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Between Navigatorgate, crony hiring controversies, and Sulaimon Brown, last week was a bad one for the District. But did it rank as D.C. government’s historical nadir?
So argues Frank James of NPR’s politics blog. Reviewing the Wilson Building’s no good, very bad week, James speculated that the media spectacles had set back the city’s efforts to preserve or expand home rule:
In fact, it may have been one of the worst weeks ever in the annals of city government. That really saying something since Washington is the city that literally saw one-time Mayor Marion Barry busted by federal agents in a hotel room on cocaine charges.
The post drew some quick derision on Twitter from our colleague Jason Cherkis, among others. His point: A bum SUV deal and some questionable appointments don’t rank with, say, a mayoral crack bust or the imposition of a federal panel to boss around democratically-elected officials.
I’m not so sure the worst-week-ever argument is quite that absurd. In 1990, when Marion Barry was arrested, or 1995, when his bankrupt government was supplanted by the Control Board, District residents were accustomed to constant news stories about scandal and ineptitude—it just happened that those particular stories were especially bad. By contrast, Washingtonians today have spent a decade hearing, rightly or wrongly, that theirs is now a city where the minor tasks of self-governance are handled with drama-free competence. Against that backdrop, last week’s outrages came with a shock value much greater than their relatively puny financial or news value.
And thank God for that! When the appointment of hackish ex-candidates or insiders’ children stops shocking people, that will be a genuinely low week for the city.
At any rate, what do you think? Over at City Desk, Assistant Managing Editor Michael E. Grass and a crew of our interns have been collecting local-history high- and low-lights for a feature called Today in D.C. History. We’re always looking for less celebrated moments in the District’s past. Leave your worst-week-ever nominations in the comments section below. Maybe you’ll have remembered something we—and the rest of the city—tried hard to forget.