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Posted at 9:47 AM ET, 06/ 4/2010

Fenty assails Gray; warns future of city at risk

By Washington Post Editors
Washington Post Editors

A feisty Adrian M. Fenty sparred with two of his opponents for the Democratic nomination for mayor Thursday night, delivering repeated criticism of Vincent C. Gray's record while stressing the city cannot afford to return to days in which Gray was part of the city's management team in the 1990s.

In a side of the mayor that few have seen before in public, Fenty warned Gray cannot be trusted to oversee schools, crime or the budget because the council chairman was part of former mayor Sharon Pratt's administration in the early 1990s.

"I don't know what city you are looking at, but to me, this is a city where management is getting things done," Fenty said at a candidates forum in Northwest. "It certainly is not the city of the early 1990s when the homicide rate was at 500 people or the schools were plummeting down, and we were the worst in everything and no one in the executive branch or the legislative branch did anything about it...This is a city that is getting things done and I think its time we continue it for another four years."

Fenty's remarks at the forum, sponsored by community associations in Cleveland Park, Palisades and Foxhall, represent what may be his fiercest assault yet on one of his opponents in a political campaign.

Gray, who was hampered by a moderator who kept to a strict two-minute time limit for candidate responses to questions, appeared unprepared for Fenty's attack on his record as the director of human services during the Pratt administration.

Gray instead spoke extensively about his record as council chairman while warning that overspending by the Fenty administration risks the city's financial future. Gray also accused Fenty of engaging in "one of the worst examples of cronyism" when he awarded city contracts to several of his fraternity brothers.

"The first thing I would do (as mayor) is bring fiscal discipline back to the District of Columbia," said Gray, noting the mayor has relied heavily on the city's reserve funds to balance recent budgets. "Unless we restore fiscal order back to the District of Columbia, we are not going to be able to do anything."

But while Gray largely focused his message on the nuts-and-bolts of governing, he lacked Fenty's passion when it came to formulating a broader message about what he hopes to accomplish as mayor.

Fenty sought to directly link rising student test scores with Chancellor Michelle Rhee and warned that progress may not continue if Gray is elected.

"I think what she has done has been unprecedented...and the tough decision making we have waited for in this city for decades," Fenty said. "I think this is the time, this election, is the time where we say, do we want to keep the schools moving forward or are we willing to risk it all?"

In response to a question from the panel, Gray refused to say whether he would keep Rhee as chancellor if elected, saying it's unfair to make a candidate make a promise about personnel decisions until after the votes have been counted.

"I believe we need to get through this election," Gray said. "I heartily support education reform in the District of Columbia no matter who the chancellor is and I certainly will consider keeping Michelle Rhee."

Although he wasn't as polished as Fenty, Gray also criticized Fenty's efforts to try to divert bag tax revenues to street sweeping and raise parking meter rates, two ideas that the council rejected. Gray also questioned why Fenty is trying to appoint two developers to the three-member Zoning Commission, which he said would assure there are no community representatives on the board.

"I believe my leadership and service on the council demonstrate I have a commitment to transparency, a commitment to openness, a commitment to collaboration and a commitment to collegiality so that when we do reach decisions, they will be ones that the citizens feel like they have had a role in," Gray said during his closing statement.

But Fenty, who has come under criticism over perceptions that he's too arrogant and detached, sought to turn his perceived personality flaws into an asset, saying, "being a mayor is not an easy job."

"Just going along to get along to try to make friends is not a way to run a city," Fenty said.

The two-hour debate, the first of several joint appearances in the coming days between Gray and Fenty, also saw the emergence of former television reporter Leo Alexander as possible factor in the election. Although polls show Alexander faces an uphill battle to win the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, parts of his message appeared to resonate with the audience.

Alexander promised if elected to fire Rhee and Police Chief Cathy Lanier, raise taxes on the rich while lowering taxes for residents who make less than $100,000, crack down on illegal immigration and shift the law enforcement priorities away from drugs and toward violent crimes.

Alexander aimed his fire at both Gray and Fenty.

"I am the only person up here who is not a career politician or bureaucrat," Alexander said.

--Tim Craig

By Washington Post Editors  | June 4, 2010; 9:47 AM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election, Tim Craig  | Tags:  dc mayors race  
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Gray...appeared unprepared
That pretty much sums up Gray's history in DC government and what Gray as mayor would be like.

Posted by: checkered1 | June 4, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

It's downright laughable that Fenty says Gray is not to be trusted! The Fenty administration has proven to be completely untrustworthy, especially in the areas he's claiming as his own victories: crime was on its way down in DC and nationwide, a sign of the times, nothing to do with Fenty; the schools were already improving, thanks to the previous school board chair, not Rhee; the back-door deals with his cronies? and he is trustworthy?! truly laughable!

Posted by: wpost36 | June 4, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Not a huge fan of Fenty, but I'll take him over Gray anyday.

We already had 20 years of a Gray mayorship.

Except it was Marion Barry.

That's exactly what we'd have with a Gray - a return to the Barry era.

Posted by: Hillman1 | June 4, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

@Hillman1, funny you say that, because it is Fenty that is the career politician in this race. He was elected to the Council in 2000, after a failed career in law culminating with his theft of estate funds to which he was an assigned trustee, of which he was sanctioned by the D.C. bar association, and Gray first ran for office in 2007.

While we are there, what, exactly DID Fenty do for DCPS while on the Council from 2000-2006 in an effort to improve the system? I'll tell you, NOTHING. He was part of the political problem that helped caused DCPS to be in the condition that it is in. I do, however, recall him blocking Anthony Williams effort to assume control of the schools to establish accountability. Now who, between Gray and Fenty, is really politicizing D.C. public education.

