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Sharon Pratt Dixon swept into the mayor’s office three years ago with an image as a reformer. But about the only thing she has reformed during her first term is the image of her chief rival, At-Large Councilmember John Ray. In the 1990 mayoral race, Dixon—now Kelly—ran as a crusader who aimed to take on the establishment and its favored candidate, Ray. She was the outsider, shunned by the business community from which she came, while Ray was Mr. Insider—the tool of the developers, as former D.C. Congressional Delegate Walter Fauntroy tagged him in the heat of that pivotal campaign. She could barely scrape together a quarter-million dollars for her primary campaign, while Ray collected a cool $1.4 million, much of it from special interests who openly relished the prospect of seeing their man in the mayor’s chair.
What a difference three years can make. Now it’s Kelly who’s wooing special interests, promising access to those who join her Yes Team and raise money for her re-election campaign. Ray, in contrast, is busy courting the activists and community groups who devote much of their time and energy to battling the business establishment. It was Kelly who, in February, hosted two lavish, deep-pocket fund-raisers to collect big bucks before the $100 limit on donations went into effect in March; Ray has yet to begin fund-raising for next year. Unlike Herroner, Ray can claim that he has violated neither the spirit nor the letter of the new Initiative 41 campaign finance reforms.
It gets worse for Kelly, who must deal with embarrassments committed by her campaign committee that include: accepting campaign donations illegally paid out of tax funds from the city’s Housing Finance Agency; pocketing a campaign contribution from a foreign government—Saudi Arabia—in violation of federal law; and soliciting donations from city workers and contractors on the job, in possible violation of the federal Hatch Act barring partisan political activities by D.C. employees. The mayor herself was obliged to return a $2,000 speaking fee to a city contractor after questions were raised about a possible conflict of interest.
And last Thursday, Sept. 30, the mayor sneaked past a dozen picketing protesters to huddle with 50 or so business and civic leaders at the posh Club of Franklin Square. There, she rubbed shoulders with some of the same people whom Ray recently irritated when he opposed the creation of a downtown Business Improvement District (BID) in which fees collected from business owners would be turned over to the business community to spend to its liking. Ray opposes giving business control of money collected by city agencies; likewise, the BID proposal has aroused opposition from small-business owners—who say they will be at the mercy of big business—and community activists, including recent council chair candidateMarie Drissel. In June, Ray’s unexpected opposition to this proposal led to a shouting match on the steps of the District Building between him and downtown restaurant and nightclub owner Paul Cohn, a BID proponent.
The role-reversal also has been evident in the struggle between Ray and Kelly over the chairmanship of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board. Kelly last week lobbied for council confirmation of her nominee, Mary Eva Candon, who has chaired the ABC Board for the past 18 months to fill out an unexpired term. Candon’s reappointment is supported enthusiastically by the city’s restaurant and liquor industry, which the board regulates, as well as by other members of the business community. But her continuation as chair is vigorously opposed by some neighborhood activists and community groups, and Ray, heeding their pleas, has held up Candon’s reappointment for months. But Candon’s nomination was approved last week on a 3-2 vote in the council’s Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which Ray chairs, and sent to the full council for final action.
And finally, while the mayor has tried to lay her hands on every dollar for what promises to be a bruising re-election battle next year, Ray has coolly used his four-month stint as interim chair of the D.C. Council to reinforce his community ties.
“John Ray is the champion of the people,” cooed Georgetown activist Westy McDermid following Ray’s Sept. 28 vote against Candon’s confirmation. Foggy Bottom activist Barbara Kahlow seconds that sentiment. “We just love John Ray over here,” she exclaimed during a recent community forum.
During his first 12 years on the council, Ray curried favor from the business community but gained a reputation as an empty suit, a politician without message or conviction. During the last three years, Ray has managed to reverse that impression through his opposition to Kelly’s weak and flailing administration. Herroner, through her missteps, misdeeds, and miscalculations, has helped fill in the blank that was John Ray. Much of Ray’s new image has been created by necessity. After bankrolling him for mayor in 1982 and 1990—with no return on investment—the business community is not about to put its money behind Ray again in 1994. And it is no accident that Ray has recently begun to champion community movements—against Candon, the BID, and the proposed Georgetown University cogeneration power plant—that affect neighborhoods in Wards 2 and 3. Ward 3 in particular provided a big chunk of Kelly’s base when she upset Ray in the 1990 mayor’s race. But Ray’s popularity in that section of the city has grown as Kelly’s has plummeted. Although the mayor seems to have reversed her strategy of two years ago, when she repeatedly attacked her political base in mostly white Ward 3 in hopes of shoring up weak support in the city’s predominantly black eastern wards, Ray now threatens to carve off and haul away a hunk of her western base.
