City Paper Widget

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 25 (Afterword)

This is the twenty-fifth installment of a series (see the first installment here) summarizing the 1994 book Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood. This book has recently been republished as an ebook and a paper book. HBO has plans to use material from the book to make a movie about the life of Marion Barry.

Afterword (three of four)

"When Mayor [Anthony] Williams announced in September 2005 that he would not seek a third term, DC Council chairman Linda Cropp seemed to be his natural council success" (Kindle locaton 6202).

But Adrian Fenty, DC council member from Ward Four, had other ideas.

"To Fenty, Cropp was another standard-bearer for the city's old guard, the people who had failed to govern his native city for decades, going back to Marion Barry" (l. 6203).

"From the start, Fenty's campaign focused on contrasts -- youth against experience, change versus the status quo" (l. 6204)

Fenty grew up in Mt. Pleasant, where he worked in his parents' running-gear store. He graduated from Howard University Law School, interned for several members of Congress, and was a staff for a city councilmember before successfully running for DC council himself.

"On the council for six years, Fenty made few friends among his colleagues. He devoted his time and his staff's to constituent services. No street light, trashy alley, or dispute with the city escaped their attention. With two Blackberries connecting him to staff and the streets, he patrolled his realm in upper Northwest DC along 16th Street and Georgia Avenue in a white Suburban. He was executive rather than collegial. His council colleagues neither knew nor respected him. Fenty didn't care. He was looking past them all" (l. 6224).

"Fenty began running for mayor in June 2005 at age 35. He set a goal of walking every street and knocking on every door, and by the height of the campaign in the fall of 2006, he had come close" (l. 6226).

"In the Democratic primary that September, Fenty trounced Cropp in all eight wards, 57 percent to 31 percent, carrying every one of the city's 142 precincts. That had never been done before. Fenty had swept the field in a city long divided along racial and class lines" (l. 6228).

"...The mayor-elect scanned the nation for talent. To run his planning office, he hired Harriet Tregoning, a leader in smart growth and urban planning. As police chief, he appointed Cathy Lanier, the first woman to run the high-profile force. Fenty knew Lanier from her days commanding cops in his ward.... Fenty installed Allen Lew to run the massive school-reconstruction operation. Lew had managed construction of the new convention center and the new baseball stadium" (l. 6250).

Fenty also appointed Michelle Rhee to be the District's first school chancellor.

"In her first five months on the job, Rhee met with 144 principals and fired two on the spot" (l. 6290).

"Rhee, 38, brought in allies from the reform movement. Kaya Henderson become her chief deputy. Working for Rhee's New Teacher Project out of New York, Henderson deep into city schools and its tough battles with the Washington teachers union. Abigail "Abby" Smith joined the reform team along with a phalanx of other Rhee acolytes" (l. 6300).

"Beyond the nation's capital, Michelle Rhee became a new breed of celebrity: an 'edu-celeb'. Educators rarely show up on the covers of national news magazines. Michelle Rhee broke the mold. Time magazine featured a stern Rhee on its cover holding a broom, the better to clean up the schools" (l. 6302).

"But within the District, Rhee was piling up enemies, especially among the teachers and some parents groups. Every school she closed wounded a neighborhood and forced students to travel to class. Many teachers were middle-class African American women who served as backbones of families and communities. Firing a teacher who didn't measure up could disrupt an entire neighborhood" (l. 6313).

"Fenty's popularity sank, but the damage came more from self-inflicted wounds than from Rhee's reforms" (l. 6315).

"Fenty never warmed to the bare-minimum political practice of cultivating firends, let alone disarming enemies. Idle chats with voters bored him. He didn't like attending civic functions. If he showed up at a Chamber of Commerce reception, he arrived late and left early. He treated other business groups the same way -- with the back of his hand" (l. 6322).

Fenty appointed personal friends with no experience to political positions and picked fights with members of the DC council.

"Fenty's image also suffered when it seemed he was spending more time training for triathlons than running the city. WTOP reporter Mark Segraves caught him using police escorts to guide his cycling runs through Rock Creek Park and other heavily traveled parkways. Segraves' cell phone video became a hit on the station's website. It didn't help when Fenty scheduled a trip to Dubai without disclosing either his plans or who paid for the travel, as required by law" (l. 6347).

"A poll conducted by the Washington Post in January 2010 showed Fenty's approval ratings had plummeted, especially among black Washingtonians. African Americans switched from 68-percent approval after his first year in office to 65-percent disapproval, according the poll. Citywide, 49 percent of residents disapprove of his performance as mayor" (l. 6352).

"Nevertheless, Fenty started raising money for a second term in the summer of 2009, amassing a war chest of more than $4 million. He left crumbs on the table for a challenger. It looked as though he would run unopposed" (l. 6353).

Cheater's Guide to Dream City continues

Further installments will appear on successive Fridays. All posts are cross-posted on the ad-hoc "Cheater's Guide to Dream City" blog.

Full disclosure: I have a commercial relationship with Amazon. I will receive a very small portion of the money people spend after clicking on an Amazon link on this site.

This is a great book and well worth reading in its entirety.

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