Progressive Review





Current Editorial - Mayor Adrian Fenty has pushed an aggressive economic development agenda since taking office. . . . But we worry that the desire for action is too often cutting out the opportunity for reasonable community input. The proposed public-private partnership at the site of the Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library and Janney Elementary School is a key example. The actions of the city's economic development officials make it seem that they are not interested in listening to neighbors--a radical disconnect from the Adrian Fenty approach during his tenure on the D.C. Council and during his mayoral campaign. Community leaders had to file Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain public documents. The city-sponsored meetings held ostensibly to vet proposals did not provide an opportunity for unfettered questions. Instead, city officials selected queries from among those submitted on note cards by audience members.

And when the mayor was ready to announce his administration's choice of LCOR Inc. to develop an apartment building atop a new library, he did so at a hastily arranged outdoor news conference--held just a few hours after an early-morning announcement was distributed to the media. Even Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh--who had pressed for consideration of a public-private partnership at the site--was caught off-guard and ended up speaking without having had the opportunity to see the final proposal. The administration did not hold a community meeting to discuss the details in the days before the announcement, nor has it held one since.

This doesn't seem sustainable. In contrast, the same office is pursuing the correct course in the West End--after initial missteps that led to such a public outcry that the D.C. Council rescinded legislation authorizing negotiations about a land sale. Since then, the deputy mayor's office has allowed neighbors to take the lead in analyzing facilities needs. And now the office is holding its second public meeting on the community's desires.

As the city continues its ambitious development pace, it should replicate its West End approach, not its many mistakes in Tenley.


MARK SEGRAVES, WTOP - When Neil Richardson joined Team Fenty to work on the mayoral campaign, it was with a glimmer in his eye and the enthusiasm of young man intent on saving the world, or at least the city. Now, Mayor Adrian Fenty's former Deputy Chief of Staff has quit and is questioning whether Fenty is the populist he portrays himself as, or if he's something else.

"I think a lot of people are apprehensive and anxious -- you know, have a lot of anxiety about how their voice is being heard and incorporated in the changes that are happening. We do live in a democracy and it's not a dictatorship between the election and the next election.". . .

Richardson tells WTOP he grew increasingly frustrated with being shut out of Mayor Adrian Fenty's decision making process, and he says he's not alone.

"I think as I listen to the folks in the neighborhoods and I talk to people in the Wilson Building and other government buildings, I think there is a growing frustration that there's one single voice making all the decisions in the city. I don't think that's what people had in mind when they elected Mayor Fenty."

Richardson had started out as one of Fenty's top advisers both on the campaign and in City Hall. His desk was just a few steps from the mayor's. A few months ago Richardson was unceremoniously deployed to another job, in another building. . .

Richardson says things have changed since Fenty took office a year ago.

"I think there were a lot of folks who were expecting this populist young mayor to work very closely with public to make decisions, very close with his former colleagues on the Council and closely with his senior staff, some of whom like myself who had served with him on the campaign. Unfortunately over time I saw less and less interest in hearing new ideas and different ideas."


GARY EMERLING, WASH TIMES - - Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's takeover of D.C. Public Schools blurs the lines of accountability for school reform and places the D.C. Council in a role "fraught with political minefields," according to a report commissioned by the council. The 70-page report, compiled by the council's Office of Policy Analysis . . . expresses concerns about the possible pitfalls that accompany the takeover, including that residents could have problems holding officials accountable because the takeover dispersed authority throughout the executive branch and that the shift "enlarged the bureaucracy regarding public education." . . .

The report also states Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, and his hand-picked schools chancellor, Michelle A. Rhee, have not openly shared with the council many of their priorities for the school system so far - which "could seriously undermine" the council's oversight efforts this year.



