Adrian Fenty ran for D.C. mayor four years ago as a man of the people, knocking on doors across the city and promising change. But during his first term, he has gained the perception that he is mainly interested in big business and catering to the District’s wealthier wards, more in the style of Anthony Williams than Marion Barry.
In a spending analysis, the Washington Post writes that “in a city where the geographic lines of Rock Creek Park and the Anacostia River have historically defined racial and class divisions,” critics have “branded the mayor as favoring white neighborhoods at the expense of black communities.” But a look at the actual allocation of District funds shows that the Fenty administration’s treatment of blacks and whites is, well, not so black and white.
Mostly black Ward 5 led the city in school construction funds over the past two years, followed by white Ward 2 and black Ward 8 -- the city’s poorest area. Georgetown has done well under Fenty, with $1 million per year spent on the Circulator bus service, but Fenty has also steered $55 million toward the construction of four computer-equipped libraries in east-of-the-Anacostia Ward 7.
Critics point to Fenty’s early focus on recreation projects in wealthy Ward 3 while cutting social programs and closing service centers in the poorer Northeast and Southeast quadrants. But Fenty told the Post that the problem is one of perception, and that he should do more to let locals know what is being spent in their neighborhoods. The Post notes that Fenty’s “reelection campaign literature is ward-specific, listing the city-driven or city-funded projects in each community. In part, it reads, ‘Leadership that gets things done for’ [insert ward number].”
Still, some see dog parks and Social Safeways as one face of Fenty’s administration -- and school closings under a consolidation plan as another. Despite the big bucks from the Wilson Building, Ward 5 residents gripe that Fenty and Chancellor Michelle Rhee shut down six schools in the ward -- while closing none in Ward 3.
Fenty defender Julius Ware, president of the Ward 7 Business and Professional Association, says the criticism is unfounded.
“That’s not fair,” he told the Post. “'What you have is people playing on the new ballfields and swimming in pools, but they are still saying, ‘I don't like the mayor.’”