The “Write Fenty In” campaign may be futile, but it sure is fun to watch.
First it was a Facebook page, then a Twitter feed (following three times as many people as follow it), then some public demonstrations. Now, on the heels of expensive citywide polling, there’s a website.
The Save D.C. Now political action committee, “not affiliated or endorsed by Adrian Fenty,” was incorporated last week. The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis writes that “its chair is Ellie Anderson, a die-hard Fenty backer from Ward 4. The media contact listed is John Hlinko -- a self-described ‘Buzz Czar’ who organizes social media campaigns for ‘grassroots advocacy.’”
Alan Suderman of Washington City Paper says Hlinko, who has “organized ‘GuyPartisan Dinners’ for die-hard righties and die-hard lefties to eat steak, drink scotch and make fun of each other,” and “started a dating website for left-wing political types called www.actforlove.org,” has a history of online draft attempts, rallying support for a Wesley Clark presidential bid in 2003 and later creating DraftObama.org. But in those cases, the intended candidates actually wanted to run.
Gray, meanwhile, kicked off his “I’m Not Actually the Mayor Yet” listening/campaign tour in Ward 5 Tuesday evening. Gray took 75 percent of the Ward 5 vote last month, second only to his showing in Ward 7, where he lives. Gray talked about continuing education reform, stepping up community policing, and increasing adult education opportunities as a means of reducing unemployment.
The Post says the auditorium at Community Academy Public Charter School “was mostly filled with residents from all parts of the ward, including Michigan Park and Bloomingdale, as well as those who live in other wards.” Gray “sounded as much like a candidate as a likely mayor as he fielded questions and comments about everything from educating deaf children in public schools to the homeless to bike lanes and streetcars to taxes.”
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* Gray detonated a nuke over an earlier bombshell by saying Tuesday that, on top of the $175 million deficit in the current D.C. budget, the city will have to close a gap of as much as $400 million before signing off on the fiscal year 2012 budget. That means huge spending cuts, big tax hikes, or both.
Though Gray and Fenty have worked well together since the primary, the Washington Examiner's Freeman Klopott says Gray seems to be “framing the city’s future problems as being the fault of” the exiting mayor by pointing out that “programs that received one-time funding sources in the current 2011 -- including the summer youth employment program and low-income rental assistance -- have no sources of funding for 2012.”
* The Post’s DeBonis peeks at a September 27 memo from Democratic political consultant Bill Knapp that concludes Adrian Fenty’s loss “was more about Fenty’s preternaturally bad communications instinct than a latent anti-incumbent mood.” Knapp says Fenty lost “because he ‘neglected a critical base’ and ‘symbolic of that was the Sunday before the election when he participated in a triathlon in D.C. instead of visiting African American churches, as his opponent did.’”
Knapp sums it up nicely: “The truth of the election was that from a policy perspective, Fenty was popular. From a personal perspective, he had become flawed and expendable.”
* The Post’s Courtland Milloy chats with ex-mayor Anthony Williams about the city’s future. Williams says Gray should try to keep Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Williams also takes Milloy’s employer to task, saying, “I think The Washington Post’s four years of adoration and devotion did Adrian a disservice. You guys beat the [daylights] out of me, and it kept me humble. I don’t know if you all were on vacation or what, but if I had done some of the things Adrian did, I would have been run out of town.” Williams said “being called out in the newspaper and screamed at during community meetings is a powerful antidote to arrogance and keeps you on your toes.”
* In her Examiner column, Jonetta Rose Barras says that most of those named as possible Rhee replacements -- like Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Director Robert Bobb and Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist, both D.C. veterans -- would probably prove just as controversial as Rhee. As for the notion of bringing back Clifford Janey, who is being ousted from leadership of the Newark, N.J., schools, Barras says that would be “an indisputable step backward.”
* Washington City Paper’s Rend Smith writes that even if Gray fires police chief Cathy Lanier, she “won’t exactly go broke.” Her unusual contract contains “one particularly sweet provision.” It reads, “Lanier’s retirement pension shall be fully vested and fully payable and vested at the maximum level allowable by law, notwithstanding Lanier’s age or term of service.” That means, Smith writes, that if Gray “decides to let her go, Lanier will be able to retire at the ripe-old-age of 43,” with annual compensation of at least $125,000.
* The Post says the response to free HIV testing at the Penn Branch office of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles has been better than anticipated. According to Angela Fulwood Wood of Family Medical and Counseling Service Inc., the nonprofit group offering the tests, about 15 people were tested in the first two hours on Tuesday. The program is being funded through a $250,000 grant from Gilead Sciences, a pharmaceutical company. That money helps the nonprofit offer those being tested up to $15 off DMV services, adding an incentive.
D.C.’s rate of new AIDS cases per 100,000 population is 12 times that of the national average, and anything that gets more residents to get tested is worth a try. Will the first-in-the-nation program "make a dent in D.C.’s own AIDS epidemic?” asks We Love D.C.’s Rebecca Gross. “Well, it certainly can’t hurt.”
* WTOP reports that “the multi-colored Metro map -- an instantly recognizable part of the D.C. region -- is about to change.” With expansions, line changes, and new station names coming, “we need to look at how that might have an impact on our customers and then how that is reflected in the map,” WMATA’s Barbara Richardson said. “We know that a lot of people feel very strongly about the map, because the map is Metro. It is iconic. And as we go forward to figure out the best way to communicate how we are changing, we are going to keep that in mind.”
That could mean a new design for the lovely Metro posters printed on metallic paper from Big Nickel Graphics that We Love D.C. highlighted this week.
* While National Mall demonstrators come for a lot of divergent causes, they are often united in one thing: litter. A big mess always gets left behind. But when Jon Stewart brings his “Rally to Restore Sanity” to the Mall later this month, he will ask attendees to contribute to the Trust for the National Mall, the AP reports. Stephen Colbert, meanwhile, is asking attendees at his “Keep Fear Alive” demonstration to contribute to school supplies charity Donors Choose, which he has frequently promoted on his show.
* It looks like Gov. Bob McDonnell will lose his effort to get more say over Metro, at least for now. The Examiner reports that the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission is poised to reject McDonnell’s call “to give the commonwealth two of the state’s four seats on Metro’s Board of Directors.” The seats have traditionally been filled by elected officials from Alexandria, Arlington County, and Fairfax County, but McDonnell wants two of the seats to go to transit experts that he would appoint.
* The Post reports Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett is proposing cuts to ambulance service and layoffs of fire and rescue workers “as part of a bid to save $12.9 million this year in case a referendum on a county ambulance fee passes in November.”
* Politico reports Rep. Jim Moran “is taking donors to the Kennedy Center in Washington later this month for the opening night of ‘Hair.’” The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee warns that the $1,400 fundraiser will therefore contain “very adult content.”
* Writing at Greater Greater Washington, Stephen Miller says the city should widen “the narrow sidewalks on Rhode Island Avenue, which squeeze pedestrians between a dark wall and six lanes of speeding traffic.” There are currently no plans to do so.
* The Hill is Home has been running detailed profiles of advisory neighborhood commissioner candidates in the Capitol Hill area.
* Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells tells the Examiner’s Klopott to sit up straight.
* Ben’s Chili Bowl has veggie dogs! That seems wrong somehow.
* Could Halloween go vegan in Takoma Park?
* Nationals Enquirer takes a look back at the Silver Elvis wig, a bright spot in a year of disappointments and busted elbows for fans of the NL East’s last-place team.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC