City Paper is not for tourists
This morning, local reporters gathered at a press event at the John A. Wilson Building honoring the World Team Tennis champion Washington Kastles. We, of course, were interested in something besides the fabulous tennis team. That, of course, was to give Mayor Adrian M. Fenty one more opportunity to explain how his twin sons ended up in out-of-boundary Lafayette Elementary School.
Things got pretty darn testy. Listen here:
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WTOP’s Mark Segraves kicked things off by asking Fenty if every student who wanted to get into Lafayette Elemetary got in.
“I’m not answering any more questions about Lafayette or my kids,” he replied.
Segraves’ rejoinder: “I’m not asking you about your kids. I’m asking you about the process…”
“I’m not answering any more questions,” said Fenty. “I’m not going to answer any more questions about my kids.”
Segraves then points out that Fenty hasn’t answered any questions about his kids.
“I’ve answered one question about my kids,” Fenty replied. “The question is: Are you going to send your kids to D.C. Public Schools? I answered that question yes. That happened Monday, Aug. 24. I’m not gonna answer any more questions. I really do want to respect you guys’ right to ask questions, but…I am asking you to please respect the fact that my kids’ personal life and their privacy needs to be respected.”
Then WRC-TV’s Tom Sherwood—-who reported Tuesday the Fenty in fact followed the lottery process—-took a stab in his drawl: “Mr. Mayor, I agree with that, that’s why I’ve tried to frame the question as not anything about your children at all but just to say that you followed the process.”
“You can ask me about process, about anything else except anything having to do with my kids. I’m not going to answer any more questions about my kids. But I appreciate the fact that you guys have a job to do. I urge you—-I’m in charge of a $10 billion budget and a 33,000…employment force. There’s gotta be other issues you can know ask me about.”
Segraves with another try: “You can dismiss this issue with one word…”
Fenty then turned directly to Segraves: “Mark, I’m not answering any questions about my kids….Stop asking.”
Another try from Segraves: “What does it say to the parents and the taxpayers in the District of Columbia that the chancellor of the schools, the deputy mayor of education and the mayor…none of those three people send their children to their neighborhood schools.”
Fenty embarked on a spiel about how he’s hired a 1,000 new teachers, filled principal vacancies, made renovations in every school, raised test scores, and has more kids taking AP classes. “I could go on and on about the achievements of our school system. I think that’s what I was elected to do, and I think that’s what the chancellor was appointed to do. If you want to talk about issues that are different than the main issues affecting the school system, that’s perfectly within your right, but I am smart enough to know that we are running the school system in the way that we were elected to do. But if you want to keep talking about issues that are different from what we got elected to do…I’m not going to answer those questions.”
Then it was LL’s turn. He barely even started the question before Fenty interrupted.
“Mike, you’ve asked me this question every day for the last three days. You’re the No. 1 political reporter for City Paper. You have to at some point to find another issue to ask me about. I’m in charge of a $10 billion budget. I have 33,000 employees. I have 40 agencies that work for me. We have 4,200 police officers; we protect the city. We have education, we have health care issues. There are affordable housing issues. There are people who are incarcerated in this city. Every day for the last three days you have asked me the exact same question. And I respectfully told you I am not going to answer any more questions. So please just stop asking.”
Then LL got his question out: “Can you assure the parents that the process is not subject to political influence?”
“If you a question about the process of how the schools are run, I will have somebody from the school system I will get you a statement….If you have a question about the process, I’ll get it to you. If you have a question about my specific personal family, I’m not answering it.”
Then Segraves again, about how reporters were provided with explanations on how the children of Deputy Mayor Victor Reinoso were admitted to similarly high-performing schools.
“Mark, I’m not even going to even answer one question about my kids. It doesn’t matter how many times you ask me, I’m not gonna answer. This is what I’d like you to do: Seeing that I’m not gonna answer any more questions, and seeing that at least for the foreseeable future I’ll still be the mayor of the District of Columbia, there has to be another story, another issue that WTOP is interested in….I’d like for you to excuse me to leave.”
Segraves: “You actually haven’t answered my question.”
Fenty: “….My answer is that I’m not gonna give you any information.”
Segraves: “You ran on accountability, transparency…”
Fenty: “Mark, how long are we going to stand here and have this conversation? Just let me know…I’m not going to say anything different. Can I be excused to go?”
With that the discussion moved to the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center (the lawyers are working on it) and the fate of a bill to put D.C. statues in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall (no answer).
UPDATE, 4:30 P.M.: There is also video of the exchange.