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August 22, 2010

Everything You Need to Know

Dear Knowledgeable Readers:

If you haven’t paid attention to the mayor’s race before now, I envy and admire you. You haven’t missed anything, because this week several major articles have been published that tell you everything you need to know.

The Washington Post published two profiles of the major candidates. Its institutional bias was obvious in the articles’ placement in the paper. Tim Craig’s profile of Vincent Gray, “With Grit and Diplomacy, Gray Pushes Through Agenda,”, was published on Thursday at the bottom of the front page. Nikita Stewart’s profile of Adrian Fenty, “Mayor Adrian Fenty, Late in Tough Reelection Campaign, Tries to Make Amends,”, was published Sunday, the highest circulation day, as the lead article above the fold on page A-1. Nevertheless, the articles got equal placement on the web site, and they are both fair and balanced, with quotes from supporters and opponents of both candidates that give the strongest cases for and against them.

Today’s Post also pairs Adrian Fenty’s campaign piece, “A Strong Foundation, But No Time to Slow Down,”, with Vincent Gray’s article, “Better Results by Working as ‘One City,’” Stewart observes in her profile that Fenty’s promises to be more open, a better listener, and more collaborative in the future are a new development. That is borne out by Fenty’s own article, which alludes to it only in two sentences near the end. The new promises don’t come from Fenty’s experiences over the past four years, but from focus groups meant to shape the campaign’s advertising. If you want to take advantage of the opportunity, act soon; it is a limited time offer that expires on primary election day.

The state of DC public schools is a major issue in the campaign, and that’s why Bill Turque’s critical examination of whether the Fenty-Rhee school reforms have really been a success, or have been an illusion supported by the skillful manipulation of statistics, is so important: “Fenty’s Political Fortunes Tied to Success of DC School Reforms,” Post readers who follow the coverage of schools by Turque, his predecessor on the schools beat Theola Labbe, and his colleague Valerie Strauss can be well informed about school issues; unfortunately, the Post’s editorial board doesn’t seem to be able to learn from its own newspaper’s coverage. Colbert King’s examination of Turque’s findings, “DC Mayor Contest Must Get Substantive on Schools, Corruption,”, shows how a less biased and more thoughtful editorial board could profit by paying attention to its reporters’ good work.

The last major article this week is Alan Suderman’s cover story in the Washington City Paper, “Is Adrian Fenty a Jerk? Politicians Say He Is. The Question for the Rest of Us This Fall Is, Should We Care?” Fenty’s supporters no longer argue that he is not a jerk; instead they say that being a jerk is admirable, that being a jerk is a requirement to be a good political leader. He has to be divisive to be decisive. He has to use corruption and cronyism to be good at construction contracting. Cities can’t be governed democratically. Instead, a city needs a strongman who will run roughshod over others in order to get things done. Fenty’s disregard and disrespect for others, including his own supporters, isn’t a flaw, but an advantage. All right, if that’s your argument, stop acting superior to and sneering at the people who supported Marion Barry for four terms as mayor. You’re no different from them.

Gary Imhoff


Bye Bye Bye
Dorothy Brizill,

Last Saturday, August 21, the Ward 8 Democrats held a meeting and endorsement vote for candidates for mayor, council chair, and at-large members of the council in the September 14 Democratic primary. The meeting at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church was extraordinary in two respect — the large number of Ward 8 residents who attended the meeting and the thorough trouncing of Mayor Fenty. In the past, Ward 8 residents have not turned out in large numbers in primary elections. For example, only 27.01 percent of Ward 8 registered Democrats voted in the September 12, 2006, primary, compared to 46.62 percent of registered Democrats in Ward 3. In 2002, only 23.46 percent of registered Democrats in Ward 8 voted in the primary. Therefore, it was quite extraordinary that on Saturday, a lovely summer afternoon, more than five hundred people attended the Ward 8 straw poll. A common refrain uttered by the ward’s community leaders throughout the day was that the ward was sending a message to the media and the various campaigns: “So you think we don’t vote; we’ll show you.”

With respect to the endorsement vote, 350 ballots were issued to Ward 8 registered voters. Sixty percent of all votes cast, or 188 votes, was needed to secure the endorsement.) The results were, for mayor: Leo Alexander, 2; Adrian Fenty, 59; Vincent Gray, 244; Sulaimon Brown, 1; Ernest Johnson, 0; and write-in, 1. For council chair: Kwame Brown, 227; Vincent Orange, 53; and Dorothy Douglas, 14. For council at-large: Michael Brown, 68; Clark Ray, 95; Phil Mendelson, 144; and write-in, 3.

