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Fenty, Gray spar at forum

Washington Post Editors

If Wednesday night's D.C. for Democracy candidates forum had been televised, viewers would have seen Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) looking annoyed, distracted and uneasy.

The mayor had a vexed look on his face during much of the forum as he fumbled with his BlackBerry. At one point, he picked up the BlackBerry and handed it to an aide so she could take an incoming call for him.

But viewers also would have heard a mayor who is starting to sharpen his message about why he thinks he's a better candidate than his chief rival in the September Democratic primary, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray.

Appearing alongside Gray and Leo Alexander, also a candidate for the Democratic nomination, Fenty defended his record and tried to raise doubts about his opponents' leadership ability.

In response to a question from the moderator, Gray and Alexander criticized the Fenty administration's record on affordable housing.

Fenty hit back.

"As you can tell the gentleman on my left and the gentleman on my right are really big critics," Fenty said, referring to Gray and Alexander. "If we were electing a chief critic for the District of Columbia, I would probably recommend either of them. But we are electing a chief executive officer and that means we need someone who can get things done."

Fenty, reading from a BlackBerry handed to him by an aide, then named nearly a dozen housing projects that he said he pushed to completion, resulting in about 11,000 affordable units.

"There is construction happening all over the city," Fenty said. "It's fine to criticize. It's fine to have an opinion, but in these times, when people need affordable housing, I think we need an administration that has a proven record of getting things done. Look at the 11,000 units of affordable housing that we've built all around the city."

Fenty's theme of being a can-do-mayor first surfaced in his opening statement when he told the audience of progressive activists that he's had to "make tough decisions" to make the District "a world class city."

Fenty arrived at the forum before Gray. The mayor, who has been criticized at times for being too distant, walked around the room at Judiciary Square and tried to meet individually with each of the three dozen D.C. for Democracy members who were in attendance. Gray was late, but as the questioning began, Fenty appeared to grow increasingly uncomfortable. After about 20 minutes of questions, Fenty had his aide deliver a message to the moderator that he needed to wrap up the questioning so he could leave to make another appointment

In his opening statement, Gray stressed his background as a former agency head and executive director of a nonprofit. He also touted his work as a chairman, which he said he helped the council achieve an approval rating north of 50 percent.

"I am chair of a body that has one of the highest approval ratings for a legislative body in the nation," Gray said. "That's because the 13 members of this council know how to stay focused on the most important goal and operate in an open, transparent manner and work to move the people's business forum."

The sharpest distinctions between the candidates came in response a question about how they plan to address income disparities between the rich and poor.

Fenty suggested the disparity can be resolved by boosting economic development, which he said his administration has been focused on for the past four years.

"All these construction jobs in D.C. create jobs in D.C. and all these construction projects when finished create new jobs for people who can work in them," Fenty said. "There are new grocery stores in Ward 8. There are new restaurants in Ward 7 and I think as we go forward, our focus on education, which is the great equalizer, is not only going to restore the economy but do what we did this year...grow the population."

Gray countered the issues involving income inequalities are more fundamental than just creating new jobs.

"We have more jobs today than we had three years ago, yet we have more unemployment than we had three years ago," said Gray, noting the city's unemployment rate of 11 percent. "Lots of people feel their skills don't match with the jobs that are available, and the job of a mayor is to be able to make sure we have efforts in place to prepare people for those jobs."

Gray noted that the council recently restored job funding that had been cut by Fenty.

Alexander blamed companies that hire illegal immigrants for the city's high unemployment.

"There are jobs here in Washington D.C.," Alexander said. "But our people are not working those jobs."

--Tim Craig

By Washington Post Editors  |  June 3, 2010; 8:58 AM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election , Tim Craig  | Tags: adrian fenty, d.c. mayor's race, vincent gray  
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Comments

The Rhetoric don't match the reality.

Who rouses the crowd in an executive like manner by reading from his blackberry.

Who resolutely leaves for Jamaica while others do the hard work of balancing the budget.

Posted by: 411Tibby | June 3, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

FENTY HAS TO GO FOUR MORE YEARS AND NO ONE WILL BE ABLE TO AFFORD TO LIVE IN DC UNLESS YOU ARE LIVING WITH 10 PPL

Posted by: shadon1 | June 3, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Wow! So, King Fenty had to read accomplishments from a BlackBerry? What an idiot.

