Greater Greater Washington

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Which mayoral candidate is more like George Bush?

An emerging line of criticism against Vincent Gray is that people are supporting him for the same reason many supported George W. Bush: He seems like a guy you'd want to have a beer with, and that is trumping more rational and sober policy considerations. Is it?


Photo by Bernt Rostad on Flickr.

After all, according to the Washington Post's poll, most Washingtonians approve of the direction the District is taking, and yet Fenty is trailing.

A government insider suggested this effect to me in a confidential email, and some commenters have suggested it as well. On Jim Dougherty's endorsement yesterday, Fritz charged, "Gray reaches out and makes a special interest group feel loved and Fenty just went out and got stuff done."

On the other hand, there are some major differences between Vincent Gray and George W. Bush. For one, Gray is smarter than Fenty, though Fenty may (or may not) be more committed to policies like sustainable transportation and at least one flavor of school reform. And Fenty is the one who had often been compared to Bush for his imperious ways, including the "unitary executive" behavior around inclusionary zoning.

Speaking of schools, Katie Test from DCPS took issue with my comment that Fenty didn't back up Rhee in the case of moving Ellington. Ms. Test wrote,

The Chancellor confirmed that Fenty has always backed her, and also would like to point out that Ellington was never "floated for a move". That originated from conversations within the community and outside of DCPS.
TM also says that Jack Evans was the one behind moving Ellington.

This is an extremely difficult decision, and despite commenters asserting I must be in the tank for Gray because I didn't bash him, I still am unsure whom to vote for.

Some of you think Gray is sure to bring in a set of cronies who either want to get contracts for themselves or turn back the clock on DC's progress for the last ten years. Richard Layman wrote about "a sense that a lot of people are disappointed in Fenty because they expected after the interregnum of Mayor Williams, that there would be the teat of the city (contracts, make work jobs, etc.) that they could suck from again, and he didn't do that, except for a few of his fraternity buddies."

I know that many Barry people are supporting Gray, and some voters are hoping Gray will turn back the clock. When I was speaking at a session organized by ReadySetDC, one gentleman voiced this very feeling, about having government give more money and jobs to him and people like him, like he thought it did under Barry. He feels betrayed by Fenty.

But I think he would similarly feel betrayed by Gray if he wins. I've talked to Gray and his campaign manager Adam Rubinson about this very concern, and I really don't believe that's who Gray is. Gray was not a patronage guy as Council chair and he wasn't a Marion Barry clone. He's always pushed for high levels of professonalism and I think he'd run the government professionally. Just because some people who hate Adrian Fenty are supporting his opponent doesn't mean those people will get what they want.

On the other hand, maybe I'd be the one disappointed, not so much by Gray's policy outlook but by a slower pace of progress. It's the devil you know, with strengths and flaws, against the devil you don't. Is it worth taking the gamble?

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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A weird premise for an article, but interesting points nevertheless.

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter whether or not the mayor is a nice guy. Is he taking the city in the right direction (and if so, at what cost)?

*The "at what cost" qualifier is an important one. The reforms that Guiliani used to clean up NYC were terrible to the city's poor and homeless, and contributed directly to the decline of the cities west of the Hudson. However, at the end of the decade, New York was, in fact, clean. I suspect we'll be debating his legacy for decades.

by andrew on Sep 8, 2010 12:29 pm • linkreport

I was reading someone who was going trying to make the point that the first Republican to say "Fenty=Obama" should be shot for idiocy.

This, however, is even worse.

Fenty, as it turns out, is a bad politician. We expect our politicians to be nice to us, while they do something that we really don't like. After getting elected, he doesn't want to do anything nice and play around on the retail level. Perhaps he thought he earned it with door knocking, but voters, it turns out, are demanding.

Rhee is another example of that -- she is clearly going after a bigger job very quickly. We all know what that looks like. (Cough, Vivek Kundra).

Who knew that VOTERS tend to be long term residents and have memories?

by charlie on Sep 8, 2010 12:36 pm • linkreport

@DA - are you sure you want to assert that "Gray is smarter then Fenty"? Even if that's your impression maybe the statement could be tempered a little if for no other reason then one Miss Manners might give.

by Bianchi on Sep 8, 2010 12:44 pm • linkreport

I have not heard this line of criticism emerging until the first paragraph of this article.

by Lou on Sep 8, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

*The "at what cost" qualifier is an important one.
Surely you're not comparing Fenty's policies and abrasive style to Giuliani's out-of-control police force in NYC!
We expect our politicians to be nice to us, while they do something that we really don't like.
That may be a dysfunction of DC's political culture-- I really don't need a mayor to be nice to me, personally. It's similar to how everyone in a neighborhood expects every single retail business owner to "engage the community." I'm also suspicious of politicians that are too desperate to be liked by everyone.

We can't, can't, can't go back. My big worry is that Gray is going to spend his mayorship trying to get everyone to like him.

by JustMe on Sep 8, 2010 1:01 pm • linkreport

I've always thought of the guy-I'd-rather-have-a-beer-with issue being a matter of the candidate with whom voters most identify, not the one they find to be friendlier.