Ron Moten of Peaceoholics, a DC government contractor and Fenty campaign strategist, was largely relegated to the sidelines. Because the Ward 8 Democratic Committee did not allow “same day voter registration, Moten wasn’t able to bring a cadre of young people to vote, as he had done at the Ward 8 candidate forum and straw poll on May 15. As a result, Moten spent most of the afternoon outside on a bullhorn, taunting Gray supporters as they entered and left the church. Immediately following most candidate forums and meetings, Mayor Fenty holds a rally with his campaign staffers and supporters. On Saturday, when Fenty tried to gather his staff on the sidewalk just outside Matthews Memorial, he was completely surrounded and overwhelmed by Gray supporters who chanted the refrain to N Sync’s song “Bye Bye Bye,” suggesting that Fenty’s days in office were coming to an end. Unable to be heard, Fenty and his Green Team were forced to retreat to a parking lot adjacent to the church, where they posed for group photos (see and braced for the inevitable bad news from the straw poll.


A Leopard Doesn’t Change Its Spots
Karl Jeremy,

Four years ago we forgave an apologetic Adrian Fenty when he admitted he had mismanaged a client’s money while he was its appointed guardian. Today, he’s guilty of the most blatant exhibit of cronyism by any mayor of this city. His habits have not changed. It’s a shame the Trout Report won’t be released before the September primary, because it will disclose the pay to play development deals that have fattened the pockets of the mayor’s fraternity brothers. Sinclair Skinner, a concern during the first campaign, is still around, but now driving a Porsche and no longer living over his failing dry cleaning establishment. The Trout findings won’t come as a surprise but they will confirm what so many have been saying, “The Mayor lacks integrity.”

The Anacostia River Cleanup Fund and the Tree Fund have both fallen victim to the mayor’s sticky fingers, which prompted David Alpert of GreaterGreaterWashington to write on June 2, “It’s always tempting to just use the revenue [Anacostia River Clean Up Fund] for other purposes. The mayor tried to do the same with the performance parking revenue, which has to go to local neighborhoods to get support for the policies in the first place,” The Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act of 2009 Fund is intended to restore and protect the Anacostia River and provide wetlands restoration, trash traps, storm drain screens, etc., and also pay for the distribution of free reusable grocery bags to low-income, elderly, and otherwise needy DC residents. The mayor used the proceeds to fund DPW’s street cleaning budget. The Tree Fund is another dedicated pot of money the mayor appropriated. Over a half million dollars was taken from the fund to cover general fund shortfalls. Mark Buscaino of Casey Trees noted, “The loss of $539,000 equates to about 2,000 replacement trees. Fenty and many DC council members have touted their ‘green’ goals, promising green jobs, green neighborhoods, and a fishable, swimmable Anacostia River. Mr. Fenty also set an ambitious and attainable tree canopy goal to cover 40 percent of the city, for which he deserves credit. With this budget action, however, we must ask whether these promises are serious initiatives backed by sustained funding, or empty promises. I urge the mayor and council to restore the Tree Fund money and plant the 2,000 trees that residents and those who paid fees into the fund are owed,”

Public school progress has been the one area where the mayor has felt really comfortable trumpeting success and spending at will. In spite of the fact enough money has been spent to send each student to private school, the recent AYP scores indicate things are not significantly improved across the city, and especially in Wards 7 and 8. Instead there is mass job insecurity among teachers, success is being claimed for programs Clifford Janney began and the tyrant in charge has little in her own educational portfolio and must be called Schools Chancellor rather than Superintendent of Schools. Ward 3 residents, recognized as the mayor’s support base, seem oblivious to the fact that only schools that were previously performing well continued to perform above AYP requirements while other Ward 3 schools remained or fell below the mark in reading, math, or both. These results do not demonstrate significant improvement considering the gross amount of money thrown at improving public schools and the number of magazine covers that have featured the Chancellor’s image. Voters needs to recognize there is no guarantee Michelle Rhee will remain in Washington after her September 4 wedding when she must decide which mayor has her favor. She needs to be honest about her plans rather than holding voters hostage. A leopard doesn’t change its spots and Adrian Fenty cannot change character flaws that have developed over thirty-nine years. It’s time to elect a mayor with integrity, and Vincent Gray has my vote.


Eleven Effective Mayoral Skills
Alvin C. Frost,

The position of DC mayor requires a number of important skills and characteristics in order to be successful. The District government had fiscal 2009 revenue of $9 billion for governmental activities and almost 28 thousand employees under the mayor’s control. If the District were a private business, it would be a Fortune 500 corporation. As a result, it must function as though it is a corporation, while also operating as a not-for-profit organization. The mayor, as the chief operating officer, is responsible for creating and managing the budget, in addition to directing the many different employees that must respond to both the critical and day-to-day needs of the residents of Washington, DC, in addition to the many visitors who commute to work or visit the city, and to the federal government that is headquartered here.

