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.
August 3, 2010; 7:46 PM ET
Categories: Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District , Vincent Gray
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