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March 31, 2010

Now It’s a Race

Dear Politics Fans:

Vincent Gray announced he was a candidate for mayor yesterday, and the smart money is already betting heavily against him. The press corps is claiming that Adrian Fenty is a sure thing to be reelected as mayor. The press corps has made up its collective mind, and the conventional wisdom has already been agreed upon. That’s when you know that the reporters are wrong. Here are the factors that favor Gray and those that favor Fenty.

Fenty has collected four million dollars for his campaign, and most political commentators claim that that will be decisive. Actually, it’s about three and a half million dollars more than anybody needs for an effective citywide campaign. Fenty needs more money for this race that he needed four years ago, because he doesn’t have an army of enthusiastic volunteers this time around; he’ll have to pay all his campaign workers. But how many campaign ads and mailings and yard signs does he really need? Both Gray and Fenty only need to spend enough money to assure voters that they’re really serious candidates in the race; neither one needs to establish name recognition.

Fenty has youth and energy, and he’ll try to portray Gray as being over the hill and a member of the old establishment. Fenty will try to portray this race as a rerun of the 2006 election against Linda Cropp. Gray doesn’t have to run triathlons and marathons to compete in terms of energy. Voters will be comfortable if they know that he’s physically able to spend long days working at government business, instead of spending most of his time bicycling, swimming, running, and playing basketball, like Fenty does. But he does have to show that he knows and works with all generations of politically involved Washingtonians, not just those over fifty. Fenty has a small, closed circle of allies, and most of them are his subordinates; he listens to and takes advice from very few people. But he projects the image of bringing a new generation of people into Washington politics. Gray has to show that he doesn’t just represent the politics of the past.

Gray also has to learn quickly how to play Fenty’s brand of hardball politics. Fenty knows he’s vulnerable on charges of corruption, so his allies planted stories implying that Gray was corrupt for hiring a contractor to install a fence at his house, as though a $3,000 fence was the same as tens and hundreds of millions of dollars of steered contracts. Gray has to challenge the image Fenty has of success, of having promoted development, improved parks and sports facilities, and upgraded education. To do that, he has to get down in the dirt with Fenty, or at least have allies who are willing to make hard charges against Fenty. Gray doesn’t want to say anything bad about Fenty’s deals with his cronies, about Fenty’s role in overspending and creating the city’s current financial crisis. He doesn’t want to criticize Chancellor Michelle Rhee, even though even the Obama Department of Education has had scathing comments on the DC school system under her management. (Bill Turque summarized the DOE’s comments on DC’s “Race to the Top” grant application: “The District, which came in last among the 16 finalists with 402.4 points, got hurt in four areas: no union support; lack of an evolved data collection system; questions about the sustainability of its gains in test scores and the narrowing of the achievement gap, and a tone in some passages suggesting that it is more intent on making a big national splash than putting human capital systems in place that will produce great teachers and school leaders” ( 

And Gray has to campaign against the Washington Post, which will not only run a long series of editorials supporting and endorsing Fenty, but will also protect Fenty against investigations into the rumors surrounding his private life, trivialize his noncooperation with the city council (the feud was only about baseball tickets, not about withholding information, refusing to provide government witnesses for oversight hearings, and so on), and portray the race as being all about personalities rather than about management ability and substance. It’s going to be a tough race, and it’s just begun and far from over. People remember that Fenty did awfully well in the 2006 election; what we should also remember is that in 2006 Vincent Gray got more votes than Fenty.

Gary Imhoff


Gray for Mayor
Dorothy Brizill,

On Tuesday, Council Chairman Vincent Gray formally announced his candidacy for mayor with the filing of his statement of candidacy at the DC Office of Campaign Finance (see photos on the DCWatch home page). The chairman of the Gray for Mayor Committee is Lorraine Green, and the treasurer is Betty Brown. A web site has been established,, and a campaign headquarters is already open at 1004 6th Street, NW (202-682-4729).