That is, while Kerry was painted as an effete Boston Brahman, George W. Bush was painted as the aww-shucks everyman. (I say "painted" because both men, as wealthy Yale grads with powerful families, are in fact not average people at all.)

by Eric Fidler on Sep 8, 2010 1:02 pm • linkreport

The apparent disconnect between "liking the direction we're going" and "not liking our mayor" is really not a disconnect.

A lot of people have a memory that extends back to the Barry days. For those people, we don't just look at the last four years, we look at the last two decades.

DC has come leaps and bounds since the mid 90's. But the accomplishments of Fenty's term have been both modest and extreme. That is, the principal accomplishments in terms of crime and development, are impossible to attribute directly to anything Fenty has done. They have largely built on the groundwork of his predecessor, or mimicked national trends. At the same time, the direction we're going on schools and Fenty-initiated development projects is too new to evaluate, but there is much to be concerned about in terms of what's happened so far and long-term sustainability.

It feels like this. We've been riding the great train of progress since Barry left office at 100 MPH. When Fenty took over as engineer of that train, many of us feel like the train is speeding up, out of control, and we risk going off the rails.

Yeah, we're still going in the same direction. Yeah, the train isn't off the rails, yet. But what started as strong momentum is now pushing the machine to its limits, using up our fuel too fast, and risking going off the rails with disastrous consequences.

I think it is probably harder to understand why you could generally be OK with the way things have gone in the last 4 years, but have serious concerns about the future, without the perspective of the 10 years before Fenty took office.

by Jamie on Sep 8, 2010 1:02 pm • linkreport

I think charlie has it right-- Gray looks and acts like a politician, Fenty does not. And I consider that distinction a reason to support Gray. "My way or the highway" is not the right attitude for the chief executive of a diverse and complicated place like the District.

by MattF on Sep 8, 2010 1:09 pm • linkreport

>Just because some people who hate Adrian Fenty are supporting his opponent doesn't mean those people will get what they want.

True enough, but what other reason is there to support Gray? If indeed you don't believe that Gray would change very much about Fenty's policies (which is far from certain), then "he's nicer" is about the only argument left in support of voting for Gray.

by BeyondDC on Sep 8, 2010 1:20 pm • linkreport

"That may be a dysfunction of DC's political culture-- I really don't need a mayor to be nice to me, personally"

I sometimes think most GGW readers would prefer moving back to something like the Board of Commissioners, and remove politics from a lot of city policies. SIngapore on the Potomac?

Or just move to Arlington, where you can be sure your County Board members will NOT be nice to you, since they are basically Board members for life.

by charlie on Sep 8, 2010 1:37 pm • linkreport

Sweet! I've made the big time!

Having spent some time reading through the Gray policy papers, the thing that strikes me immediately is that for every problem, his solution is to convene a working group of stakeholders, experts and citizens who will then meet for 6-9 months to effect possible answers that maximize synergies and empower residents.

In other words, the solution to every problem is to hire consultants from Booz Allen to put together some powerpoints.

At what point does a leader know what they want to do and then move the ship of gov't in that direction, rather than constantly putting their finger in the air to see which way the wind of public opinion is blowing at that moment? Can we really see a Mayor Gray making the kinds of decisions that Michelle Rhee has made? Or making the kinds of decisions that DDOT has made?

The second thing that strikes me about Gray's position papers is that he's promising just about everything to just about everyone.

And how will a Mayor Gray pay for all these promises without raising taxes? Well, by savings from the special education costs.

Oh.

Well then.

I guess it's theoretically possible to construct a city's budget based on hope. Probably doesn't meet GAAP requirements, though.

When I hear Gray supporters talk, generally their main reason for supporting Gray is that "Gray listens to us." Well, of course he does! He's running for mayor!

I still don't really get what a Gray Administration would do differently than a Fenty Administration, other than he'd listen more and would be nicer in getting to the same result.

How would Gray budgets have differed from the Fenty budgets?

We don't know.

All we know is that they would have been better and wouldn't have increased fees or taxes and wouldn't have cut services or jobs and would have been inclusive of people's feelings and needs. It's unclear whether they would have also included sunny skies and cute puppy dogs for all residents.

And, for the Gospel of Smart Growth adherents here, have you read the DCist interview with Gray? It's impossible to believe that the much-beloved streetcar program will continue in its current form based on Gray's strong concerns about what the heck the DDOT plan is for building and running the system, other than hope and prayer.

I like Gray. He's a very nice guy. Fenty is a prick.

Yet Fenty has gotten stuff done (and I still find much irony in the Gray spin that all of Fenty accomplishments really are attributable to Anthony Williams; this must come as a shock to Williams since some questioned whether he was "black enough" to be an effective DC Mayor).

With Gray, I have a hard time seeing him getting anything done without consulting one of the literally DOZENS of blue-ribbon panels he wants to set up to advise him on just about every issue facing the city. That kind of gov't by committee consensus just doesn't seem to lend itself for getting anything actually done.

by Fritz on Sep 8, 2010 1:38 pm • linkreport

"In other words, the solution to every problem is to hire consultants from Booz Allen to put together some powerpoints"

What's interesting about this approach is that you end up with a plan that has been researched and developed by experts, instead of novices. There is a reason why people hire consultants. It's because they don't have any experience doing it themselves.

