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August 29, 2010

It Isn’t About Race

Dear Prognosticators:

I’m so predictable. I could write about a hundred things to introduce this issue of themail, but you know the one thing I have to write about. The big political news today was The Washington Post’s latest mayoral poll, which showed City Council Chairman Vincent Gray well ahead of Mayor Adrian Fenty. The major article about the poll is at; complete poll results are at; columnist Robert McCartney gives his analysis at; and columnist Mike DeBonis gives his analysis at and

The reason I have to write about this poll is that it confirms my incredible political insight and wisdom, or, more accurately, it points out one of those rare occasions on which my political prognostications turn out to be correct. Early this year, when all the political pundits said that Fenty was unbeatable, I said that he had alienated many more people in this town than the pundits realized. When the pundits said that Fenty’s campaign war chest, over four million dollars, made him a sure winner, I said that no politician needed that much money to run a citywide race in DC, that no politician could even use that much money productively, and that a credible candidate could run a successful race against Fenty on a much smaller budget. When the pundits said that Vincent Gray was too old to challenge Fenty, I wrote that the age difference between the two would turn out to be a minor and easily dismissed issue, and that Gray could even benefit from it if Fenty seemed to be disdainful of seniors. In other words, my instinct all along was that Fenty was much more vulnerable than popular opinion thought he was, and that there was good reason for him to be vulnerable.

So let me stretch my luck, and take one more stab at challenging the consensus among pundits. The analysis by Post reporters concentrates on race, and on the divide between blacks’ and whites’ opinions of Fenty, as though the difference of opinion was somehow racially motivated. This analysis, I believe, is wrong. Of course, reporters can always find people to quote who support their thesis — a black voter who says he doesn’t support Fenty because Fenty’s against blacks, or a white voter who says Fenty’s programs attract whites like him to live in Washington. But I don’t buy it. I think there are much more reasonable ways to slice the electorate into segments, and not to fall back on a belief that white voters support one black candidate, and black voters support another black candidate, for some unfathomable and irrational racial reason. I like the comments that “Kathy8” left on three of the Post articles cited above, and I think she has a more solid understanding of what’s motivating voters in this election than the Post writers and poll-takers. In response to the front-page article, “Kathy8” writes: “The people who put these polls together need to stop playing the race card and start understanding that the results they cite [as] related to race have much more to do with the racial makeup of the city than any race-related issue. Just because somebody happens to be black or white doesn’t mean that they don’t share the same American values, and many of those values are related to how deep your roots are in your community, not your skin color. More black folks have been in DC longer than the majority of white folks. It has nothing to do with race.” In response to the Robert McCartney article, “Kathy8” extended and clarified her earlier comments: “Mr. McCartney writes: ‘The process (gentrification) arouses powerful feelings for many African Americans, in part because it threatens the District’s identity as a predominantly black town.’ This analysis could have been easily written without bringing up race (and the poll didn’t need to do so either). Race is not the core issue here; the core issue is respect for the past and for history. Why do polls show that blacks are more negative toward Fenty than whites? Because the folks with deep roots in DC are overwhelmingly black, not white. The issue isn’t race at all. Fenty admits — astoundingly — that he’s a latecomer to realizing that ‘you have to include people.’ That’s called respecting the community, no matter what skin color you’re talking about. Well-run communities throughout this country manage to make positive changes and show progress without totally changing the historic character and values of their community. That’s called respect — and working together to build a community, rather than running roughshod over old-timers in favor of the new. It’s called cooperation, and it works. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with race.”

And she commented on the DeBonis blog, “It’s not about race, Mike. It’s about respect for the overall community. It’s about economic status. It’s about how deep your roots are in DC. Skin color doesn’t matter here — the racial results just happen to be what they are because DC has had a black-majority population for so long. You and the rest of the folks at the Post are misinterpreting these polls when you focus on race.”

That’s how I would analyze the poll recipients. If I were asking the poll questions, I’d ask how long people have lived in DC and how many contacts they have had with city government or Mayor Fenty himself. The longer people have lived in the city, the more contacts they have had with the city government or Fenty, the less likely they are to support him. The newer people are to the city and the less personal knowledge they have about the city government, the more likely they are to support him. That division may correspond to a high degree with race, but it isn’t racially motivated.

