City Paper Widget

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 26 of 26 (Afterword)

This is the twenty-sixth and last 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 (four of four)
The last part of this book describes the rise of Mayor Vincent C. Gray up until April 2014, when it went to press.

“[Gray] grew up in a one-bedroom apartment in Northeast Washington.... His partents never attended high school. Gray graduated Dunbar High School... and went on to George Washington University.... After graduating college, Gray went into social work, first for senior citizens, later for people with developmental disabilities” (Kindle location 6363).

“Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly appointed Gray to run her human-services department in 1991. When she lost reelection in 1994, Gray became executive director of Covenant House, an organiation that served the homeless and at-risk children. He ran it for a decade” (l. 6364).

“In 2004, at the age of 62, Vince Gray won the Ward Seven seat on the council... Just two years later in 2006, Gray ran citywide for council chairman and won.... He was deliberate, patient, collegial – all qualities that helped the 13-member legislative group function well. He watched the new Mayor Fenty treat the council with indifference” (l. 6364).

“Members of the 'old guard' lobbied Gray and promised to raise funds for his campaign.... Polls showed Gray could challenge Fenty. In March the council chairman declared his candidacy for mayor; a month later Fenty officially entered the race” (l. 6375).

“On quality of life and civic accomplishments, Mayor Fenty could run on a solid record. The city was safer. Crime was down. Homocides had fallen to 140 in 2009, a 45-year low. District agencies were running more efficiently.... Residents said in polls that the city was headed in the right direction” (l. 6377).

“But Fenty could not shake the widespread impression that he was arrogant and insensitive. He refused to accept polls that showed his popularity in free fall” (l. 6377).

“An undercurrent theme in the campaign to unseat Fenty was that Gray would resurrect Marion Barry's power base, bring back his machine, and redirect the flow of city contracts to Barry's friends. Fenty had tossed many old-guard Washingtonians from his government and from city contracts. Encouraged by Barry, they wanted back in” (l. 6402).

“In the decisive Democratic primary on September 14, Vince Gray trounced Fenty with 54 percent of the vote to Fenty's 44 percent. The city cleaved along racial lines: In black precincts across Anacostia in Ward Seven, Gray polled 82 percent of the vote. Fenty got 80 percent of the mostly white votes in Ward Three” (l. 6404).

“Mayor Vincent Gray was in office for fewer than two months when more than a few voters experienced an extreme case of buyer's remorse” (l. 6415).

“Gray had run as the clean candidate – 'Character, Integrity, Leadership' – and promised high ethical standards and a more approachable city government than Fenty had run. Gray had barely moved into the executive suite when news broke that his appointees and staff in top jobs in his administration were busy installing dozens of family members and friends in other posts with high salaries” (l. 6416).

Sulaimon Brown had run against both Fenty and Gray for mayor, but spent much of his time on the campaign trail attacking Fenty. Brown then got a $110,000-a-year job in the Gray administation.

“When his past legal problems surfaced in the news, Brown was fired and escorted his office by police” (l. 6421).

Brown accused the mayor of paying him to attack Fenty.

“The mayor and his campaign advisors scoffed. Gray hastily called a news conference and called for an investigation to clear his administration's name. But Brown produced documents, money order receipts, and phone records to help prove his account” (l. 6427).

"When Gray could rise above the fray, he governed well..." (l. 6432).

"His economic-development aides helped jumpstart projects that had been in the planning stages during the Williams and Fenty administrations. Construction cranes once again defined the District's skyline. Gray cut ribbons for the long-stalled Skyland shopping center in Ward Seven; new shops, offices, and housing at the O Street Market site along 9th Street, Northwest; and a total redevelopment of the Southwest waterfront along Maine Avenue" (l. 6444).

"... Young couples pushing baby strollers began showing up in traditionally African American neighborhoods like Petworth along Georgia Avenue. Newcomers moved into row houses in Bloomingdale and Eckington, east of North Capital Street" (l. 6540).

"Nowhere was the revival more evident than on 14th Street north of downtown. The eight blocks from Massachusetts Avenue to U Street became famous -- and infamous -- for redevelopment and gentrification. Developers knocked down warehouses and replaced them with condominiums. The Central Union Mission, which had housed homeless people for decades at 14th and R Streets, sold its building and moved to another location...." (l. 6543).

"The city's revival failed to lift all boats: The District's poor residents suffered from unemployment, poor health, and violent crime, especially if they lived east of the Anacostia" (l. 6552).

"The first polls in the mayor's race showed Gray with a lead, thanks to his base in the black wards east of the Anacostia River and a field jammed with challengers...." (l. 6579)

Meanwhile, corruption investigations that had been picking off members of the Grey administration closed in.

"On March 10, three weeks before the election, [businessman and Gray confidant] Jeff Thompson pleaded guilty to violating campaign-finance laws. Among many admissions, he said he had paid former councilmember Michael Brown to drop out of the 2006 mayor's race and endorse Linda Cropp against Adrian Fenty. He admitted to funneling more than $2-million in illegal contributions to local and federal campaigns over a six-year period. His pleas detailed how he had raised and directed more than $650,000 for Gray's 2010 election" (l. 6591).

"The blockbuster: In open court, Thompson alleged that Vincent Gray knew of the illegal contributions. Vernon Hawkins and other Gray aides had asked Thompson for $400,000 to help Gray get out the vote" (l. 6592).

"Mayor Gray needed to rally his base in the black wards. He never had much support among white voters, who pined for Fenty... and assumed Gray knew of the corrupt campaign" (l. 6594).

"Whom was he going to call? Marion Barry" (l. 6603).

"On Wednesday, March 19, Barry showed up in the basement of Matthews Memorial Baptist Church in Anacostia to endorse Gray's reelection bid. He had to help helped onto the stage" (l. 6604).

"The weekend before the April 1 vote, Barry joined a caravan through African American wards. Riding shotgun, Barry used a megaphone to exhort voters to turn out for Grey" (l. 6617).

"[Muriel] Bowser won the April 1st primary decisively. She captured 44 percent of the vote to Gray's 32 percent" (l. 6618).

"Few voters showed up citywide to vote on April 1. The 83,000 votes cast represented the lowest turnout in nearly 30 years. Precious few showed up in the black precincts Gray needed to win. While half of the voters turned out in some white precincts, fewer than 10 percent bothered to vote in black precincts along the Prince Georges County line" (l. 6621).

"Gray had failed to assume the cloak of victimhood that Barry tried to pass to him. In his first campaign defeating Fenty, Grey had received more than 25,000 votes east of the Anacostia. In the new election, despite Barry, Grey got fewer than 9,000 votes" (l. 6624).

"At the Democratic Unity Breakfast a few days after the election, Gray had to be goaded into shaking Bowser's hand" (l. 6629).

The chapter ends with a brief portrait of David Catania and the threat his campaign might pose to Muriel Bowser. At the time of the writing, Carol Schwartz had not announced her candidacy.

The books ends with a nod to its subject, Marion Barry.

"Marion Barry showed up in a wheelchair at Grey's election-night party. He said it was time for city voters to rally against Catania. Barry, the survivor, endorsed Bowser" (l. 6641).

Cheater's Guide to Dream City ends

This summary is cross-posted on the Cheater's Guide to Dream City blog.

There was a lot of fascinating detail in this book which I left out of this summary. If you want to understand the local politics of DC, you must read this a great book in its entirety.

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