This is exactly why many of us WANT Gray. My complaint for three years has been that Fenty leaps before he looks, and we end up doing stuff wrong, doing it over, doing things inconsistently, creating mayhem, having no plan or budget to sustain our initiatives.

You think that hiring smart, knowledgable people to help guide massive projects is a bad thing?

"Can we really see a Mayor Gray making the kinds of decisions that Michelle Rhee has made? Or making the kinds of decisions that DDOT has made?"

God I hope not. I'd much rather that those decisions were made as a result of analysis and recommendation by people who had some experience, as opposed to just being a multi-million dollar shot in the dark.

It seems people think that "any change is good." I think that's what it comes down to. I would rather not play dice with our future, we don't get too many shots at it.

by Jamie on Sep 8, 2010 1:50 pm • linkreport

"How would Gray budgets have differed from the Fenty budgets?"

Well, to begin with he could start raising income taxes on rich people. Fenty's insistence on NOT raising taxes is why we have a budget crisis. And why do I suspect Fenty's tax reluctance is based on not alienating his base?

by charlie on Sep 8, 2010 1:53 pm • linkreport

I think that most people aren't worried about Gray engaging in crass Barry-style patronage. The problem is that Gray has sold out to nearly every special interest in the city in an attempt to get elected, and nothing about his personality suggests that he will put up any resistance when they start calling in favors.

When it comes to substance Gray has a terrible record on smart growth - he's right up there with Marion Barry in the race to be the most anti-smart growth councilmember. He's been endorsed by every NIMBY group in the city and he has senior staff members who are part of the Committee of 100. He lets these staff members axe streetcar funding in the dead of night with no repercussions.

On the other hand, Gray had some meetings with David Alpert where he said nice things. Sorry, but some of us aren't so easily fooled.

by Phil on Sep 8, 2010 1:54 pm • linkreport

"Fenty's insistence on NOT raising taxes is why we have a budget crisis."

That's one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is we have a budget crisis because we spend way too much money.

by Chris on Sep 8, 2010 1:56 pm • linkreport

@charlie: Uh...I realize this elections has moved beyond "fact based" and into the metaphysical, but I believe it was Vince Gray who held meetings to discuss the top income tax increase with really rich people, and ended up taking it off the table as well.

No one is going to announce they will raise taxes in an election. Both of them will end up raising taxes after the election.

by John on Sep 8, 2010 1:57 pm • linkreport

What's interesting about this approach is that you end up with a plan that has been researched and developed by experts, instead of novices.
Except that's not what Gray is going to do. He's going to get a committee of every special interest and loud-mouthed "community leader" to do absolutely nothing about making local improvements. But, hey, at least people will feel that Gray "listens" to them. Not every bike lane or road repavement needs a year's worth of community input and "meetings of stakeholders" before it happens.

Gray's biggest problem is his supporters: and Gray doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who's going to tell his base of support to take a hike when the time comes to get things done. Instead he's going to spend his administration placating them.

by JustMe on Sep 8, 2010 2:00 pm • linkreport

Fenty is half-white. Reason enough for me not to vot for him.

by Lamont Prince on Sep 8, 2010 2:08 pm • linkreport

"There is a reason why people hire consultants. It's because they don't have any experience doing it themselves."

Sometimes. Much more frequently the motivation is purely political; either the intent is to put off a decision by "having some consultants look at the problem" or to provide political cover for a decision someone intended to make anyway.

by Phil on Sep 8, 2010 2:08 pm • linkreport

"Much more frequently the motivation is purely political"

Sure, it happens. Similarly, when you hire an architect to plan a house project, you may throw their plans out the window, or you may direct them to do things that they advise you against.

But I can guarantee you no matter what, you're a lot better off having been through that process, even if you disregard a lot of their recommendations. At a very minimum you'll end up with a much better knowledge of all the pitfalls and issues that come up with such projects, instead of learning as you go along.

We are building a city without an architect. Yeah, it takes longer to do it right. I'd rather spend six months deliberating then spend ten years regretting.

by Jamie on Sep 8, 2010 2:34 pm • linkreport

We are building a city without an architect. Yeah, it takes longer to do it right. I'd rather spend six months deliberating then spend ten years regretting.
I disagree: what Gray is proposing is standing over the shoulder of the architect while your spouse, your kids, your friend from high school, and your neighbors look over his shoulder and argue with him about every single decision and then meet for an extended discussion about every design change and insist that nothing can move forward until you have a consensus, and then when the mailman points out that he wants a say, because, hey, he has to come to your house every day, too, you bring him in on the discussion. After all, you LIKE your mailman, don't you? Don't you want him to have buy-in? Don't you want your mailman, your neighbor, and your old friend from high school to feel like they're "part of the process"? In the end it's just a way of evading responsibility.