Posted by: linroy62 | June 3, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I work in DCPS, and the students who competed in the robotics competition in March were honored last night at the Wilson Building. This crapshoot of a mayor didn't even have the decency to show his face, at an event honoring the students in the school system he claims he's trying, along with his mistress Michelle Rhee, to reform.

In the building in which his office resides, you mean to tell me he couldn't come down the elevator for not even five measly minutes to congratulate these students for their achievement, nor personally read the proclamation he had issued?

Chairman Gray took the time out of his busy schedule to congratulate the kids. Its the little things that count. Little things like acknowledging IN PERSON the achievements of our talented high school students. Students in a school system where the ill-prepared Chancellor belittles and fires at the whim teachers and principals, all in the name of "reform".

Its the little things like that that will ensure Adrian Fenty will be on the unemployment line come September, and Vince Gray will be our next Mayor.

Enough of that weasel Adrian Fenty. Vote Vince Gray for Mayor.

Posted by: LUlion07 | June 3, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Video for the whole 2.5-hour event is here:
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/7401772

Posted by: KCinDC1 | June 3, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

The entire candidate forum was available live online at http://sumofchange.com/elections/2010/general/dc/

Posted by: WUrquhart1984 | June 3, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Fenty is such a liar!!!! He has done nothing for residents East of the River and he know it. Economic development, income disparity, no jobs, nothing. Now every time you see him he is in SE trying to drum up the Black vote. Forget it, Mr. Fenty; you are finished.

Posted by: daughterofold | June 3, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Wow!

Posted by: drfields | June 3, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Wow!

Posted by: drfields | June 3, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Who was on the other end of the blackberry? I hope it was campaign staff and not his D.C. staff.

The interesting thing to me is that I have heard from many people that they voted/campaigned/contribubuted to Fenty and they never will again. I haven't heard from anybody who did not vote for Fenty, but thinks they would this time.

Posted by: tacard1 | June 3, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I just posted a comment, but it failed. Said that too many people were posting comments at the same time.

Posted by: tacard1 | June 3, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

The comment that "failed" was negative towards Fenty. This comment noted that it would be a violation of the Hatch Act, if Fenty was relying on his D.C. staff for information in the forum. The other thing I said was that I haven't heard from anybody who said that the DID NOT vote for Fenty the first time, but will vote for him again. All I hear is the opposite.

Posted by: tacard1 | June 3, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

I wonder why the "chief executive officer" needed help via a blackberry to point out his accomplishments.

Sad!!!!

Posted by: fmurray200111 | June 3, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

FENTY IS ANYTHING BUT A PEOPLE PERSON. HE OFFENDS PEOPLE WITH HIS STANDOFFISH WAYS. I'VE NEVER MET HIM BUT HIS ACTIONS SPEAK VOLUMES. HE DEFINITELY LACKS COMPASSION FOR THE POOR AND UNFORTUNATE, SINCE THEY COULDN'T POSSIBLY CONTRIBUTE TO HIS CAMPAIGN. ON A PERSONAL NOTE: HE IS ATTEMPTING TO SAVE MONEY BY HAVING DISABLED DC RESIDENTS WHO WERE PLACED IN APPROPRIATE FACILITIES OUT OF STATE SINCE DC DIDN'T HAVE THE ABILITY TO EDUCATE THOSE PEOPLE. SO FAR, HE HAS NOT SUCCEEDED. AND THE DISTRICT STILL LACKS WHEN IT COMES TO EDUCATING THE MENTALLY DISABLED. VOTE FOR FENTY? I DON'T THINK SO!!!

Posted by: skinfreak | June 3, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Someone should have asked King Fenty, why he refused to meet with the late Dorothy Height? He visited this lady in Howard University Hospital as she laid in a coma. Black D.C. voters will never forgive King Fenty for dissing the late Dr. Dorothy Height. President Obama found time to see Ms. Height 21 times at the White House. Who does Fenty think he is? This arrogant vendictive monster has to go.

Posted by: Ward4DC | June 4, 2010 2:27 AM | Report abuse

@tacard1, I also had the same problem. It made me think that someone only wanted to hear good things about Fenty, as if there is something good to be said of the Loser.

Posted by: fivetogo | June 4, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

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