating to Children’s Island. It was disingenuous for Wakefield to imply that Mrs. Mason’s presence at the hearing was due solely to the fact that she had nothing better to do that evening. There were no other activities on Mrs. Mason’s calendar for that night because Mrs. Mason wanted to be free to attend the Children’s Island hearing. As a nonmember of the committee that heard the Children’s Island testimony, Mrs. Mason did not have to be there; she stayed until 11 p.m. because she understands how important the issue is to her constituents, and wanted to personally hear those testifying.
To bolster her irrelevancy pitch, Wakefield asserted that “few visitors drop by and the phone seldom rings.” Although it made for good copy, the assertion was yet another inaccuracy in this deliberately slanted article. As in any councilmember’s office, the number of constituents, lobbyists, and other visitors who call or visit Mrs. Mason’s office varies widely depending on whether there is a contentious issue coming up. During such times, it is not unusual for staff to field in excess of 50 calls a day.
Mrs. Mason’s stamina is legend, and apparently Wakefield tired of shadowing Mrs. Mason by the time they arrived at Councilmember Frank Smith’s birthday celebration that evening. Not a word did she write about attending the event with Mrs. Mason and witnessing the obvious affection and respect from those assembled who have firsthand knowledge of Mrs. Mason’s past and present contributions as a legislator. Perhaps the plateful of delectable food Wakefield sat down to enjoy temporarily diverted her attention. Hungry reporters, after all, have to eat.
Chief of Staff
Office of Councilmember Hilda Mason