I DON'T see that we're building a city without an architect. I see actually well-architected improvements coming along which a large group of nay-sayers complaining that they feel left out because they weren't asked what color they wanted the curtains to be.

by JustMe on Sep 8, 2010 2:41 pm • linkreport

One of my biggest concerns is, as DA notes, that too many of Gray's supporters want to suck from the public teat and are disappointed that Fenty won't do that. Not only that, but Fenty had the temerity to challenge the entrenced interests of the teacher's union. Even in the pages of the WashPost, I hear criticism that Fenty didnt hire enough people from the black community. The job of Mayor (as distinct from the political reality) is to run the city not give jobs to friends. Moreover,it is the outsider perspective that has enabled some of the positive changes - Cathy Lanier, Gabe Klein, and Michele Rhee have done a pretty good job by doing things differently.

I fear that Gray's mantra for change is really a change back to the ways things were, even if Gray is a far more competent and decent person that Marion Barry. I don't see how he can do anything else after seeing what happened to Fenty.

by SJE on Sep 8, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

@JustMe: I completely agree. It scares me that Gray is supported by the Barry machine, the teachers union and even the taxi cab drivers.

by keithdc on Sep 8, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

@ Jamie; well, sure, but too much planning is bad as well.

I think the real problem is the type of people Fenty has brought in. Name, quickly, the director of BoE in Fairfax, or Mont, County, or even PG County? Or their transportation director? IT director?

Brining "talent' (or A+) people is great, but you have to realize one downside is those people are coming in for resume building, and not to stick around for 10 years and FINISH the job. Rhee made that clear in her interview today.

I find it interesting that Lanier (who I can't stand) is the only appointee to get good marks, and maybe it is because she came up from the ranks a bit more, rather than just get parachuted in?

What is really amusing to me is that if anything, Fenty's supporters are the ones race baiters here. If Gray wins, the blacks take over again. How we got to that truly bizarre state of affairs is a real indictment of Fenty's judgement and leadership.

by charlie on Sep 8, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

After all, according to the Washington Post's poll, most Washingtonians approve of the direction the District is taking, and yet Fenty is trailing.

From what I have been reading in the press, Fenty losing is a foregone conclusion. I'm having a hard time believing that. Fenty must l-o-v-e this line of reporting: it makes him the underdog.

by Jazzy on Sep 8, 2010 3:02 pm • linkreport

"what Gray is proposing is standing over the shoulder of the architect while your spouse, your kids, your friend from high school..."

Reference, please? He's said that he plans to seek input from stakeholders and make the final decision himself.

The irony, of course, is that when you build an addition on your house, you can be damn sure that your wife, kids and neighbors are going to be involved. They are stakeholders. No, you won't involve them at every step of the way, and certainly you will make decisions, but their feedback will absolutely influence you.

If Fenty used his governing approach to build an addition on his rowhouse, he'd probably be divorced, be in a vendetta with his neighbor or possible facing a lawsuit, and his kids would be living with his ex-wife. You're damn right those people need to be involved.

by Jamie on Sep 8, 2010 3:03 pm • linkreport

Fenty also gave jobs to wives of friends of his. It's not just his frat buddies. It's a difficult choice, no question about it.

He has called up the White House asking for an endorsement from Obama. That seems juvenile and tacky to me.

by Jazzy on Sep 8, 2010 3:13 pm • linkreport

This is pretty funny, actually. Identify the candidate that most resembles George W. Bush and vote against him.

I don't consider this a serious way to size up our Mayoral candidates, but it makes for good blog chatter. I confess that in my household we had that very conversation many times and concluded a long time ago that Fenty's governance style is very much like W's. My wife, Ward 1 Gal, loathes Fenty for that very reason.

by Ward 1 Guy on Sep 8, 2010 3:14 pm • linkreport

@ charlie Why do you keep claiming Rhee is resume building and won't stick around if Fenty is re-elected? Here's a quote from her interview with DCist yesterday:

One of the things that I've been hearing from people in my neighborhood and in the larger community that has surprised me, is the assumption that even if Mayor Fenty is reelected you might leave.

That's absolutely incorrect.

I've found it a little sexist, actually.

It's totally sexist! Let me just tell you this -- not a single person in Sacramento has implied that because Kevin and I are getting married that he's going to be moving to D.C. Not a single person. And it pisses me off to no end that people assume that I'm going to be the one to move, or that of course I would have to move. People say, well, her husband is there, so of course she would have to move. And I say "really?" What century are you living in?

So I am committed to the Mayor, that when he is reelected I will absolutely be here for a second term, and I'm really excited about the prospect of it. The scary thing is that somebody told me recently that in a few months I will be the longest standing schools chancellor in twenty years in the city, which is terrifying. I haven't been here that long, right? It's been a little more than three years. I just feel like I'm beginning to scratch the surface of things. And I know that when we have four more years it will be amazing, the things that we can do and we can build on. So it's really exciting to me, and that's why I'm fully committed to it.

by jcm on Sep 8, 2010 3:15 pm • linkreport

Jamie, I think you have a rather blithe view of the dangers of getting special interests and overactive busybodies to slow everything down. The ineffectiveness of the modern ANC system and the multiplying number of neighborhood associations is a testament to the problems with that. The problem is that Gray just doesn't have it in him to stand up to that kind of thing and has unfortunately based his campaign around the idea of placating all those interests and getting everyone to like him. Gray's way isn't a way to run a city. It's a formula for bringing it to its knees.

