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When Ward 8 resident Tonya Vidal Kinlow was nominated by Mayor Adrian Fenty to serve on the D.C. Board of Education, she never figured she’d be part of a very elite club in the city. No, LL isn’t talking about the school board itself, which is on the verge of extinction.
Kinlow’s exalted status derives, instead, from where she lives. She’s one of the seven nominees to top city posts who reside east of the Anacostia River. That’s out of a pool of 76 mayoral nominees Fenty either sent to the council or reappointed, including people tapped for city boards and commissions and some cabinet members selected at the mayor’s discretion.
This development doesn’t count as news. “I think in our community we are always wanting greater representation,” says Kinlow, who thinks Fenty shouldn’t be judged too harshly for his geographic preferences. “I don’t think it is Adrian Fenty, Tony Williams, or Marion Barry. It’s always the same song.”
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“Ebony & Ivory,” that is. Not only has Fenty shopped west of the river for his appointees, but he’s also shown an affinity for white ones, especially in the public-safety realm. Police Chief designee Cathy Lanier, Fire Chief designee Dennis Rubin, and Attorney General nominee Linda Singer are white. So are City Administrator Dan Tangherlini and the mayor’s legal counsel, Peter Nickles.
Ward 8 rabble-rouser Philip Pannell isn’t shy about standing at the front of the Fenty-bashing parade. Last week, he told reporter Sam Ford of WJLA-TV that the makeup of Fenty’s cabinet and his nominations to boards and commissions, “makes Tony Williams look like Shaka Zulu.”
Fenty has made some sweeping gestures to the eastside crowd. His forays to Wards 7 and 8 are a routine part of his schedule. Fenty held his first cabinet meeting at Parkway Overlook housing project in Ward 8. This weekend, he’s sending point person for boards and commissions, to the Ward 8 Democrats meeting, where people will be waiting with résumés in hand.
“It’s one thing to have a cabinet meeting in the ward,” says Pannell. “It’s quite another thing to have someone from Ward 8 actually on the cabinet.”
• Ward 8 activist Sandra Seegars didn’t mince words when it came to the federal appeals court striking down D.C.’s law banning residents from keeping guns in their homes. “I’m thrilled,” she says.
The reaction of D.C.’s political establishment was predictably contrary: Mayor Fenty called a press conference hours after the news broke and called the decision “an outrage.” He was joined by several councilmembers who know all too well that D.C. residents are supposedly very fond of the ban on owning firearms (except in rare circumstances).
But Seegars says a mostly silent but large group of residents is secretly praising the decision. “People are afraid to come out and say they would like to have a gun—even though I personally know lots of people who want one,” she says. “It just isn’t politically correct.”
Seegars has never been too worried about political correctness. When she served on the D.C. Taxicab Commission, she once advocated that taxi drivers who undergo background checks be allowed to carry a handgun in their vehicles.
Perhaps they could go to Seegars: “I may just start selling guns,” she says.
• When it comes to being the top press hound in the city, Barry hasn’t lost a step on any of his younger colleagues.
On March 9, Fenty and several councilmembers gathered at 3:30 for a very quick press conference decrying the decision on D.C.’s gun law. By the time Barry arrived at 4, only At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson was around to inform his colleague that the conference was over. “What did we say?” Barry asked. “We’re outraged,” responded Mendelson.
Barry made a beeline for the only camera lights in the vicinity. At the end of the hall, a Fox 5 reporter was interviewing a gun-control advocate. Sure enough, it was only a moment before the camera was trained on Barry, who expressed his “outrage” over the decision.
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