Gary Imhoff


Lawyers, Lawyers Everywhere
Dorothy Brizill,

Last week the Fenty campaign unsuccessfully petitioned the DC Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) to change the District’s election law to allow independent voters to be able to vote in the District’s Democratic primary. The petition and request for an emergency BOEE meeting was filed by Marc Erik Elias of Perkins Coie, who serves as the legal counsel to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and who was lead counsel to Al Franken in the 2008 Minnesota Senate election recount and contest (see

In addition to the August 20 petition, Elias also filed a detailed four-page freedom of information request with the BOEE on August 23 on behalf of the primary Fenty 2010 committee, This FOIA request seeks information on virtually every aspect of the primary election process, e.g., the list of all registered voters, the names of all individuals who have requested and those who have returned an absentee ballot to the Board, the names of all individuals who vote at an early voting center between August 30 and September 13, the names of all individuals who cast a special provisional ballot, the poll books from each of the 143 polling preceincts, copies of all FOIA requests filed by other mayoral campaigns, etc. In most instances, Elias asks the BOEE to provide the information “as soon as possible, with updates each weekday.”

Elias’ filing on behalf of the Fenty campaign suggests the likelihood — if the election is at all close — of a contentious post-election process, with challenges being decided by the Board of Elections and, perhaps, the DC Court of Appeals. While DC Attorney General Peter Nickles denies and objects to a high percentage of FOIA requests as being overly burdensome on the government, it’s a sure bet that he won’t have any objection to the Fenty 2010 Campaign Committee’s request.


George Parker, Holdover WTU President, Sues AFT
Candi Peterson,

George Parker, holdover president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, whose constitutional term ended June 30, filed a lawsuit on August 16 against the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The purpose of Parker’s lawsuit is to seek an injunction to prohibit the AFT from suspending the autonomy of the WTU. In one of Parker’s many robo calls to union members, he reported that his rationale for filing this lawsuit (which was funded by WTU members’ monies) was to protect teachers and school personnel.

You may recall that AFT President, Randi Weingarten, declared a limited administratorship takeover of the Washington Teachers’ Union because Parker refused to comply with the terms of the AFT Executive Council decision and order, dated August 4. This order indicated that AFT would oversee union elections and set a new deadline date of September 3 for union members to submit their petitions to run for elected offices. The order also required Parker to reinstate Nathan Saunders, WTU General VP’s salary forthwith and approve Saunders’ leave of absence from DCPS through the completion of the union election. When Parker refused to comply, Weingarten instituted a ‘limited administratorship,’ with future plans to hold a hearing before her executive council on the matter at a later date. Parker and members of his illegally constituted WTU Executive Board, including newly appointed members, requested that Weingarten and the AFT Executive Council reconsider its August 4 decision and order. In an August 16 letter to WTU board members, President Randi Weingarten responded: “Dear Mr. Parker: Upon due consideration, the August 4 determination which you challenge is adhered to. Unless by noon on Tuesday, August 17, 2010, we receive an unequivocal sworn undertaking from you and the Executive Board of the WTU, local 6 to comply in all respects with and to fully cooperate in all good faith with the processes previously articulated thereunder, an Administratorship shall upon unanimous decision of the President, Secretary-Treasurer and Executive Vice President of the AFT, be established and an Administrator appointed effective forthwith and without further notice to restore the rights of members in election procedures or representation, to secure and safeguard vital records and assets of the WTU from immediate threat, and to take such actions as are necessary to protect the interests of the membership in accordance with Article VI of the Constitution and bylaws of the AFT/AFL-CIO particularly sections 14 and 15 and each of the subsections thereof, and applicable provisions of law.”