To extend the analogy further, you don't know a thing about how an architect should structurally design an extension, and your neighbors and the mailman shouldn't throw a tantrum because they didn't consult me about the drapes I chose.

by JustMe on Sep 8, 2010 3:17 pm • linkreport

@JustMe, the ANC works nothing like this. It actually works a lot more like Fenty does - having some meetings where you can theoretically go to let your voice be heard, but in reality these are nothing but a show. The ANCs, as they function now, are petty fifedoms that by and large represent the interests of their elected members only.

On what basis do you think Gray can't make decisions? He's the chair of the city council. It's not like he's never been in a position of leadership before.

Streetcars and school reform are not "drapes." Those are wholesale structural additions. Nobody's up in arms because of, say, DDOT's stupid bike box sign.

by Jamie on Sep 8, 2010 3:25 pm • linkreport

Being from Chicago, I am familiar with this contradictory feeling. It's love/hate with Da Mayor. Now that that Richie Daley is stepping down, who will emerge and who would I like to run the city I love? Would a goo goo tear up Meigs field at night or keep millions of tax-payer dollars in a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) slush fund used to woo business and political ally developers? I dunno. The same filters ought to apply in DC.

On the one hand, Fenty re-appointed CFO Gandhi who is critical of all the TIF/PILOT projects which clearly benefit Fenty's buddies at the cost of the rest of us. Gray hates Gandhi and love TIF/Tax Abatements... So it's a no win there, possibly worse.

Both Fenty and Gray seem behind Rhee too. No win there.

Fenty apparently is vicious behind closed doors. Gray? Beast you know vs. beast you don't.

Fenty loves bikes (but can't be bothered to get a safe bike lane all the way up fifteenth... that crazy merge before you go up the hill is too damn dangerous), but seemed to waffle on transit (did he?). Gray nixed street car connectivity. No win.

Fenty put police in gentrifying neighborhoods. Gray wants equalized police protection. Who knows what that means.

It has been my observation that Gray is supported more in poorer communities with Fenty supported more in affluent parts of town. Coincidence? Misguided perception?

In the end, I think your analysis is correct. Which devil do you choose? Moreover, will a candidate make a real issue promise before the election?

by Too Tall on Sep 8, 2010 3:26 pm • linkreport

@JCM; I think you fell for a strawman. The issue isn't whether Rhee would leave because of her marriage. It is that she would leave because Gray was elected -- instead of trying to find some sort of accommodation with him. Her recent campaign actions are designed to do that. Rhee is smart, and is trying to set herself up as an EDU-MATYR.

by charlie on Sep 8, 2010 3:37 pm • linkreport

@charlie You said "Rhee is another example of that -- she is clearly going after a bigger job very quickly". She said "So I am committed to the Mayor, that when he is reelected I will absolutely be here for a second term, and I'm really excited about the prospect of it."

All along, she has said she wants to serve a second term with Fenty. I don't know what think a strawman is, or why you think I fell for one. I don't know what an EDU-MATYR, is either, for that matter, but she's been very clear about her wishes. Claiming she's resume building is dead wrong, whatever you happen to think of her abilities.

by jcm on Sep 8, 2010 4:10 pm • linkreport

"Both Fenty and Gray seem behind Rhee too"

Don't think so. Rhee will be gone if Gray wins.

by Fred on Sep 8, 2010 4:53 pm • linkreport

@JCM: let me be as clear as I can be: GRAY is going to win the primary, and Rhee is going to leave. She burned her boats and with her recent campaigning isn't going back.

And EDU- MARTYR is someone who care more about her prissy reputation and chance for a bigger job (remember, running DC schools is a really small fry) than actually caring about kids and trying to work with a new mayor.

by charlie on Sep 8, 2010 5:04 pm • linkreport

@Fred: Don't be so sure that Michelle Rhee will leave if Gray wins. I think she would only leave if a specific incident or decision point where she and the Mayor disagreed forced her departure. But if you listen and watch carefully, Gray has not made any promises to the teachers' union or Rhee-haters that will make it too hard for Vince and Michelle to work together. He said he wants to look more closely at IMPACT, not necessarily change or scrap it. He said he wants more transparency with the process that led to teacher firings, not that he ever opposed them.

It's emblematic of his style that interest groups think they've been pandered to when they have not. Gray is smart like that. It's called listening. It makes people feel good and feel respected and makes them willing to accept compromise even if they don't get what they want.

I would bet that Michelle and her magic foundation money will still be in DC for the rest of this school year at a minimum, even with Vince Gray in the Mayor's office.

by Ward 1 Guy on Sep 8, 2010 5:16 pm • linkreport

@Ward 1 Guy; I'd agree with your scenario to this extent -- she will be looking for a reason to leave based on something Gray does.

Rhee's "base" isn't kids or parents -- it is those foundations which have a lot invested in "education reform", and she has to make then look good as they leave DC behind.

