On Wednesday, Adrian Fenty voted no on a piece of crime-emergency legislation that the D.C. Council took up in a special session. Among the 12 councilmembers in attendance, the Ward 4 rep and mayoral hopeful was the only dissenter from the package, which was authored by Mayor Anthony A. Williams.
For Fenty, it was a moment to stand on principle. But for political consultants in town, it presents a golden opportunity. What media-savvy campaign svengali isn’t pitching a radio spot for the rival campaign of council Chairman Linda Cropp? LL figures he’ll save them all some time and give the citizenry an idea of what we have to look forward to on the airwaves. This ready-for-drive-time ditty is offered at no charge to the Cropp faithful:
Music: Dramatic, throbbing, intense
Voiceover: During the first two weeks of July, a crime wave sweeps across the District of Columbia.
(dramatic pause) 14 killings in 12 days.
(dramatic pause) Armed robberies across the city.
City Council Chairman Linda Cropp takes action. Cropp calls an emergency session and passes legislation to keep violent criminals off the streets and make our neighborhoods safer.
Every councilmember but one followed Cropp’s lead to get tough on crime.
The councilmember who voted against it? (pause)
Adrian Fenty, who called Cropp’s crime-fighting package a political stunt.
And what did he propose as an alternative?
Fenty offered nothing.
And now he wants to be Mayor.
Is kind of leadership you need in the Mayor’s office?
Music: friendly, buoyant, triumphant
On Sept. 12 vote to keep D.C. moving forward, vote Linda Cropp.
Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans got it right when he summed up his arguments for the bill: “There are nine people on this dais running for an election in 57 days,” he said. “I want everybody who is watching this to see who voted for what.” Evans, who last year toyed with a mayoral run of his own, couldn’t resist taking a swipe at Fenty. “One of my colleagues suggested that we table this stuff and not do anything.”
Conventionally thinking pols might question Fenty’s decision to walk directly into a buzzsaw—particularly when it comes to crime. He’s operating on the hope that city voters will see him as bucking an administration that has talked big on stepping up police presence, but has never satisfied crime watchers.
Fenty wrote off the special session for what it was: a feel-good exercise designed to give one of his chief opponents some guaranteed television time during a time of heightened concern about crime.
No doubt Fenty won some converts.
Too bad his signature lack of interest in matters related to council legislation dampened any boost he might get from being the only member to shun the political no-brainer.
During the session, Fenty could have served up his own crime-bashing plan. He has an issue paper on public safety and lots of ideas about increasing police presence in the neighborhoods. But Fenty took the easy way out. He offered no amendments during a public exercise that was big on show and short on substance.
Before the vote, LL asked Fenty if he might be able to round up four of his colleagues to kill the emergency bill. “I have no idea,” he replied. When asked whether he had even spoken to any of his fellow councilmembers about their positions prior to the vote, Fenty simply said, “No.”
Cropp and her allies in Williams’ office, as well as police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, all want to fight crime. But one need only look at the mayor’s July 19 press release to grasp the subtext of this get-tough exercise.
After thanking Cropp “for moving this plan forward so quickly,” Williams’ statement dismissed any notion that his crime-fighting blitz is a practical response to events on the ground by delivering a preview of the inevitable Cropp attack ad: “I hope that Councilmember Adrian Fenty, who was the only one to vote against this package, is able to explain how he thinks voting against all of these initiatives will make the District a better place.”