Parker seems intent on having his way by delaying union elections by any means necessary. An anonymous commenter on The Washington Teacher blog described Parker’s actions this way: “George Parker’s consistent denial of the facts in relinquishing his authority as WTU president is quite troubling to me. His actions have become increasingly irrational. I don’t know him personally but from a distance he appears to be losing touch with reality and displaying signs of desperation.” Another commenter called Usereason summarizes what many union members are feeling: “I hope that Parker will come to terms with reality and peacefully acquiesce and resign. I acknowledge that Parker has given lots of people plenty to be angry and depressed about. He is reaping what he has sown. It’s hard to be concerned about him when people are suffering so much due to his actions. But on behalf of those of us who can still find some compassion for all people, I hope something can get him to come around and leave without fighting to the death (I mean that literally, because from the sound of his robo call, he is seriously desperate and irrational).”


Nine Necessary Mayoral Personality, Attitude, and Character Traits
Alvin C. Frost,

A good, or great, mayor must deal with all of the various constituents of the government: residents, voters, visitors, businesses, the federal and local governments, and special interests. In many ways, a good, or great, mayor must perform a constant balancing act among competing and oftentimes irreconcilable interests and desires. The glue that holds together the issues, the constituencies, the competence of the mayor and government, and the public is reduced to the Mayor’s personality, attitude, and character traits. If the mayor is well thought of and trusted, then the public will give him or her the benefit of the doubt. But if the mayor is not well thought of and mistrusted, then the public will not be inclined to forgive that mayor for any faults, transgressions, both public and private, or actual mistakes, no matter how minor. I have assembled nine necessary mayoral personality, attitude, and character traits, or PACs.

1) Objectivity — objectivity works in two ways. First, it helps to remove emotion, allowing people to think more rationally. The other use of objectivity is that it provides neutral territory that allows an equitable discussion to take place. When we say “be objective” we typically mean a number of things: a) be unemotional, not getting agitated or distressed in any way; b) see things as they really are, not from a personally biased viewpoint; and c) be neutral, understanding multiple points of view. An objective viewpoint is thus more realistic, fairer and far more likely to result in an agreeable resolution to human differences. 2) Responsibility — Responsibility encompasses two major things: accountability and adaptability. Responsible people own up to their role in any situation, and learn from their mistakes. Irresponsible people shift the blame to someone or something else, and make the same mistakes over and over again. Steps required to become a more responsible person are: a) understand that responsibility is earned; b) stop making excuses; c) view yourself as a creator, not a victim, of circumstance; d) overcome your fear of failure; e) acknowledge your role; and f) don’t bite off more than you can chew. 3) Honesty and Integrity — “To be honest is to be real, genuine, authentic, and bona fide. To be dishonest is to be partly feigned, forged, fake, or fictitious. Honesty expresses both self-respect and respect for others. Dishonesty fully respects neither oneself nor others. Honesty imbues lives with openness, reliability, and candor; it expresses a disposition to live in the light. Dishonesty seeks shade, cover, or concealment. It is a disposition to live partly in the dark.” (William J. Bennett, The Book of Virtues) 4) Rational Thinking — Rational thinking refers to logic or reasoning being involved in the thought process. It refers to providing the reasons or rational behind thoughts or ideas. It adds an element of calculation and planning to a stream of thoughts rather then basing them on emotional or personal opinion. It is a kind of objective process of thinking and an analytic approach to any problem. Rational thinking is based on reasons or facts and is hence much more calculating and realistic. All people are capable of thinking rationally, but some people will tend to cloud this ability because of emotions or prejudices.