As I've said before, we needed someone with huevos to come in and break up the teachers union. Props to her. Beyond that, however, I really doubt any of her ideas -- except importing white kids -- will do much to improve education.

by charlie on Sep 8, 2010 5:25 pm • linkreport

@ charlie Even if you're right that Gray will win, claiming that Rhee is resume padding because she doesn't want to work for Gray is BS. I wouldn't want to be his chancellor either. The job has sucked for years. The only reason Rhee took it is because Fenty promised her complete control and full support, and gave it to her. Gray won't give her (or any other chancellor) that, so the job will suck again. Maybe we can once again hire our third choice when she leaves.

@ Ward 1 Guy I hear this all the time from Gray supporters trying to calm the fears of Rhee supporters. She doesn't like him, and he doesn't like her. There's zero chance she'd be around next September under Mayor Gray. There's a reason the WTU and AFT are spending so much money on Gray ads and campaigning.

by jcm on Sep 8, 2010 5:28 pm • linkreport

There's zero chance she'd be around next September under Mayor Gray. There's a reason the WTU and AFT are spending so much money on Gray ads and campaigning.
I'd be more favorably disposed towards Gray if I thought he was the kind of guy who would take the money and the support from the WTU and AFT, get them to vote him into office, and then turn around and keep Rhee on and keep her authority and plans in place. But Gray does not come across as that sort of guy-- he wants to maintain the good will from the WTU and AFT instead of just using them and the other interest groups that have been bruised under Fenty to get elected and risking incurring their wrath afterwards.

by JustMe on Sep 8, 2010 5:56 pm • linkreport

@jcm, @JustMe: The WTU and AFT are pretty weak in DC. It's great for Gray to have their support, but I don't think Gray is too beholden to them. Name something that he has specifically promised to the teachers' unions that he would not be able to deliver and still keep Rhee around?

It's like Marion Barry. Gray has his support, not that he wants it, and Gray hasn't given anything away to obtain that support except not be Adrian Fenty. Pretty smart formula for success.

by Ward 1 Guy on Sep 8, 2010 6:13 pm • linkreport

Fenty is half-white. Reason enough for me not to vote for him.

Racism. Boring.

This comment made me think it'd be nice to have a craigslist-type 'Flag' feature on each comment. But that introduces all sorts of other drama. Blah.

by Peter Smith on Sep 8, 2010 6:34 pm • linkreport

I don't even know that "Lamont" is real, not that I care.

Anyway: why are all these Gray supporters talking about the "reckless" pace of transit deployment? We're already not going to have a fully deployed streetcar network for another twenty years under Fenty, when we needed them yesterday. If anything, we need someone who works even more quickly than Fenty, not someone who upholds Seattle-style death by process.

by J.D. Hammond on Sep 8, 2010 6:54 pm • linkreport

I was thinking just this morning that Fenty's subliminal political role model was the petulant GWB more than anybody. He even has W's obsession with working out, and was in his 20's when W became president.

Much of the demonstrable "results" Fenty touts, though, was based on groundwork laid by the prior administration, including the seeds of school reform (btw, wouldn't school reform have been five years ahead of where it is now if Fenty had NOT opposed Williams' attempts to takeover the schools? Given what we know now, would we have rather had Tony Williams managing school reform, or Adrian Fenty?)

Anyway, do I give Fenty credit for not screwing up the work done by Williams? Sure. Do I believe he could have accomplished his "results" without alienating his constituents? Absolutely.

Gray said it best when asked whether he could stand up to particular constituencies when as Chair of the city legislature he shepherded MARRIAGE EQUALITY into law. Ok, folks did not like the streetcar funding thing, but Gray is a seasoned manager who in some ways is more progressive than Fenty.

by Neve on Sep 8, 2010 7:17 pm • linkreport

I'm with JD Hammond on the transit improvements. This is Seattle slow! The Metro system is completely overwhelmed and we have been studying streetcars for over a decade. Plus, we have the old system as a phenomenal roadmap. Bogota built their BRT system in about 2 years citywide! We need to give DDOT double the support and money so they can save us from ruin, and make DC the leader in the region, duh.

by PeskyB on Sep 8, 2010 8:14 pm • linkreport

@David Alpert: An emerging line of criticism against Vincent Gray is that people are supporting him for the same reason many supported George W. Bush

I think, actually, Gray is much more like Bill Clinton. Clinton has tremendous personal charisma. He's incredibly talented at getting people to like him and think that he's with them.

Is this an important skill? Personally, I don't think so. I don't think it contributes to governing, just to getting elected. That's why I think the pro-Gray arguments that revolve around him being better-liked and more personable, are overrated.

by David desJardins on Sep 9, 2010 12:58 am • linkreport

There are two types of leaders: transformational and incremental. Incremental leaders start with the status quo and work with well-intentioned stakeholders to move it forward. Transformational leaders envision a different status quo and work to bring it about.

When you read this morning's Post article on Gray at the DHS, all the quotes say, "There were forces larger than him at work", "He made progress given the hand he was dealt", "He had the right intentions". These comments are always made of incremental leaders.

A transformational leader, on the other hand, becomes the force at work that is larger than all other forces. It is impossible to be a transformational leader without good delegation, and good delegation requires communicating a vision and then not micromanaging. All of which seems to describe Fenty.

