Voters' Answers: 5. Fenty's Honeymoon Ends
Question #5: Will the D.C. Council, deeply frustrated by Mayor Adrian Fenty's end runs around them on issue after issue, embark on a more confrontational or obstructionist path over the next two years?
The election last night of Michael Brown to an at-large seat on the D.C. Council tips the balance of the city's legislature, strengthening those members who are finally frustrated enough by Mayor Adrian Fenty's solo forays into policy-making that they're ready to sprinkle some tire spikes into the road that the popular mayor travels.
Cowed for nearly two years by the fact that Fenty won every single precinct in the District in his historic run for the mayoralty, the council has grown increasingly angered by what most of its members view as Fenty's failure to consult with them and his reluctance to let his agency heads and other senior administrators speak freely at the council's oversight hearings.
Michael Brown, making his third attempt to win city office, finally won with just under 20 percent of the vote, as Republican Patrick Mara and incumbent Carol Schwartz, running as a write-in candidate after losing to Mara in the primary, evenly split about 22 percent of the vote.
Although Brown's victory could hardly be called a mandate, it will nonetheless be taken as something akin to that by council members who've been itching to hit back at Fenty. Marion Barry (Ward 8), Harry Thomas (Ward 5), chairman Vincent Gray and at large members Phil Mendelson and David Catania are each, to various degrees, looking for ways to give voice to rising concern in some parts of the city that the Fenty administration acts in high-handed ways, paying little attention to what voters have to say. (Some of the council members mentioned above don't like being lumped together with the others who are upset about Fenty. Catania, for example, considers himself an ally of the mayor on most issues. And it's true that the council as a whole has been ultimately very supportive of Fenty on the big issues. But these are members who are publicly bristling about the mayor's high-handed treatment of the council.)
Whether the issue is school closings, aggressive policing tactics such as the cordoning off of the Trinidad neighborhood during a crime spike, or the District government's relationships with developers and sports team owners, that growing minority of the council wants to find effective ways to rebalance the wheels of power.
But Fenty remains enormously popular across much of the city, and he still has allies on the council--some who believe in much of what he does, and some who merely fear the mayor's popularity.
The arrival of Michael Brown is likely to ratchet up the rhetoric in familiar ways, portraying the mayor as someone who, like Tony Williams before him, lacks the ability to listen to the voices especially of the city's less affluent residents. The big question for the coming months is whether a newly energized council is likely to alter the mayor's style.
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Posted by: concernedaboutdc | November 5, 2008 3:49 PM
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