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Fenty's First 100 Days: Can He Top This?

And on the 101st day, the mayor celebrated a historic voting rights victory in Congress and won the right to take over the city's school system. Well, actually, it was the 107th day, but who's counting? Yesterday was just one more in a whirlwind of action-packed days for Mayor Blackberry, who makes more public appearances per day than his predecessor made in an average week, enjoys a ridiculously good rep among wide swaths of the city's voters, and still manages to run in marathons and seem as if he has all the time in the world.

Adrian Fenty wasn't expected to have much of a honeymoon. And he's already had his fair share of scares, such as this week's near-loss of the city's financial guru, Natwar Gandhi, without whom the District could well be careering into bankruptcy once again. But despite widespread skepticism that Fenty's plan to take over the public school system will amount to much, and a general consensus that either the U.S. Senate or President Bush will quickly stomp all over the celebration of yesterday's victory for voting rights in the House of Representatives, the mayor is winning battles and making friends all over the place.

To be sure, Fenty's support is far from universal. Purists in the statehood movement protested Fenty's march for D.C. voting rights on Monday. They were miffed that the had mayor endorsed Rep. Tom Davis's plan to add one House seat for the District and one for Utah, to provide political balance and ease passage through Congress. (It was Davis, the northern Virginia Republican, more than any Democrat, who made this happen. He reacted to yesterday's vote like so: "As a Republican, I am not willing to bear the shame of failing to try to resolve this matter after 200 years. The Republican Party was formed as an answer to divided politics, political turmoil, arguments and internal divisions, particularly over slavery. We exist as a party to increase representation and liberty in this country, and in this world." Only 22 of Davis's GOP colleagues supported his bill.

A tiny but loud contingent of voters who seem satisfied with the grim status quo of the school system has fought the mayor's takeover plan tooth and nail. But Fenty easily won the blessing of the D.C. Council, which embraced the mayoral takeover by a 9-2 vote. And Fenty's handpicked successor is one of the top contenders in next month's special election to fill the Ward 4 vacancy on the Council; a candidate connected to Fenty is among the top tier of contenders for the Ward 7 vacant seat in that same election.

Although you do hear some grumbling from council members and other politicos around town about Fenty's peripatetic ways, that is at least balanced out by the accolades coming from the many community groups that get a sliver of the mayor's time each day. He routinely shows up to neighborhood meetings that draw as few as a dozen people--and those groups seem immensely grateful to see a mayor listening to them, something many of them felt didn't happen during the Tony Williams years.

Does the mayor's constant running about translate into policies and actions that those residents desire? Is the emphasis on public appearances stealing time away from the grittier work of budgets and personnel decisions and massaging the council?

So far, the mayor's political prowess has been sufficient to keep the council happy. Developers, who generally worried that Fenty would be way too slanted toward neighborhood concerns about too much building and gentrification, have grown to like the guy, though they still don't quite trust that he will be as supportive as Williams was. And from both the development business and neighborhood folks, there is some unease over the idea that Fenty seems to tell everyone what they want to hear. At some point, the mayor has to start saying No to some people, and that's the moment when both sides fear they will end up on the short end.

But Fenty seems intent on forestalling any such identification with one or another faction in city politics. And in at least a couple of instances, he's shown himself to be tough: In a meeting with tenants at a troubled housing complex near the Sursum Corda project along the N. Capitol Street corridor, the mayor told residents that the days of city government and other authorities telling them what would become of their lives and their housing were over. The choice was now up to them. Stunned residents pushed back, figuring that the mayor wouldn't come to their house if he didn't have a plan up his sleeve. So, they asked, are you tearing down our project or not? Fenty insisted, to the shock of his nervous aides, that he wasn't kidding, there was no secret agenda. It's your call, he said: The District will abide by your vote.

The future of the Temple Courts project is still up in the air, but the tenants came away from the meeting wowed and empowered.

So he's got the public piece of the job going nicely. Still, there was widespread grumbling about the slow removal of snow this winter, and the pace of preparations around the Nats' new baseball stadium is so painfully slow that many property owners in the area are fearing disastrous gridlock come next spring's Opening Day. The ballpark will be ready, but the streets, Metro station, and parking plan may be far from done.

The next 100 days will likely be more difficult for Fenty, as the honeymoon wears down and expectations begin to rise for the Education Mayor to do his thing (watch for Superintendent Clifford Janey to be shoved out before the start of school in the fall.)

What is the mayor doing right and how has he disappointed or messed up? What indicators do you see that should steer our thinking on his performance thus far?

By Marc Fisher |  April 20, 2007; 7:22 AM ET
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Comments

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At least he accomplished something his first 100 days. I mean, he wasn't wasting time and taxpayer dollars with non-binding resolutions.

Posted by: SoMD | April 20, 2007 8:21 AM

snow removal seemed fine to me-- seemed like there were more problems with snow removal outside DC than in DC.

Posted by: dc resident | April 20, 2007 9:40 AM

peripatetic - great word!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2007 10:24 AM

It's abundantly clear that journalistic and corporate interests at The Washington Post have lost credibility. When substantive coverage of D.C.'s deeper socioeconomic and fiscal problems is trampled by your fascination with personality and hype, the Post becomes just a creatively rewritten Adrian Fenty press release.