I'm sure Gray will not reverse any gains under Fenty, and will make incremental improvements. But is that what we need?

by Ken Archer on Sep 9, 2010 7:14 am • linkreport

Gray is telling you he will put issues into committees or consultants to come up with a solution which Gray can then follow with confidence and avoid being the bad guy. This is not a leader, so he will not be continuing Fenty accomplishments. Michelle Rhee will not sit by for a committee vote on firing teachers, teacher contracts, etc. There is a huge difference in style and substance between Fenty and Gray and this city needs to continue forward with Fenty. Gray has still not told his supporters what his priorities will be if elected.

by John on Sep 9, 2010 8:02 am • linkreport

For those who keep insisting that Gray will bring us back to the Barry days, don't miss this TBD article about Fenty buying votes.

Hmmm, what does that remind me of? Oh yeah, when Barry used to bus people from poor neighborhoods to the pools and give them a free lunch back in the day. Except at least those people got what they were promised for their vote, unlike the poor saps in the TBD article who, after being bussed to the polls, didn't get the jobs they were promised.

It's amazing how this seems to be the greatest fear of people who oppose Grey, despite Fenty's actual record of such Barry-era staples as cronyism and vote buying.

by Jamie on Sep 9, 2010 9:00 am • linkreport

The thing that makes me most nervous about Gray is the same thing that folks often point to as his strengths: 1) his "study and build universal consensus" tendencies will lead every initiative to a death by a thousand bureaucratic paper-cuts; and 2) that he will micromanage the department heads rather than appointing technocrats apply their expertise.

There's a tweet by Ryan Avent I've seen quoted elsewhere re: the voters and Fenty:

"Y'know, I wouldn't respect voters either if they ignored performance and voted based on their perception that I didn't respect them."

Bang on.

by oboe on Sep 9, 2010 9:25 am • linkreport

@ charlie Even if you're right that Gray will win, claiming that Rhee is resume padding because she doesn't want to work for Gray is BS. I wouldn't want to be his chancellor either. The job has sucked for years. The only reason Rhee took it is because Fenty promised her complete control and full support, and gave it to her. Gray won't give her (or any other chancellor) that, so the job will suck again. Maybe we can once again hire our third choice when she leaves.

That's the obvious explanation; the one we arrive at if we apply Occam's Razor. Unfortunately, it doesn't put Rhee in the maximal negative light, so clearly there must be something else at work. One thing the knee-jerk Rhee detractors understand that the rest of us don't is that Rhee is the Most Evil Entity in the Universe. The work backwards from that conclusion.

by oboe on Sep 9, 2010 9:28 am • linkreport

Voters don't ignore performance. It's just that not all of us agree that Fenty has performed well. Even as people keep insisting he's done well for the city, the data doesn't hold up when you remove the spin.

Crime stats in DC exactly mimic the national average for big cities. Exactly. None of the major development projects that have been completed would have been any different - since Fenty didn't start them. Rhee's success is at best highly debatable, and the performance data (which has declined the last year even by Rhee's admission) shows serious problems when analyzed with any thoughtful eye. What else are you saying Fenty's done right?

I'll give you that he fixed up a lot of parks, and built a lot of bike lanes - sometimes twice. Personally, I think a massive recession isn't the best time for such projects, but that's just me.

by Jamie on Sep 9, 2010 9:31 am • linkreport

@Ken
"It is impossible to be a transformational leader without good delegation, and good delegation requires communicating a vision and then not micromanaging. All of which seems to describe Fenty."
Fenty may be good at delegating/not micromanaging, but I wouldn't say (communicating) vision is his strength. Gray, at least by his "one city" slogan, has shown a concern for addressing DC's economic/educational imbalances and knows he needs council/stakeholder support to do so. Fenty has not communicated that vision, nor been seen to bring those results (ie, closing the achievement gap, increase hiring of DC residents). Making DC a strong city is not going to happen without that being part of the mayor's vision.

by Tmichaels on Sep 9, 2010 10:15 am • linkreport

@Jamie According to the City Paper's endorsement of Fenty, Vince Gray couldn't even name three Fenty policies he'd overturn. The Post's poll found the majority of voters think the city is on the right track. Only 17% say the quality of life is getting worse.

This election is not, and never has been, about performance.

by jcm on Sep 9, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport

@jcm, what the polls have not asked, though, is whether those people think that Fenty has anything to do with the city being on the right track.

If I was asked, "do you think life is better in the city today than it was four years ago?" I would say, yes. However, as David Alpert noted in a previous post, the city would probably have been as well off or better if Fenty had done absolutely nothing in the last four years.

I bet if you asked people in the city, do you feel like you are better off today than you are four years ago, the vast majority would say no. Would I blame Fenty for that? No, of course not. It's the economy.

Sure - crime is better, and there's been a lot of development. But I know that Fenty had little to do with those changes.

by Jamie on Sep 9, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

@ Jamie The contention that Fenty has nothing to do with the performance of the city during the past four years is hands down the dumbest thing I've ever read by David, with whom I usually agree. It flies in the face of reality and past history. Anyone who thinks an executive can't screw things up in four years has no knowledge of history whatsoever.