Tuesday’s announcement at the Reeves Building was overseen by longtime political operative Vernon Hawkins, since the Gray campaign has not yet hired a campaign manager or staff.


Why I Hate DC, #137
K. Lee, Eckington,

We live on a block that requires residential parking permits. A few months ago I rented a car. I drove directly from the rental agency to 5D, where I obtained a temporary parking permit. I displayed the permit in my windshield for the entire rental period. A few days ago I received two notices from a company representing the rental agency. They tell me my credit card is going to be charged $85 each for two parking tickets: the original amount doubled, plus a $25 administrative fee. That adds up to $170.

Because I tend to go overboard when it comes to saving things, I have — like everyone else — been trying to change my ways and reduce the clutter in my life. So I threw the temporary permit away a few weeks ago. I am hoping I can go to 5D headquarters and get the permit number from them. From there, I will head to the Department of Motor Vehicles (since they’re not reachable by phone; isn’t modern technology wonderful?), where I will doubtless spend a long, frustrating time trying to get the tickets — which were never placed on the vehicle — dismissed. I will also need a document to fax to the rental agency that proves they’ve been dismissed. With this revenue crunch, it would be easy to assume that DC has instructed ticket writers to target rental cars (which are easy to spot once you learn how), knowing that a lot of people will pay the fine rather than take half a day off from work. Please, say it ain’t so!

No one can anticipate every possible scenario. Attempting to do so uses resources. Too many times, entities just don’t bother. Therefore the burden transfers to those who are ultimately affected: the consumer/citizen, who, it is hoped, will not notice . . . or, if he does, will not have the time and energy to object. In the old days, the human beings involved in a process might recognize a bungle and preempt it. If not, they could at least understand and rectify it afterwards. Now, we’re up against systems, complicated and inherently rigid, that are meant to process most of the work quickly, and they’re run by human beings conditioned to trust in those systems. Technology has been a huge boon on the macro scale. But here on the ground, I don’t see that actual people have gained much . . . certainly not as much as we’ve lost.


Gardening After the Storm
Kevin B. Twine,

Check out the Department of Public Works (DPW) online spring recycling brochure, “Gardening After the Storm: Springing Back from Snowmaggedon,” for tips on bringing your garden back to life, composting, and how DPW can help with your community gardening and clean ups plans. To view or print the brochure, visit DPW at, select “Education and Outreach,” and then select “Brochures and Fact Sheets.” Publications are listed in alphabetical order.


Boarded Up Buildings
Alexandro Padro,

[Re: Gabe Goldberg, “What’s With Boarded Up Buildings Near the Convention Center?” themail, March 28], the building at the northeast corner of 9th and H Streets, NW, with the papered-over windows, across from the Old Convention Center, is in the US Mint’s office building. Most of the retail space in the building remained vacant due to post-9/11 security concerns. But if you walk by the 9th Street side of the corner now, you’ll be able to read that a bar/restaurant is being built there. So, presumably, the security fears have been addressed, or the Obama administration has determined that the threat is no longer a deal killer for renting out that space.

The boarded up buildings at 9th and L Streets, NW, across from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, are another matter. They are owned by Marriott International, acquired for inclusion in the Marriott Marquis Convention Center Hotel, which is currently tied up in litigation. The buildings on the northwest side of that intersection are in the Shaw Historic District, and will be renovated and included in two other Marriott projects, now that the Marriott Marquis will not extend across L Street, NW, as a result of a reduction in the total number of rooms.



National Building Museum Events, April 6-7
Johanna Weber,

April 6, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Book of the Month: A House is a House for Me. Join us in the Building Zone for an interactive reading of Mary Anne Hoberman’s A House is a House for Me, a whimsical rhyme about different types of homes. Readings at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Free drop-in program. Recommended for ages 3 to 5.