But many D.C. voters don’t want to have to choose between failed-reformer Kelly and Ray, whom voters may associate with the problems of the past. These voters long for a third choice in next year’s mayoral contest—that is, someone other than former Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr., whose only realistic purpose for running would be to drive reform-minded voters back into the arms of Kelly and prevent Ray from winning. (That way, Barry could have a shot at his former office in 1998, after Kelly’s second, and most likely last, term.) The voters’ preferred ’94 alternative would combine the reformist agenda of Sharon Pratt Dixon (not Sharon Pratt Kelly) with the integrity of returned Council Chairman Dave Clarke and the fresh face of Ward 7 Councilmember KevinChavous. This alternative must be someone who can offer more experience with government and management than Dixon did, but who cannot be blamed at all for the current mess.
LL, like a lot of people, is trying to figure out who currently on the scene—or not too far from it—fulfills those requirements.
Contrary to what was reported in last week’s column, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans says he did not ask downtown developer Stephen Goldberg to lobby John Ray on behalf of Mary Eva Candon’s reappointment to the ABC Board. Goldberg confirms that it was Candon herself—not Evans—who prompted his telephone call. Ray, chair of the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, had threatened to block Candon’s nomination by bottling it up in committee. But, under heavy pressure from Evans and members of the business community, Ray relented last week and let the matter come up for a vote in his committee. Three of the five committee members voted to send Candon’s nomination to the full council with the recommendation that she be confirmed. LL relied on information provided by Ray and reported that Goldberg had called Ray at Evans’ behest.
What actually happened, Goldberg says, was that he “bumped into” Candon at July’s tennis matches at the Washington Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park. “She said, “Hey, aren’t you a friend of John Ray?’ I said, “Yeah,’ and she starts telling me about this problem with the liquor board. Later on, when I heard that it was coming up, I said, “Hey, she’s a nice lady. I’m going to call John Ray.’ The whole thing is a nonevent.”
And that’s the way government works in the District of Columbia.
At least one other person wants to take credit for urging Goldberg to call Ray. Kerry Pearson, a Kelly fund-raiser-turned-lobbyist and a friend of Evans and Candon, said he also asked Goldberg to phone Ray on Candon’s behalf. Who knows? There may be a few others out there who want credit as well. But not Evans, who has taken heat from downtown housing activists for backing Goldberg’s plan to strip the housing requirement from his office-retail development project at 1201 K St. NW.
“I did not call Stephen Goldberg, period,” says Evans. “”I’ve only talked to Stephen Goldberg three or four times since I’ve been on the council.”
Evans doesn’t have to talk to Goldberg, especially about 1201 K Street. That’s because the developer’s lobbying firm, Wilkes Artis Hedrick & Lane, has talked directly to the councilmember and his staff about the project. During a four-month period last year, Wilkes Artis lobbyists Whayne Quin, Norman “Chip” Glasgow, and Steven Sher called or met with Evans eight times to discuss the project, according to 1992 lobbying reports on file with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance. The trio also billed Goldberg for a phone call to Evans’ top aide, Linda Greenan, and for four additional phone calls and one meeting with council staffer Rob Miller and D.C. Office of Planning head Al Dobbins. Wilkes Artis’ lobbying on 1201 K Street for that period cost Goldberg $3,643.
For a fuller explanation of Evans’ relationship with Wilkes Artis, see this week’s mail column.
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)continued its purge of “troublemakers” on Sept. 22, when its Greater Washington chapter voted in a new board that did not include candidates considered part of the Sam Smith faction. Local publisher and political essayist Smith was removed from the national ADA board during the summer because his activities were deemed “destructive to the organization.” He has since resigned from the Greater Washington ADA chapter.
The board election attracted around 50 members—an unusually high number for a local chapter meeting—with rare appearances by national ADA officials, who are also members of the local chapter. Longtime ADA member Stocky Everts submitted his written resignation at the start, in protest of the treatment of Smith, and called on fellow liberals to dissolve ADA and create a new organization “more in accord with the best traditions of liberalism.” But his gesture had little impact on the outcome….
Last week, while Mayor Kellywas begging the Clinton administration to send in the National Guard to combat D.C.’s crime crisis, WRC-TV reported that she was sitting on an unspent $10 million in the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)‘s budget. The council had appropriated the money, but the mayor withheld the spending to trim the city’s deficit. WRC also reported that the MPD was 300 officers below the staffing level approved by the council….
When Herroner visited the District Building Sept. 24 to testify at the council’s hearing on casino gambling, she decided to wait in her old fifth-floor office instead of the public corridor. Once inside, Kelly discovered that the door had locked and that no one in her entourage had the key. She was trapped for about 15 minutes, with her council liaison, Janette Hoston Harris, pulling frantically on the office door, until the key was produced.