Out of curiosity, which three Fenty policies would you like to see Gray overturn? Gray can't answer the question. Can you?

by jcm on Sep 9, 2010 11:14 am • linkreport

Sure - crime is better, and there's been a lot of development. But I know that Fenty had little to do with those changes.

Wait. I thought Fenty was getting slammed for working closely with developers. Which is it?

by oboe on Sep 9, 2010 11:15 am • linkreport

Are you kidding? Fenty is the worst kind of micro-manager. He has meddled with DDOT over speed humps, traffic signals, sidewalks and bike lanes. He won't let the DDOT Planning folks do their jobs without inserting himself into arbitrary decisions.

That is just one set of examples germane to this blog.

by William on Sep 9, 2010 11:22 am • linkreport

@jcm, which Williams policies did Fenty overturn?

Fenty claims as one of his primary accomplishments that crime has improved. Do you think that, when evaluating crime rates in a city, the performance relative to the national average is not important? Why would you evaluate progress on crime in a vacuum? Or do you think that every other city mayor just happened to do something right at exactly the same time, and everyone should be similarly lauded?

Do you think that Fenty can claim credit for the turnaround in Columbia Heights? What do you think about the fact that DC schools have shown improvement for years before Fenty took office, yet in the last year, after his sweeping changes, they've dipped again?

"Wait. I thought Fenty was getting slammed for working closely with developers"

I've given Fenty credit for the parks, that would be the ones you're talking about. Not everyone agrees, however, that this particular expense was wise in the current economic climate.

by Jamie on Sep 9, 2010 11:25 am • linkreport

I sure can name 3 Fenty policies that Gray should change, but I have serious doubts as to whether Gray will actually change them.

- Refusal to negotiate in good faith with DC United on a soccer stadium
- Lack of income tax reform
- Excluding the Wisconsin Avenue corridor from streetcar plans

by Phil on Sep 9, 2010 11:26 am • linkreport

jcm: I'd recommend you actually read the point I was making before calling it dumb. Because Jamie's summary of the point didn't quite characterize it. I was saying Fenty's appointments had made things better, but I couldn't think of examples where he personally had made things better except in hiring the people he hired. Therefore, if he just hired them and then went on vacation, it might have been better (and made him more likely to get reelected) than what he actually did.

by David Alpert on Sep 9, 2010 11:30 am • linkreport

I think the proper critique of Fenty re: developers is that he favors those that are his friends and shuts out ones that he doesn't have a pre-existing relationship with.

See, for example, Fenty's overturning of the solid development plan for Poplar Point that was negotiated at the end of the Williams administration. That was already a done deal and had the support of almost all stakeholders. But the developer wasn't Fenty's friend, so the plan had to go.

The Poplar Point debacle is by far the largest failure of the Fenty administration. It's probably set back development east of the river by 10 years. I actually think Gray would be open to the original proposal, but due to the real estate crash the opportunity has passed so it's a moot point.

by Phil on Sep 9, 2010 11:33 am • linkreport

@Phil,

I think the proper critique of Fenty re: developers is that he favors those that are his friends and shuts out ones that he doesn't have a pre-existing relationship with.

I disagree, but I think that's at least a legitimate line of criticism. The problem is that's *not* the criticism coming from the Gray campaign, which is tailored to the resentment of gentrification and "folks getting left behind." There is a large subset of Gray supporters who believe that "the developers" are fueling displacement, and hope that Gray will put a halt to it. They're hostile to development as such, not cronyism.

by oboe on Sep 9, 2010 11:44 am • linkreport

@oboe, I agree. And I don't really have any faith that Gray will stand up to these people. Which is why I'm holding my nose and voting for Fenty.

by Phil on Sep 9, 2010 11:48 am • linkreport

@ David Alpert I read your point. Here's the last two paragraphs of the post in question:

Here's the problem. The Fenty Administration has done a lot of good, but whenever Adrian Fenty himself seems to be involved personally in some way, it's been a poorer outcome. Fenty argues that the role of the Mayor is just to hire "A+ people." Maybe so. And if Fenty basically spent all his time on vacation, or doing photo ops, and never paid attention to actual governing, and also fired Peter Nickles, he'd be a great mayor.

But is there something wrong with voting for someone you actually wish were essentially replaced with a cardboard cutout? Thinking the government is just fine, except for the head? What does that say, exactly?

I assume Fenty was involved personally in the hiring of those A+ people. I also think it's fair to assume there are lots of times Fenty has been under pressure to do things you and I wouldn't like, and didn't. You claim every time he is personally involved the outcome is poorer, and cite a half dozen or so examples. Do you think those are the only times he's been personally involved? Do you think Rhee didn't mention she'd be firing a bunch of teachers and closing a bunch of schools? Do you think Gabe Klein didn't tell him that he's building a streetcar network? Do you think Tregoning and Lanier don't speak with him?

Your post makes it seem as if a good government just popped up out of nowhere, and that Fenty doesn't have a clue what they're doing.

@ Jamie I'll take that as a no, then.

@ Phil Though I don't agree with your points (and I don't think Gray does, either), you get credit for actually bringing susbstance to the discussion.

by jcm on Sep 9, 2010 12:12 pm • linkreport

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