Fenty has been closer to Barry politics than Barry himself. It is Fenty that diverted 85 mil. (that's MILLION) D.C. tax dollars from the District Treasury to a private entity and have it doled out in contracts to his friends and cronies for projects that they didn't remotely have the qualifications to complete. Millions of dollars to serve as go-betweens. THAT is textbook Barry politics.

You seem to believe that when one is elected to be Mayor, if you like them, that authorizes them to skirt the law to get things done 'faster'. Well, that is the type of attitude that Barry depended on. That is the type of attitude that landed the District in Federal Receivership through the Control Board.

Gray believes in transparency and including the public in decisions concerning the allocation of their tax dollars. Fenty, since being in office, is the politician that operates in the dark, like a 'thief in the night'.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | June 4, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Gray lost me the minute he wouldn't even answer the first question about Ms. Rhee.
Does he take on responsibility for anything?

Posted by: pdv1 | June 4, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

"Fenty assails Gray; warns future of city at risk"

"Fenty assails Gray; warns 'My political future is at risk.'"

Posted by: starclimber9 | June 4, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Let's do a comparative analysis. Clark Ray (Who is now running for District Council) was the Director of Parks and Recreation when $85 mil. was shifted from their budget to the quasi-private Housing Authority to be doled out in contracts to Fenty friends and cronies outside of Council oversight. However, Fenty was/is the Mayor when this illegal act occurred. Who is being ultimately held accountable for this, Adrian Fenty. As he should, not, Clark Ray.

Thus, you cannot hold the Director of Human Services accountable for the executive misdeeds of ex-Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly. The voters held Sharon Pratt Kelly accountable, as they should hold THIS Mayor accountable for the mismanagement under his authority.

That is comparing apples with apples.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | June 4, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

That Leo Alexander's "platform" received support from some in the audience shows how precarious our city's future really is. To base one's candidacy partly on the firing of two superb public servants, both women, is appalling.

Posted by: pcstorandt | June 4, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

@pcstorandt: A janitor can be a GREAT public servant, that is because they are proud about the work they do, are competent and knowledgeable about what they do and deliver an exceptional work product for the public that use their facilities.

I have never known "gender" to be a legitimate measure of the "quality" of the public servant. Would it, then, be equally legitimate to say that all "men" in government should be fired because they are, well, "men".

Sounds stupid right?

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | June 4, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I agree with @wpost36 and @concernedaboutdc. Both bloggers make excellent points. You an not compare Gray to the Mayor Fenty. Fenty will be held accountable, because he is the Mayor.

Posted by: fivetogo | June 4, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Don't vote for either one. Go back to the commissioners. Before home rule, the streets were not potholed, taxes were low and crime was manageable. DC is a cesspool.

Posted by: mortified469 | June 4, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Instead of reading this blog, people should read the feature article that was posted n the weekend session regarding the forum. This blow is waaay too biased and supportive of Fenty. The feature article shows that people were actually put off by Fenty's speech at the forum and saw his attack on Gray to be a desperate attempt to divert attention from himself and avoid losing. They even interviewed several people who were originalyl undecided but, after watching the forum, decided on voting for Gray. Gray actually talked about the city's current issues instead of attacking his opponent by bringing up issues that happened in the '90's.

Posted by: thebandit | June 4, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

@thebandit, excellent comments. People are tired of this loser, Fenty. He is desperate. My husband and I had a chance meeting with Fenty. This man is as cold as ice. He believes his own lies. He does not like to be called out on his mistakes, he actually thinks Michelle Rhee knows what she is doing. I will not vote for this loser again, he has totally misrepresented himself, as a change of the old establishment.

Posted by: fivetogo | June 5, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

I have tried several times to post on this blog, but have received a "message" that I was posting too much. My messages are anti-Fenty. Has anyone else had that problem?

Posted by: tacard1 | June 6, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I have tried several times to post on this blog, but have received a "message" that I was posting too much. My messages are anti-Fenty. Has anyone else had that problem?

Posted by: tacard1 | June 6, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I have tried several times to post on this blog, but have received a "message" that I was posting too much. My messages are anti-Fenty. Has anyone else had that problem?

Posted by: tacard1 | June 6, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Post Scooped by Examiner AGAIN:

The Fenty administration is quietly but quickly working to head off a burgeoning scandal in the city's workers' compensation agency, The Washington Examiner has learned. Top administration officials, led by Attorney General Peter Nickles and City Administrator Neil Albert, have told the Office of Risk Management to come up with funds and clean up the records of the agency's life insurance program, a city hall source said. Disabled workers have alleged publicly that the agency has been deducting life insurance benefits from bimonthly paychecks but has not paid for life insurance coverage. Risk Management is charged with monitoring the city's liabilities. It has broad authority over workers' compensation claims. Since 2004, about $2 million from 4,000 workers has gone into an insurance fund controlled by Risk Management, the source said. But the fund is continually out of money. It's also difficult to trace the fund's expenses, the source said, because of chaotic bookkeeping. Sources familiar with the agency told The Examiner that Albert and Nickles have ordered Risk Management Director Kelly Valentine to correct the problems with the fund. The sources said that the administration's leaders are concerned with a scandal in an election year. Some polls show Adrian Fenty in a tight race with Council Chairman Vince Gray. Last week, Councilwoman Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, asked for an audit of Risk Management. She said she had "concerns about improper denials ... a general lack of knowledge of the relevant law ... and even questions about whether the [agency] is properly managing claims." The Examiner has also reported that the FBI is asking questions about the agency. Sources familiar with the investigation, which is in its earliest stages, say investigators have been interviewing witnesses since at least last September and are asking questions about insurance benefits as well as contracts handed out to private companies for various Risk Management jobs. Nickles and Albert each declined comment for this story. Asked if he stood by Valentine, Albert said, "I'm not going to talking about personnel."

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | June 7, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

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