- The school takeover

- Naming a police chief who had been involved in the torture of demonstrators

- The $50 million Verizon Center sweetheart deal

- The HPV vaccine requirement without adequate research justication

- The way that Michelle Rhee was appointed. -

- Fining anti-war demonstrators for putting up protest notices

- Ending the taxi zone system

- The West End development rip-off

- The harassment of local journalists Gary Imhoff and Dororthy Brizill

- Plan, abandoned, to destroy e-mails after six months -

Support of Homeland Security takeover of St. Elizabths

- Denial of right of car owners to make personal appearance on parkng tickets

- Tripling the number of staffers earning over $175k a year

- Plan to close large number of schools without adequate justication

- Greater SE hospital loses accreditation

- Firing highly experienced librarians

- Firing library employees based on age discrimination


- Fast response to Eastern Market fire -

Getting rid of discriminatory restrictions on old drivers renewing their licences

- Providing some new affordable housing


IF ADRIAN FENTY were the CEO of a corporation, he could be headed for a big fine thanks to his new order to destroy all city e-mails after six months. Such behavior could easily be regarded as criminal by either the Security & Exchange Commission or a state prosecutor.

As Steve King wrote in the Chief Executive in 2003:

||||| The feds want your email-and that could mean trouble. Just ask the CEOs of Deutsche Bank Securities, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Salomon Smith Barney and U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray. In December 2002, federal regulators slapped the five firms with fines of $1.65 million each for failing to preserve internal email.

The prosecutor leading the email charge is, of course, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. As Citigroup and Merrill Lynch discovered to their chagrin, Spitzer is a staunch enforcer of the Securities and Exchange Commission regulation 17a-4, which requires trading firms to save copies of all email for three years and keep them in a readily accessible place for two years.

In this new environment, Wall Street brokerage firms, which may have 10 million emails zipping across their networks each day, have to archive the traffic and must keep a hefty percentage of them at their fingertips. CEOs of nonfinancial companies also realize they're going to have to do a better job of maintaining access to emails, as prosecutors and plaintiffs' attorneys take a page from Spitzer's playbook and demand 'electronic discovery' of email. |||||

But the DC government, not being a corporation, can destroy all the emails it wants when it wants and Fenty - who seems to be racking up a lot of stuff to hide - is making the destruction of embarrassing evidence a high priority.

The Washington Post reported:

||||| Fenty (D) issued the administrative policy July 5 without any fanfare, authorizing the Office of the Chief Technology Officer to eliminate most e-mails in what he described as a cost-saving measure. The order wasn't made public until last week, when it was posted on the Web site of the Office of the Chief Technology Officer. "All e-mail bearing a date older than six months . . . regardless of agency, sender, recipient or any other attribute -- will be deleted automatically and permanently from the D.C. government e-mail system," Fenty wrote in his order. "This deleted e-mail will not be retained on any media or log."

Establishing a policy on e-mail retention places the District in the forefront of the issue of how to deal with government e-mails, which has affected record-keeping. The District's policy includes a provision for preserving e-mails that might be needed for legal matters. . .

The national debate over what to do with government-generated e-mails has intensified in the past few months after a scandal involving the White House. Several White House e-mails, including some detailing the firings of federal prosecutors, were deleted from private e-mail accounts. Under federal law, the White House is required to maintain records, including e-mails, involving presidential decision making and deliberations. |||||

Many local and state jurisdictions have short retention periods for e-mails. And many claim - as does the Fenty administration - to have review procedures to make sure that important mail gets saved, but plainly speaking, this is about the destruction of evidence. So if you want to sue the city government you better do it within six months of the offense.


