Tom Sherwood’s Notebook: 11/10/09

Someone ask Biden about voting rights

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Mayor Adrian Fenty is fond of references to the take-charge mayors of big cities like Chicago and New York, and Fenty's own policies mirror those of the big cities.

    He is seizing control systematically of every city agency, board and commission by appointing folks who are loyal to him, regardless of whether the previous occupant was doing a good job.

    That's not bad or unusual politics if it's done well and if his appointees are qualified.

    Privileged Pedaling

    [DC] Privileged Pedaling
    Some bicyclists came to the defense of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and his biking habits, after news reports of the mayor riding his bike with police escorts and violating traffic laws.

    Just this past week, the mayor sacked Elizabeth Noël, who has served as the city's "people's counsel" for 18 years. Her office represents the "little man" in often-contentious rate cases before the city's utilities commission.

    Unfortunately for the mayor, there is a consistent drumbeat around town that he's overdoing it with his "I'm in charge; you're not" frame of mind.

    Even discounting the criticisms from people who have lost their jobs or who are tied to the old-school way of doing things, there still seems to be too much grumbling about this mayor's ABC's -- arrogance, bullying and cronyism.

    On Monday, WTOP's Mark Segraves reported an "arrogance" story of how our mayor, who is particularly athletic (basically a good thing), is using police vehicles to clear busy roads and parkways for his daily biking trips (a bad thing). The video also shows the mayor riding in places the general public cannot go.

    The police motorcades for biking stand in sharp contrast to the mayor's willingness to drive himself around in his tiny Smart Car without a police escort.

    The mayor told NBC4 Monday that if he's doing anything wrong, he won't do it anymore.

    Back to public policy, on WAMU radio last Friday, Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas said that neither the mayor nor his staff consults nor respects council members. It's a line we've heard from a majority of the council members up to and including Chairman Vincent Gray, who's mulling a race for mayor.

    Privately, Fenty has dismissed much of the grousing as "politics" that will sort itself out in the campaign next year. And we've certainly written that we don't see much political advantage to aligning oneself with the teachers who have lost their jobs in the Michelle Rhee upheaval.

    But education could factor into a political mass forming against the mayor, in part because of questions about contracts awarded to his cronies. (There's that "c" again.) The mayor's contention that he doesn't involve himself in awarding contracts is simply not believable to most people.

    In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also has a reputation of bullying his city council and treating it with disdain, just spent $33 million on his re-election bid and barely won a third term. His opponent spent about $3 million.

    After the election last week, Bloomberg was openly courting the council members he had arrogantly ignored in the past.

    The New York Times quoted a local political consultant as saying the mayor, who "used to swat away a handful of gadflies on the Council each year, must now prepare for 'mounting opposition from people who are less extreme.'"

    Only Chairman Gray has made more than a little noise about possibly challenging Fenty next year. There are a few yard signs up saying "Kwame Brown for Mayor," and former D.C. businessman R. Donahue Peebles is hinting he may jump in.

    But right now, every serious observer says the race is still the mayor's to lose.

    How he spends the next five or six months will help determine whether he does.

    Somebody Ask Joe

    Vice President Joe Biden will be in the District speaking at the 25th anniversary gala for The Lab School of Washington.

    Apart from the good work the Lab School does, it would be fun to go to the gala just because it's at the magnificent National Building Museum downtown. The vast open space and soaring columns there never fail to impress.

    But while the veep is there, maybe someone will sidle up to him and ask about D.C. voting rights. The city's legislation in Congress remains stuck and appears to be going nowhere.

    Maybe good 'ole Joe will have something good to say about voting rights.