5) Conscientious — Conscientiousness is the trait of being painstaking and careful, or the quality of acting according to the dictates of one’s conscience. It includes such elements as self-discipline, carefulness, thoroughness, organization, deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting), and the need for achievement. It is an aspect of what has traditionally been called character. Conscientious individuals are generally hard working and reliable. 6) Compassion — “Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.” (Thomas Merton) “Compassion is the ultimate and most meaningful embodiment of emotional maturity. It is through compassion that a person achieves the highest peak and deepest reach in his or her search for self-fulfillment.” (Arthur Jersild) “Compassion is not sentiment but is making justice and doing works of mercy. Compassion is not a moral commandment but a flow and overflow of the fullest human and divine energies.” (Matthew Fox) “The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, forgiveness.” (H.H. the Dalai Lama) Compassion is a) the desire to ease others’ suffering; b) a sympathetic awareness of another’s distress combined with a desire to alleviate it; c) kindness and caring are shown; and d) service and generosity are ways that compassion can be demonstrated. 7) Emotional Awareness — When you are aware of, and in control of, your emotions, you can think clearly and creatively; manage stress and challenges; communicate well with others; and display trust, empathy, and confidence. But lose control of your emotions, and you’ll descend into confusion, isolation, and doubt. By learning to recognize, manage, and deal with your emotions, you’ll enjoy greater happiness and health and better relationships. Without emotions and an awareness and understanding of them, it’s impossible to build or maintain strong, healthy relationships. The feelings of others will escape you unless you’re familiar with your own emotions. The more aware you are of your own emotions, the easier it will be for you to pick up on what others are feeling and accurately read their wants and needs. 8) Communicative — Good communication skills are skills that facilitate people to communicate effectively with one another. Effectual communication engages the choice of the best communications method, the technical know-how to use the method, the presentation of information to the target audience, and the skill to understand responses received from others. Self development, interpersonal skills, mutual understanding, mutual cooperation and trust is also important to develop a complete methodology of the most effective and winning communication skills. There are mainly three types of communication skills: a) expressive skills; b) listening skills; and c) skills for managing the overall process of communication. The basic fundamental of all these types of communication is emotional skills. The importance of communication skills can never be ignored or neglected. These skills are the key to executing good management skills. 9) Self-discipline — Self-discipline involves acting according to what you think instead of how you feel in the moment. Often it involves sacrificing the pleasure and thrill of the moment for what matters most in life. The following are five important traits of self-discipline: a) self-knowledge; b) conscious awareness; c) commitment to self-discipline; d) courage; and e) internal coaching.

As I have been writing recently about factors that tend to indicate what DC voters should be looking for, and requiring the next DC mayor to have, I have been struck by the fact that many, if not most, of these characteristics are indicative, and supportive of, other of these traits, characteristics, and skills. As a result, you will see that many of these factors are repeated again and again, in various ways, as they are, of necessity, interrelated. If you have other personality, attitude, or character traits that you think are as, or more, important, then, please, use your matrix to better inform your decision of whom to vote for for DC mayor.


A Toss of the Coin or a New Direction
Leo Alexander,

Early voting begins Monday, August 30, in the District of Columbia. However, a recent survey showed that as much as a third of most likely voters are still undecided or open to changing their minds prior to September 14. This basically means that District voters don’t like either one of the two candidates The Washington Post has been promoting. The voters are clearly demanding substance on the many challenging issues facing our diverse community. Our media, on the other hand, is covering this election cycle like it’s a race for homecoming king and not mayor. Four years ago I wrote, when it was Fenty versus Cropp. “The lesson learned in Election 2006 is that it is off limits to attack a candidate’s record, because that’s negative campaigning, and you can’t mention any perceived character flaws of their associates, because then you’re mudslinging. So in the future, why don’t we just dress up the candidates and call the race what it has become — a beauty contest.”

Now, after four years of a Fenty-Gray tag team, we have a grossly depleted treasury, Great Depression Era unemployment, and more homeless families on our streets than ever before. But on the ridiculous side, we have witnessed their love of baseball for months as they argued over Nationals tickets. If you believe The Post, these are our only two options. Both were equally responsible for three budgets and spending that slashed savings of more than $1.5 billion built during the Williams-Cropp era to less than half. And each candidate has alleged issues with transparency, corruption, and ethics. The media has well documented their “cronies” allegedly helping themselves to a few million here and there on the parks and recreation centers contract and the new lottery deal, while ignoring the commercial real estate developers who practically back up an armored truck to the Wilson Building and make off to the suburbs with hundreds of millions annually. For example, over the last eight years alone $1.12 billion of DC tax payer money has enriched developers through municipal leased office space agreements. (For the record, I’m the only candidate who has a plan to end this waste of District funds.)