WASHINGTON POST - On June 13, uber-activist Dorothy Brizill was handcuffed and led off to jail after engaging in a row with an aide to Victor A. Reinoso, deputy mayor for education, at the John A. Wilson Building. Another community activist alleges that he was similarly targeted by the Fenty team the same day. Robert Brannum, a substitute teacher who has demonstrated against Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's takeover of public schools, says he thinks the administration was angered by loud comments he had made June 12 at the mayor's news conference to announce the appointment of Michelle A. Rhee as school chancellor. Brannum attended the announcement, on the steps of the Wilson Building, and badgered the mayor and his aides several times. Brannum said he learned he was under investigation by the public school system for an alleged altercation with Reinoso. He said Reinoso ultimately exonerated him when questioned by school system investigators. . . Several community activists said the incidents concerning Brizill and Brannum appear to be a form of intimidation


VALENCIA MOHAMMED AFRO - Many community activists say the recent arrest of Dorothy Brizill, founder of D.C. Watch, was to send a message to other journalists and activists to stop scrutinizing the actions of city officials. . . "I always told my mother if I was ever arrested it would be for some worthy cause but never in my whole life did I think I would be arrested for asking for contact information from the mayor's office, which should be made public anyway," said Brizill. . . D.C. Watch, a well-respected non-profit organization that focuses attention on waste, fraud, mismanagement and corruption in the District of Columbia., has been probing the city government for decades.

"I was really shocked when I heard Dorothy of all people was arrested. Dorothy is a "doggit' journalist but she's not violent. I kept saying to myself that somebody's up to something. I just don't know what it is," said Sam Ford, reporter for WJLA- ABC 7 News.

The news of the arrest concerned other reporters who said they believe the Fenty administration's youthfulness, naivete and lack of good communication skills may have contributed to the misunderstanding.

"I've known Dorothy for years. When I heard what happened, I thought it was probably an overreaction by the person who she confronted for information. Dorothy is an aggressive person looking for the real story but I have never known her to over step the bounds of decency," said Paul Wagner, reporter for WTTG--Fox TV News. . .


WE'VE SEEN POLITICIANS come into office and act like klutzes in their first few months, but we can't think of another one who has come in like Fenty with such an aurora of arrogance combined with so many mistakes. Even Marion Barry didn't start falling apart until after his first term.

Fenty sometimes reminds us of a fresh MBA trying to prove his leadership by following all the bullet points in some management book he picked up at an airport news stand. He has put an excessive emphasis on proving his decisiveness and virtually none on demonstrating judgment, working well with a variety of constituencies and understanding that certainty has no particular connection with competence.

It has only been a few months and he has already thrown the school system for a loop, ended all democratic participation in it, launched a direct assault on the city's home rule charter, made a number of lousy appointments and agreed to a sweetheart deal with Abe Pollin for a suite at the Verizon Center that would be illegal if anyone in power in DC gave a damn.

On other days Fenty reminds us of General Becton, the last guy who insisted that all the school system needed was for himself to be in charge. It was a certainty that didn't last for long.

Add to Fenty's misdirected ego is the fact that he was far more beholden to downtown business interests and their guides, the Washington Post and the Federal City Council, then he ever let on during the campaign. There is a reasonable issue of integrity here. Linda Cropp at least let us know where she was coming from. Fenty has not only failed us; he also fooled us.

GARY IMHOFF, DC WATCH - Fenty has made it obvious that if anyone opposes him politically, he won't hesitate to use his power as mayor to get you fired from your private sector job [such as Robert Bobb] Fenty's petty vindictiveness will harm any attempt his administration will make to institute its school reform plans. His education aides have already made it plain that they regard anyone who opposed his takeover as an enemy, and that they won't work with them. But, almost without exception, everyone who has been a schools and education activist in this city for the past three decades opposed Fenty's plan. Therefore, Fenty's young and inexperienced staffers intend to develop and carry through with school reforms without consulting with or working with the any of the leaders of the knowledgeable core group who have tried for years to improve education in this city. Since Fenty and his education aides don't themselves have knowledge, experience, or expertise in education, this self-inflicted wound will cripple any halfhearted efforts they may make in the future to work with parents and citizens on school issues. This isn't hardball politics; it's an ignorant young boy's fantasy of hardball politics..


Like Wrong Way Corrigan who mistakenly flew from New York to Ireland when he was meant to be going to California, Adrian Fenty has his plane headed in the wrong direction.

