By now, the citizens of the District of Columbia have learned not to rely upon Mayor Adrian M. Fenty for grand gestures and lofty rhetoric. He’s a nuts-and-bolts kind of guy, or at least he likes to give that impression, and his State of the District address, which he delivered earlier today at the Hattie Holmes Senior Wellness Center in Ward 4 was a nuts-and-bolts kind of speech.
Were you curious how many students were participating in after-school programs? The number of open special-ed cases? How many laptops were installed in first-responders’ vehicles? How many seniors participated in city programs for the elderly?
All of those factoids were there. (Respectively, 12,600, 362, 230, and 31,403, in case you’d like to know.)
But where, say, the President of the United States has typically used his State of the Union address to lay out his vision and priorities, Fenty more or less took last year’s speech, plugged in some new programs and new numbers, and went to town.
In fact, LL holds it’s unfair to even call this piece of oratory an “address”; Fenty delivered it like the list of goods that it was and hewed only loosely to his prepared remarks—-regularly departing from, augmenting, and omitting the text passed out ahead of the speech. He omitted, for instance, a reminder that “When I took office…I pledged to lead a government that’s as open, responsive, and accountable as humanly possible.” Wonder why he’d do that.
(Actually, it would have behooved him to stick even less to the speech: Nine minutes in, he offered a list of stats from the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, only to repeat the exact same list of stats seconds later—-they were repeated in the written remarks.)
Whatever forward-looking elements the “address” had, they came in the last four minutes of the 25-minute speech.
And those elements were simply big-picture previews of his budget, which will be submitted to the D.C. Council tomorrow. First off, no surprise, the fiscal 2010 budget “actually will be smaller than the 2009 budget,” but to his credit, Fenty did not sugarcoat what that would mean: “The choices will not be easy, and they won’t be popular,” he said. Hizzoner did pledge not to raise taxes in his budget (no mention of fees, however, which he hasn’t historically considered to be the same as taxes). He committed to maintaining funding for public education, cops, and the fire department—-no surprise there—-but did promise increase the infrastructure maintenance budget and “responsible commitment” to affordable housing, promising to “preserve and expand” it, “despite the downturn in the regional housing market.”
But any mention of the city’s AIDS crisis? Of skyrocketing unemployment? Of a rise in the murder rate? Of any major challenge he’s tasked with overcoming? Virtually none.
Perhaps he’s waiting for another speech. The State of the Humanly Possible, maybe?