Our incumbent Mayor in Washington, DC, Adrian Fenty, is in my opinion a pretty good mayor. He’s trying to reform the city’s long-screwed-up public school system and rework its transportation outlook while holding the line on crime. But there are certainly problems with his tenure. This starts with some allegations of corruption/cronyism that deserve a hard look, but continues into the policy arena. So given that our city council chairman has been itching to get into the race against Fenty, I’ve been hoping he’ll level a rigorous critique of Fenty’s record and maybe offer something better. But the Vince Gray for mayor kickoff has been strikingly vacuous. As Sommer Mathis reports:
Back at the Reeves Center, the most Gray offered about his mayoral platform was boilerplate material.
“I absolutely love this city,” Gray said. “But the reality is, we can do better.”
Jason Goodman, an HVAC mechanic from Ward 8, came out to support Gray, but not necessarily because of anything Gray has said he stands for.
“I am just so soured toward Fenty right now,” Goodman said. “I think he’s been making a lot of decisions behind closed doors. I think the city needs a change.”
I think you have to be suspicious in municipal politics when you hear people offering a lot of process criticisms of a reform mayor. The fact of the matter is that if you take a city like Washington that’s been known for years for public services that don’t perform well, and then you try to improve those public services, you’re going to make some people mad. Under the circumstances, complaints about Fenty’s style—complaints that seem to be the center of Gray’s campaign—seem to me a lot like complaints that President Obama is “moving too fast” or trying to “do too much.” In other words, they’re excuses for the fact that you just don’t want to see change.
Under Fenty, crime has gone down a bit and school test scores have gone up a bit. New businesses have continued to open despite the recession, and the city has added people. It’s a decent record to run on, and if you’re going to beat it you need to explain to me what it is you’re going to do to increase the pace of improvements not just complain that some toes have been stepped on.