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LL was all excited about wishing Mayor Adrian M. Fenty a happy 39th birthday on Saturday evening—-or at least mingling with all the folks gathered at a posh Foxhall residence to do so.
Thus LL was left in the cold and snow to report on the happenings outside. Which is to say: a passel of protesters about two dozen strong who occupied the sidewalk in front of the Hoban Road NW manse.
The activists, led by union organizer Rick Powell, Empower D.C.’s Ruth Castel-Branco, and others, spouted such chants as: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Adrian Fenty’s got to go”; “Fenty, we see what you’re about; we put you in, we’ll take you out”; “parties for the rich; shit for the poor”; “it’s cold and wet, but we aren’t done fighting yet”; and the most popular refrain of the night: “one term mayor.”
When Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and beau Kevin Johnson showed up, the chants lapsed into hearty boos.
But inside the manse, both the climate and the reception for Hizzoner were much warmer.
LL was able to hear some of the night’s speechifying from the sidewalk. A large tent erected outside the house didn’t quite contain the rousing introduction from Ward 4 Councilmember and stalwart Fenty ally Muriel Bowser, who offered a ward-by-ward rundown of Fenty accomplishments. “We cannot take the progress we’ve made these last three years for granted,” she intoned. “I promise you, that what we do next September in the Democratic primary will determine whether our city will be moving forward or whether it will be moving backward.”
Fenty followed with a 20-minute stemwinder. With wife Michelle at his side, he acknowledged the checkered history of site on which was was speaking—-noting philanthropist Betty Brown Casey‘s plans to build a mayoral mansion thereupon. “That didn’t work out,” he said, before thanking Elm Street Development, which acquired the site to build, as Fenty put it, “another great development happening in Washington, D.C.”
With polls showing soft support and well-motivated and well-financed challengers readying runs against him, Fenty delivered a stump speech light on passion but heavy on concrete accomplishments.
He proceeded to reiterate Bowser’s ward-by-ward rundown, mixing some projects that were in the works well before his mayoral tenure with some that are by all rights his own. He talked up increased responsiveness of the city bureaucracy. He talked about improvements to the city’s social services. And he certainly talked about his reform efforts in the public schools—-citing drastic improvements in national math testing scores as proof positive of his success.
Summing up, Fenty said that under his three-year tenure, “The District of Columbia is a place where people want to live. The District of Columbia is a place where we’re headed in the right direction. The District of Columbia…is a place where we’re not afraid to take on our toughest issues, where we’re not afraid to do what’s right even if it may not be the immediately politically popular thing to do.”
That earned him cheers and chants of “four more years.”
Besides Rhee, plenty of folks on the Fenty payroll were in attendance: Deputy Mayor Valerie Santos, education facilities chief Allen Lew, transportation director Gabe Klein, housing chief Leila Edmonds, and ex-parks chief Ximena Hartsock, among others. Ex-Fenty right-hand man Dan Tangherlini, now a top Treasury Department official, also made the scene. Another elected official of note was in attendance, Fenty announced from the podium: Rushern Baker, the former Maryland state delegate who’s a favorite in the race for Prince George’s County executive next year.
In terms of big-money types, the event’s host committee list offered plenty of those, including philanthropists and education-reform advocates Katherine Bradley and George Vradenburg; charter school financier Joseph Bruno; Washington Kastles owner Mark Ein; parking mogul Rusty Lindner; financiers Russell Ramsey and Bud Hawk; construction moguls Gerald Sigal and Scottie Irving; and developers B. Francis Saul of B.F. Saul, Deborah Ratner Salzburg of Forest City Washington, Armond Spikell of Roadside, and many others.
One contingent that didn’t show up in force: Members of the D.C. Council. Besides Bowser, only At-Large Councilmember David A. Catania showed. At last year’s affair, Ward 1’s Jim Graham, Ward 2’s Jack Evans, and Ward 7’s Yvette Alexander also made appearances. A couple of former CMs—-Bill Lightfoot, Fenty’s campaign co-chair, and Betty Ann Kane, whom he appointed to chair the Public Service Commission—-were in attendance.
But not all those stuffed inside the big tent were Fenty fans. It turned out that LL didn’t try hard enough to sneak in: A pair of protesters made it inside the perimeter and into the tent. Soon after Fenty began his remarks—-right after boasting of his implementation of taximeters—-the pair launched into a “one term mayor” chant.
They were quickly removed from the premises.