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With summer jobs vote, Gray stands up for fiscal rectitude

Today's Summer Youth Employment Program showdown was a long time coming. I was there when it started, in a fifth-floor Wilson Building conference room last summer with 13 council members figuring out how to balance a shrinking city budget. One of the places they found money was the summer-jobs program -- not only was it an easy pot of cash to tap, it also served as a brushback to Mayor Adrian Fenty. Everyone in the room was quite aware that an ever-expanding summer-jobs program was and would continue to be one of Hizzoner's highest priorities; by limiting the program to six weeks and $22 million, they essentially dared him to defy their will.

Defy them he, of course, did. And today the council, led by Fenty challenger Vincent Gray, has struck right back, refusing to grant Fenty a one-week extension. Though Fenty identified federal funding to pay for the extension, that money was taken out of funding for homeless families -- another problem that's blown up on his watch.

I was surprised by the council's move. I expected, as Fenty probably did, that the council would cave when faced with the prospect of essentially taking $200 out of the pockets of some 18,000 city kids who have parents who might vote six weeks before an election. It's a much easier political sell than touting the housing for 135 homeless families that the funding will cover.

Fenty regularly boasts on the campaign trail about making "tough decisions." But Gray sure made a tough decision today. It's a hazardous political call for the underfinanced challenger, who now opens himself to Fenty attacks that he's quite literally taken money out of kids' pockets. But Gray chose instead to put some meat behind his claims of fiscal rectitude.

And now cue the political gamesmanship.

The Fenty campaign, in a statement, accused Gray & Co. of "playing politics," adding: "Instead of working to find a solution, Gray offers no leadership, just his usual criticizing and second guessing."

The Gray camp attributed the vote to Fenty's "gross mismanagement" of the summer-jobs budget: "It is too bad this administration is so fiscally irresponsible that it would play politics with our young people and a program specifically intended to help them gain important life skills -- like learning to show up on time every day and get along with others."

We'll see, starting with the Ward 4 forum tomorrow night, how this plays on the campaign trail.

By Mike DeBonis  |  August 3, 2010; 7:46 PM ET
Categories:  Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District , Vincent Gray  
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Comments

The council did the right thing. The youth are supposed to be cared for by their parent or guardian. The mayor has not managed our tax dollars wisely. He seems to think that the money is his own personal money. Not! These children will be okay, they have just learned that you sometimes have to make hard decisions, and help others (homeless families), as well.

Posted by: fivetogo | August 4, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Here are my reasons for voting for Anyone BUT Fenty:

After 10 years of increasing school test scores, scores declined last year
Fixing schools requires more than just a Diva firing “ineffective” teachers
Crime is up over the last years
DC now has the highest city-wide unemployment in it’s history
Fenty has awarded his fraternity brothers $82 MILLION in illegal contracts that they were unqualified for
Fenty arrived into office with a huge budget surplus that he has turned into a large deficit
He has depleted our Rainy Day Funds so he could open $400k dog parks and heat his favorite swimming pool
He leaves the country without telling anyone or leaving any one as custodian of the DC government
His personality: Arrogant, selfish, lack of compassion
He is unwilling to hear any different opinion and anyone that doesn’t agree with him
Fenty doesn’t consult with the community on ANYTHING.
Fenty has not held ONE news conference since becoming Mayor. Not one.
Fenty misses community meetings and simply says he “couldn’t make it happen”
When asked about a triple homicide, Fenty says “it could have been worse”
Fenty refuses to hand over any government records- has worst record of responding to Freedom of Information Act requests
Fenty is unable to play well with others- refuses to give City Council tickets to Nationals game
Fenty lead a sketchy donation of firetrucks to the Dominican Republic. Don’t we need them?
Fenty has a poor record on juvenile justice and public safety- Kids that were in custody murdered DC Principal Brian Betts.

Posted by: DCResident3 | August 4, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

How about the $13,000 that each cab driver has lost since he tampered with setting the prices on the meter? Isn't that playing politics?

Posted by: starclimber9 | August 4, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

As far as I am concerned, there was no choice but to shut it down. A budget was created and you spend what you can afford. Why create a budget when all he's going to do is overspend? Fenty has screwed up everything he has touched.

Posted by: candycane1 | August 5, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

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