I am suggesting these eleven effective mayoral skills that should help the next mayor to accomplish all of the important things that the people of Washington, DC, need done. These eleven skills are: 1) Conceptual — the mayor must have the ability to use information to solve problems, identify opportunities for innovation, recognize problem areas and implement solutions, and select critical information from masses of data, understanding the government uses of technology. 2) Human — the mayor must have the ability to interact effectively with people. Great managers interact and cooperate with staff and employees. Because mayors must deal directly with people, this skill is crucial. Mayors with good human skills are able to get the best out of their people. They know how to communicate, motivate, lead, and inspire enthusiasm and trust. These skills are equally important at all levels of management. 3) Technical — technical skills are required for the mayor to understand the nature of the jobs that people under him have to perform. The mayor must understand that, at his level, the conceptual component, related to the functional government areas, becomes more important, and, although the technical component becomes less important at his level, it is critical for his managers and supervisors. 4) Decision-Making — an effective mayor is characterized by the ability to make good decisions. A mayor considers all of the different factors before making a decision. Clear and firm decisions, combined with the willingness and flexibility to adapt to circumstances and adjust decisions, when necessary, create confidence in the mayor. 5) Communication — the mayor’s ability to transform ideas into words and actions creates credibility among citizens, colleagues, peers, and subordinates. Listening to others and asking questions, oral presentation skills, and familiarity with written and graphic formats are critical.

6) Effectiveness — contributing to government mission and departmental objectives, customer focus, and multitasking; working at multiple tasks at parallel, negotiating skills, project management, reviewing operations and implementing improvements, setting and maintaining performance standards internally and externally, setting priorities for attention and activity, and time management are all necessary for mayoral effectiveness. 7) Competent subordinates — effective mayors are not threatened by capable contemporaries or subordinates. They understand that their organization is only as strong as their weakest link. The mayor must surround himself with accomplished and effective managers and subordinates, and then allow them to do their jobs. 8) Ethical and moral — high moral standards frequently distinguish effective mayors from manipulative, combative-type leaders who tend to use flattery, compliance, confrontation, indirect threats, and their position to manipulate subordinates and the public. Good mayors lead by example, and not by empty platitudes and excuses. 9) Experienced — good mayors have one consistent characteristic that allows them to be effective: relevant experience. Whether doctors, lawyers, CPAs, teachers, or mayors, they usually have relevant educations and experience in various organizations and positions before they achieve the top position in city government. Individuals with relevant and effective experience are able to rely on past situations to inform them as to how to deal with current situations and to plan and prepare for the future. 10) Financial management — mayors have a fiduciary responsibility to balance the budget and to also be effective, both for today’s operations, but also in preparing for future challenges. Irresponsible spending today limits future options, while insufficient spending today allows for current problems to worsen in the future. The mayor must balance current spending with effective saving for the future. 11) Team building — a mark of a good mayor is that he, or she, has to be able to provide consistent motivation to his team, encouraging them to attain excellence and quality in their performance. A good mayor is always looking for ways to improve operational standards and effectiveness.

I suggest that District voters either use these eleven effective mayoral skills to evaluate the 2010 candidates for DC mayor, or that they develop similar skill lists on their own. In any case, I strongly recommend that DC voters go well beyond differences in age, personality, supporters, funding, etc., in order to decide which mayoral candidate to support and/or vote for.


DC’s Child Prostitution Rates Are Among the Highest in the Country
Mai Abdul Rahman,

In the past, child prostitution was limited to poor developing countries in faraway continents, but our prolonged poor economic conditions have contributed to the rise child prostitution in the US and DC in particular. Experts estimate the average number of children sexually exploited in the US is two hundred thousand, Tens of thousands of young children are sexually exploited in the US daily, Unfortunately DC’s child prostitution is among the highest in the country, and merits serious consideration by DC city officials and legislatures.

The Declaration of the World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (1996) considers child sexual exploitation a form of “slavery” and defines child prostitution: as “sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or kind to the child or a third person or persons. The child is treated as a sexual object and as a commercial object.” According to the UNICEF, children living in poverty are highly vulnerable and willingly or unwillingly engage in sexual activities to fulfill key need such as food, shelter, and to earn money to “ simply survive,” In DC, poor children are traded and sexually exploited. In 2009 the FBI rescued over 45 teenage prostitutes, some as young as thirteen, in a nationwide, three-night sweep called Operation Cross Country. Operation Cross Country took place in DC as well as other states, In 2008, the DC Human Trafficking Task Force discovered thirty-two cases of children sexually exploited by older men in DC. Child prostitution is likely to increase with the worsening economic conditions our city is facing, and the factors that lead to child prostitution get little attention from city officials and legislators. Dealing with sexually exploited children is confounding our schools’ psychologists and counselors, who are ill equipped to address this alarming phenomena. I learned first hand of the rise in child prostitution rates in the 2009-2010 school year, where I encountered school counselors and psychologists perplexed by the increase in the number of students forced into prostitution to make ends meet, secure shelter, food, or transportation money.