This is the danger of living in a one paper town, because there are actually five candidates running for mayor: Leo Alexander, Sulaimon Brown, Adrian Fenty, Vincent Gray, and Ernest Johnson. In this media market, coverage is largely determined by scouring its Metro section every morning. The media knows that only a small percentage of the District’s voting population actually attends debates, forums, or straw polls, so if they only cover Fenty and Gray, voters will never know the other candidates actually exist. Here’s a quick common sense solution, the District’s Channel 16 should be used to broadcast all the mayoral debates live. This could potentially generate additional advertising revenue for the District from local businesses. And more importantly, it would dramatically increase voter turnout, because then issue-based platforms could finally be heard. This would determine who wins or loses — not who has the most yard signs or special interest money.

Over the next two weeks, the voters of DC should accept nothing less than televised debates that include all of the mayoral candidates. Then the impact of endorsements would be greatly marginalized, because all candidates will be given a fair opportunity to articulate their platforms and visions. Unfortunately, this won’t happen because the more educated voters are, the more threatening they become to the status quo. This is unfortunately why nothing ever changes in DC except the names of the safely chosen establishment candidates.

Saturday, August 28, marked the 47th anniversary of Dr. King’s historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. That demonstration was a turning point in our history and led to the monumental signing of the Civil Rights Bill and the Voting Rights Act. Now, nearly a half century later within the shadows of the Lincoln memorial, 36 percent of DC’s African Americans over the age of sixteen are functionally illiterate, almost half of our children are born into poverty, 75 percent of the men in this racial demographic have criminal records, and the unemployment rate in the African American community far exceeds the 25 percent level set during the Great Depression. How did this happen? It happened because we have tolerated ignorance and violence in our communities for far too long. It happened because we have allowed patronizing politicians to pacify a large segment of our community with psychologically crippling social programs and excuses for accepting failure, instead of demanding personal responsibility, economic opportunities, and educational reform. It happened because we have given up on some in our community. We don’t need nor have time for another commission of sociologists, economists, or criminologists to tell us what happens if the District’s unskilled residents remain largely illiterate and are forced to compete with an exploitable undocumented workforce for employment — their already limited options are further reduced to displacement, dependency or detention. Was this Dr. King’s Dream?

It took Hurricane Katrina less than forty-eight hours to radically gentrify another once great American city. That resulted from a combination of Mother Nature and politicians ignoring its failing infrastructure; but in the District of Columbia, it is The Washington Post and their Manchurian candidates, Fenty and Gray, who are blind to those most in need — and who are an election cycle closer to executing a similar fate. The voters of DC have a choice — two well-funded candidates who represent special interests or Leo Alexander and the movement for change that benefits all Washingtonians. That one-third of Washingtonians is right to be undecided because many voters still thirst for information and refuse to allow this election cycle to be reduced to a Mr. Congeniality contest. Over the next two weeks, we can either flip a coin for two candidates with no distinguishable differences or we can finally choose a new direction.



Community Candidate Forum, September 1
Robert Vinson Brannum,

Please join the DC League of Women Voters, the DC Federation of Civic Associations, Inc., and other community organizations at a forum for DC mayoral and council chair candidates. Wednesday, September 1, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., at the Washington Ethical Society, 7750 16th Street, NW (at Kalmia Road).

From 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Mr. Rokey W. Suleman II, Executive Director, DC Board of Elections and Ethics, will address the changes in registration, voting, and post-election procedures. From 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., there will be brief presentations by each of the candidates of one category, followed by questions from the moderator. From 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., groups not assigned the earlier hour will present their statements and answer questions.


National Building Museum Events, September 4, 7
Johanna Weber,

September 4, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Construction Watch Tour: 2200 Pennsylvania Avenue. 2200 Pennsylvania Avenue, located on the former George Washington University Hospital site, is a mixed-use office, housing, and retail project designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. Paul Quast, AIA, LEED AP, senior associate with Hickok Cole Architects, executive architect for 2200 Pennsylvania Avenue, leads a tour of this pre-certified LEED Silver project. $25. Museum members only. Prepaid registration required.

September 7, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Book of the Month: Underground Train. Join us in the Building Zone for an interactive reading of Mary Quattlebaum’s Underground Train, a book all about Washington, DC, and the Metro. Readings at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Free drop-in program. Recommended for ages three to five. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


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