Looks like frontrunner Adrian Fenty will be our new Mayor here in the District. Though he’d been in the lead for quite some time, Fenty was, of the two leading contenders, the candidate of change and change is in the works. I didn’t vote for him. My thinking, roughly, is that his reformist zeal is indicative of an unfortunate tendency to overestimate the possibilities of urban governance. The sad truth of the matter is that the most serious problems afflicting largish American cities like Washington simply aren’t things that local government can do very much about. Complacency about social justice questions is a bad thing, but it needs to be addressed at a fairly high level. Attempts to do it at the small-unit level are likely to be counterproductive.
Under the circumstances, I think the most useful thing DC government could use would be some fairly aggressive rollback of the business licensing process and various land use regulations aimed at protecting the interests of incumbent property owners. Since nobody was promising anything like that, the candidate of continuity and competence seemed like the correct choice. The District has a lot of problems, but things are getting better rather than worse, and that’s not nothing once you adopt an appropriate level of fatalism vis-a-vis the issues. On the other hand, this was not a line of thought I was totally thrilled with, so I can’t say I’m heartbroken Fenty won. Hopefully he’ll surprise me and aggressive reform will make everything awesome.