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The debate on Vincent Gray's executive record begins

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Since a debate last week, Mayor Adrian Fenty has continued to sharpen his focus on challenger Vincent Gray's days in the city administration as director of the human services department under Mayor Sharon Pratt from 1991 to 1994.

Fenty's strategy is two-pronged: He's trying to paint Gray as a creature of a nebulous "old school," representative of a day when city services failed and residents were leaving en masse. But he also is starting to take very direct aim at Gray's performance as human services director. And Gray is starting to fight back.

Last night, at a candidates' forum sponsored by the Ward 3 Democrats, Fenty opened the direct attacks on Gray after a question on juvenile justice.

"At that time, the courts took over the juvenile justice system under a case called Jerry M." he said. "One of the things that the government failed to do in that time is close [the infamous Oak Hill Youth Center] and make it into a world-class facility."

"There are distinctions in this campaign," Fenty closed. "This is a huge one."

Gray responded angrily at the next opportunity: "How could you be so uninformed?" he said. The Jerry M. case, he said, "was filed in 1986" -- well before he became human services director. He also took credit for closing two delinquent youth facilities that had as poor a reputation as Oak Hill: the Cedar Knoll Youth Detention Center in Anne Arundel County and the Receiving Home for Children on Mount Olivet Road NE.

Further, he claimed, "We began to introduce services to people that were rehabilitative in nature."

So here's the independent fact-check: Gray was more correct than Fenty on Jerry M., but neither are perfect. The Jerry M. case was filed in 1985; the city signed a consent decree with plaintiffs in 1986, establishing an ongoing judicial role in city's juvenile justice system. During Gray's tenure, the city's movement of youths into community-based programs failed to solve overcrowding problems at the detention centers.

With no money to build any new facilities, the problem compounded. In 1994, toward the end of Gray's time as director, the Superior Court judge overseeing Jerry M. ordered the city to pay $1,000-a-day fines for each youth held over court-imposed population limits.

Both the Receiving Home and Cedar Knoll did close under Gray's tenure. But the city did not do so without great pressure from judges and -- in the case of Cedar Knoll -- Congress. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), whose district included Cedar Knoll, passed legislation requiring the facility's closure.

It's worth noting that the issue of overcrowding at delinquent-youth facilities is still very much with us. The Receiving Home's replacement -- the Youth Services Center built by Mayor Anthony Williams on the same Mount Olivet Road site -- has suffered from the same overcrowding problems under Fenty. Some say the replacement for Oak Hill -- the New Beginnings Youth Facility -- is too small to accommodate demand.

The Jerry M. case, despite Fenty's best efforts, rolls on.

Photo by Linda Davidson/The Washington Post

By Mike DeBonis  |  June 11, 2010; 7:38 PM ET
Categories:  Adrian Fenty , The District , Vincent Gray  
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Next: DeMorning DeBonis: June 14, 2010

Comments

Mr. Fenty: WEAK! BTW: Tell your little workers to stop stealing yard signs and stop slapping those bumper stickers on unsuspecting cars.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 12, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Adrian Fenty is a crook who belongs in prison. Throw that bum out of office!

Posted by: ashafer_usa | June 12, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Jerry M. does continue on, even under the Fenty Administration. Only now the city's relationship with the court and the court ordered monitor at DYRS has soured. Thanks to one Peter Nickles. As Colby King has noted in numerous editorials since Fenty has taken office, absconding (escape) is on the increase and DYRS, instead of detaining dangerous youth entrusted to them by the court, sends them to half way houses within the same community to which they committed crimes. The Fenty fix for DYRS, what he calls a "world class facility" --New Beginnings--suffered a breakout days after it was opened. To avoid being overcrowded they send violent dangerous youth back among the public where they either commit more crime or end up dead. (See Colby King).

Gray needs to stay on message with Fenty's illegal shifting of 100 million taxpayer dollars from the D.C. Treasury to a private entity for the sole purpose of doleing them out to friends and cronies in the form of contracts, beyond the reach of council oversight, the terms of which they nowhere near had the qualifications to fulfill. Millions to serve as go-betweens, between the money, and those who really had the credentials and capacity to do the work.

What is telling, as DeBonis has reported, when the DCHA board chairman at the time realized the malfeasance in the contracting scheme and attempted to return the money to the District, he was replaced by Fenty. Keep following this lead DeBonis, you will be suprised what you will find. You are well on your way to finding the gold at the end of the rainbow.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | June 12, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

You are really stepping it up. That was unbiased..with the snark but still stylized. Showed the facts without the lean.

I am impressed. I did not care for your writing on the City Paper but this post may well suit you.

Posted by: 411Tibby | June 14, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Where has Fenty spent viritually his entire "professional career?" Before he was elected to the Council, he spent years as an aid to Councilmember Kevin Chavous, whose committee assignment, I believe, included public education. Fenty has been in "politics" far longer than Vincent Gray and arguably, bears far more of the responsibility for the "bad old days" than Gray.

Posted by: tacard1 | June 14, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

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