In DC, two factors have contributed to child prostitution among school-aged children: poverty and homelessness — two problems our city has yet to come to grips with. In DC more than 23 percent of children live below the poverty line (at $21,800 for a family of four), Although DC is among the top twenty cities with the highest cost of living along with Baltimore and New York City, DC’s TANF (welfare) benefits for a family of three are inadequate at $428; Baltimore’s is $565, and New York’s is $691. Meanwhile DC’s homeless rates are highest in the country. In 2009 more than sixteen thousand residents were homeless. Surprisingly many of them are employed and 37 percent of them are families with children in a city that only provides 162 units for homeless families. In addition, there are approximately three thousand stand-alone homeless children vying for 64 emergency shelter beds and 78 units of youth housing. The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless’ 2010 survey found “homeless individuals were turned away from emergency shelter 25 times each night,” Meanwhile studies suggest that 30 percent of homeless children living in shelters are victims of sexual exploitation and more than 70 percent of homeless children forced in the streets are forced to engage in “survival sex” to secure food, housing, and transportation.

The impact of child prostitution is devastating to young children and takes a heavy toll on their physical and mental health. Our city needs legislators aware and prepared to address the root causes of DC’s high child prostitution rates determined to pursue and secure DC’s federally appropriated funds, such as the TANF “Emergency Contingency” fund established in the federal stimulus legislation — that DC has yet to fully take advantage of. These federal funds will augment DC’s declining revenues, maintain and/or restore low-income families and child services, and assist local nonprofits to meet the rising demands for their services. Legislators must muster the will to mobilize available support from a broad range of stakeholders including federal and local agencies, nonprofits, academicians, and educators to generate the political momentum necessary to deal with DC’s high rates of sexually exploited children.


Townhall Meetings
Rachel Thompson,

Having grown up in a town with town hall meetings I can confidently say that “ain’t no way” that town hall is one word, or that “town hall meetings” is any fewer than three words.

“Blindside” is a verb; one word, I agree. “Town hall” is a meeting at a hall in a town. Forgive me for overstating the obvious. At least no one’s using “town hall” as a verb yet, as in, “you’re townhalling me.”

You should keep a copy of the Oxford Dictionary! The online dictionaries are mostly awful.


Eyes Wide Shut
Charlie Wellander,

As Gary puts it so well, blindsided by a spellchecker (or spell checker or spell-checker). They are handy things, but their blind side is lexical categories, a.k.a. parts of speech. The Online Etymology Dictionary,, says that the verb form (blindside) first attested in 1968, is “written as one word.” That same OED gives the split version (from c. 1600) only for the much older noun, which may also be one word, especially in Britain. The other OED (Oxford English Dictionary) also lists the noun form as two words or one word, but shows that the verb has always been one word (sometimes hyphenated).

Even Hollywood has grokked this distinction: Blindside (1986) starring Harvey Keitel, but The Blind Side (2009) with Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw.



Online Discussion of Trash Preparation/Collection, Debris Clearing, and Sandbags, August 25
Kevin Twine,

The Department of Public Works (DPW) Solid Waste Management Administration will respond to residents’ questions regarding trash and debris collection and sandbag distribution during hurricane season on Wednesday, August 25, at 12:00 p.m. DPW’s emergency preparedness officer also will provide tips and information to help keep residents safe and prevent water damage to their property

Residents can join or follow the discussion at once the chat session begins. Wednesday, August 25, 12:00-1:00 p.m. This is the seventh in a series of monthly online chats with DPW Director William O. Howland, Jr., and other DPW officials. Future topics will address household hazardous waste, leaf collection, snow, and other DPW operations.


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, August 27-28
John Stokes,

August 27, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Congress Heights Recreation Center, 100 Randle Place, SE. Teen Time Cookout and Softball Game for ages thirteen through eighteen. Members of the Congress Heights teen club will enjoy music, food and a friendly softball game amongst their friends and peers in the community. For more information, call Thomas Bolden at 645-3981.

August 28-October 16, 9:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. 2010 Pop Warner Little Scholars/Washington DC Pop Warner League, citywide, for ages five through fifteen. This is the beginning season of the DC Pop Warner Football League. For more information, call Kevin D. Clark at 498-2243.


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