April 6, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Spotlight on Design. Landscape planner Mia Lehrer, FASLA, discusses the power of landscape to both enhance the livability of a city and heal the environment. The founding principal of Los Angeles-based Mia Lehrer + Associates presents the firm’s work, including the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan, and the Orange County Great Park. Presented in celebration of National Landscape Architecture Month. $12, Museum or ASLA members; $12, students; $20, nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

April 7, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Building in the 21st Century. Next Generation Luminaries: Solid-State Lighting Design Competition. Ruth Taylor, program manager, Energy and Environment Directorate, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, discusses the Next Generation Luminaries Solid-State Lighting (SSL) Design Competition, the first of its kind to encourage and recognize high-quality, energy-efficient SSL luminaries ready for commercial specification. Free, registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. All events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


Strengthening Ward One Together, April 9
Jose Dorce,

April’s Strengthening Ward One Together (SWOT) meeting will take the form of a DC Tenant Rights and Foreclosure Prevention workshop, April 9, 9:00-11:00 a.m., at the Columbia Heights Youth Center, 1480 Girard Street, NW. This workshop will be particularly useful for front line service providers working directly with DC renters and home owners. Natalie LeBeau, Tenant Anti-Displacement Program Director at Housing Counseling Services, is well qualified to explain DC tenant rights and how we can efficiently and effectively work to prevent displacement and homelessness through the use of existing resources and partner organizations.

Subjects she will cover during the workshop include leases, rent control, housing conditions, building sales and conversions, foreclosures, and evictions. Natalie will be available to address any other questions you may have during a question and answer period. Here is the link to the flyer:

SWOT is a collaborative effort of Ward 1 stakeholders dedicated to finding ways to make our services more effective and efficient. For more information, please contact Jose Dorce at or check out the SWOT blog:


Fort Bunker Hill Park Clean Up, April 10
Caroline Petti,

Join us and the National Park Service for a cleanup of Fort Bunker Hill Park and learn more about the park’s place in Brookland’s history on Saturday, April 10, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., at the corner of 14th and Otis Streets, NE. Fort Bunker Hill Park is one of the Fort Circle Parks surrounding the nation’s capital as part of a system of Civil War fortifications. These forts remain today as windows into the past, but also offer great potential for recreational and educational experiences.

What to bring: gloves, clippers, water. What to wear: long sleeves, long pants, closed-toe shoes. This is a sunshine-only event. In the event of rain, we will reschedule. For more information, contact David Grosso, President, Friends of Fort Bunker Hill Park at 207-5894 or go to

The Fort Bunker Hill Park Cleanup, sponsored by Friends of Fort Bunker Hill Park, the US National Park Service, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr., Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association, Michigan Park Citizens Association, Greater Brookland Garden Club, ANC Commissioner John Feeley, ANC Commissioner Tim Thomas, and ANC Commissioner Carolyn Steptoe.


Fenwick Tributary Annual Cleanup, April 10
Clif Grandy,

On 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Saturday, April 10, The Friends of Rock Creek’s Environment (FORCE) and the Alice Ferguson Foundation will sponsor the annual Rock Creek Extreme and Potomac River Watershed cleanups to improve the environment of the Potomac River and Rock Creek watersheds. Join in this regional effort at the Fenwick Tributary to Rock Creek. We start at North Portal & East Beach drives, NW (Silver Spring Station). This site is very accessible and supervised children are welcomed. The cleanup is a community service opportunity to help improve our environment. Volunteers are needed!

The Fenwick Tributary consists of several underground and aboveground streams that drain 1200 acres in the District of Columbia, Silver Spring, and Chevy Chase. This stream is significant for the direct impact that it has on Rock Creek, the Potomac, and the Chesapeake Bay. The two largest aboveground streams runs between North Portal & Portal drives and East Beach & West Beach drives near East West Highway, 16th Street, and Rock Creek Park. The fabled Silver Spring is a part of the Fenwick watershed.

For advanced registration, curriculum materials, and other information visit the web sites of the sponsoring watershed organizations: and Feel free to contact me directly.



Furnished Room, New Carrolton
Tolu Tolu,

I have a nice furnished room in my New Carrollton, MD, condo for rent. It is $ 700 a month, but well worth it. Five minutes to DC.


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