Marc Fisher and The Washington Post should put a disclaimer on every story they write about the Fenty Administration: "This is a rewrite of information and insights we feel benefits the status quo. The perspectives and concerns of District residents are secondary or irrelevant."

Then again, the disclaimer may not be necessary. Declining District readership, news box sales and subscriptions are our way of saying you don't speak for us or to us. Help the environment by not printing so many newspapers that don't sell. Despite your ongoing series of slants and slights against what's really happening in the District, D.C. is not an abbreviation for dumb citizens or docile constituents.

From his handling MRDDA to the clumsy handling of a lightweight snowstorm, we have a glimpse of worse things to come under mayor Fenty. The devil is in the details, most of which Mr. Fenty disguises or fails to provide to the public. Seeking voting rights from the U.S. Congress on one hand, and then sneaking up to Capitol Hill to demolish due process of a citizens referendum is beyond your willingness to cover.

If it weren't for D.C. council members Phil Mendelson (Democrat) and Carol Schwartz (Republican), we would have forgotten that mayor Fenty has administrative deficit disorder. Stay tuned for when he gets bored of tackling the deep and dirty details of improving our schools, while handling other District issues. Their bipartisan warning of things to come is the red flag and alarm over Fenty you choose to ignore.

Your journalistic credibility and integrity can't be substituted with pretentious coverage of the real day-to-day issues most District citizens face beyond your pages. We know a puff piece when we read it.

Posted by: Hype Buster | April 20, 2007 11:22 AM

After 100 days Fenty has shown us all the reasons why we voted for him. He is a new beginning. And for those who have a problem with this new breath of fresh air I quote in the words of that famous ex-Mayor "Get over it."

Posted by: DC Voter | April 20, 2007 12:38 PM

Fenty has shrewdly played the `energetic and empathetic politician` game [which Williams obviously hated.] It is way too early to know if he can parlay some of that political capital into achievements, but at least he has it.

He has yet to tackle the real biggie: crime. If he can`t get that under control, not much else will succeed.

The opening of the new stadium will ABSOLUTELY be a parking and transportation disaster, ...[and ultimately a financial disappointment,] ...but that`s not Fenty`s fault. That falls on the former mayor, the council members who voted for this turkey, and the team owner, Lerner.

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Posted by: sasha Viskey | April 21, 2007 5:02 PM

Hype Buster: Great posting!

Personally I don't know, have no idea really, how Fenty will do. I can see him doing pretty well in terms of handling the schools, since that was his main thing. I was against the take-over, luke-warmly. But your characerization of the Post - in general - is RIGHT on. I have always said, if you want real local coverage, go with the Examiner. They can be shockingly anti-DC in their editorials and even their slant, their grammatical and spelling errors are tremendous but funny. Still, since I want to know the who what why and how, I pick it up everyday. Never the Express. Never. Anyway, great post!

Posted by: Walnuts | April 22, 2007 12:19 PM

The Mayor has been, in a word, fantastic. I think Marc's piece fairly captures what he's managed to accomplish. His school legislation was a triumph and impressive. His leadership on voting rights unparalleled. His willingness to listen to people and gauge community concerns is laudatory. I don't know how any mayor can hold such a public job and not be subjected to criticism, but Hype Buster (AKA "walnuts" apparently), your critique is pretty empty as to the mayor -- that "lightweight" snowstorm was an unprecedented 3 inches of sleet that presented unique problems for all jurisdictions -- and more a rant against entrenched power. I would think that Fenty would be your man. He's beholden to no one, and most powers that be only joined his bandwagon once the handwriting was on the wall within a week of the primary, or later. Thank goodness fo Mayor Fenty!

Posted by: SE | April 23, 2007 9:34 AM

Mr. Hype Buster is from the DC Independents group. They are best known for their constant spamming of people's inboxes, their ignorance of anti-spamming laws, and their dopey legal threats for anyone who complains about their never-ending spam attacks.

But Mr. Hype Buster is the poster child for many of the constant cranks that inhabit TheMail. They are the tiny but hyper-vocal minority who are perfectly happy with the way the system used to work, because they were firmly entrenched in that system. Now that Fenty is seeking to rid the schools system of the leeches and parasites that have made a fortune, while ignoring the plight of the schools themselves and the children they purportedly serve. I'm not a super Fenty fan, but I love the fact that he's standing up to - and ignoring - the b.s. put forth by proponents of the status quo.

Posted by: Fact Checker | April 23, 2007 11:02 AM

Dear "Fact Checker"

We're not sure who "Hype Buster" is, but clearly he or she is one of the many civil and sane respondents on our e-mail list, and visitors to our website ( http://www.DCIndependents.org ).

Though Hype Buster presented an uncredited copy of a DCICC commentary sent through our e-mail news service, I can affirm and support his or her enthusiasm to make their point. However, Mr. or Ms. Fact Checker, if in fact you are on our e-mail news list, I will personally make sure you are removed when you forward your opt-out request. In the meantime, we respectfully welcome your more sane, civil and factual responses anytime -- particularly any comments, criticisms or ideas that won't give the impression you're one of the "cranks" that you describe in your Raw Fisher blog.

Thank You, Most Respectfully,
Dennis Moore, Chairperson
District of Columbia Independents for Citizen Control (DCICC)

dennis@dcindependents.org, dcindependents@gmail.com
http://www.DCIndependents.org

Posted by: Dennis Moore | April 26, 2007 12:30 PM

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