Even before his inauguration, Fenty made a number of errors that have raised serious apprehensions about what lies ahead. These include a planned takeover of the school system; the questionable appointment of Kathy Lanier as police chief without consulting even with members of his own team; and a suspiciously close involvement with the Federal City Council.

The school system takeover is a terrible idea for a number of reasons:

- It is a dagger aimed at the heart of home rule. An elected school board was DC's first modern victory in its struggle towards self government. Anthony Williams callously eviscerated it and now Fenty wants to destroy it. This makes him an enemy of home rule.

- The excuse that the takeover will create a better school system has no basis in fact. For example, the NYC model has had extremely mixed returns which Fenty clearly doesn't understand as he has primarily listened to its advocates and not to its victims. Furthermore, there is nothing in Fenty's record that indicates sufficient knowledge of education to justify his coup against an elected board.

- The concept essentially involves replacing democracy with a corporate system. While democracy is often flawed, it is inherently no more so than the failures of the self-appointed and is inherently a fairer system.

- The very attempt displays a gross misunderstanding of education. Education is, at its heart, a personal relationship between teacher and student. The principals, bureaucracies and superstructures are there for support and logistics. Fenty, like so many, is treating education as a corporate organizational problem. This is doomed to failure because it reduces the key players - teachers and students - to the weakest position in a corporate bureaucracy when, in truth, they should be its most important participants.

- A far better approach to school reform would be to reverse the course that Fenty proposes. Instead of tyranny at the top, permit the bottom to blossom.
For example, you could make every high school and its feeder schools semi-autonomous systems with their own elected boards made of up teachers, parents and community. By having multiple systems at work in the city, you would quickly see which are effective and which are not. Working on the principle of subsidiarity (as used by the European Union, for example) government would function at the lowest practical level, which in a school system, is very close to the class room.

- It seems highly likely that a primary reason for the takeover is to make valuable school properties more easily available to developers and/or campaign contributors. There is a name for this in urban politics; it is called corruption.

Fenty's appointment of Chief Lanier was done without adequate consultation, a disturbing hint that he believes in the modern management myth that decisiveness and certainty are adequate substitutes for competence. This is not the case as Harvard Business School graduate George Bush has amply demonstrated.

But beyond this is the serious and undiscussed issue that Lanier aggressively supported the abusive treatment of demonstrators who were - except for minor violation of law - honest, decent citizens operating according to their conscience. Instead of respecting this and treating them civilly, Lanier and the police department engaged in an extraordinary display of brutality almost without precedent in the department's history. As City Paper's Loose Lips described it:

"Prior to the much-anticipated April 2000 IMF/World Bank demonstrations, Lanier, by now an experienced white shirt, was charged with preparing a plan for 'prisoner control,' according to a deposition she would later give in a civil case. Among the measures that Lanier & Co. developed during the planning exercise was a method of prisoner restraint known as 'hogtying,' in which the detainee's left wrist is cuffed to his right ankle.

"Lanier justified hogtying as a sound way to prevent arrestees from escaping, assaulting police officers, or assaulting other arrestees. The tactic, she said in a deposition, had 'met all of those goals.' . . . Then came the events at Pershing Park. In September 2002, another round of anti-globalization protests hit D.C. . . Ramsey and his top deputies panicked, ordering the arrest of everyone in the park without giving any warnings. The roundup netted not just protesters but also passersby, tourists, and others. They were hogtied, and some of them remained restrained for up to 18 hours. They would dispute Lanier's "not uncomfortable" assessment of hogtying, pointing out that the restraints hampered their circulation and left them numb in places. . .

"In January 2005, the city paid out $425,000 to seven Pershing Park victims, part of a settlement that also required a letter of apology from Ramsey to the plaintiffs."

LL adds: "The Pershing Park experience, though, didn't sour Lanier on mass arrests. During a march on the occasion of President George W. Bush's second inauguration, police officers under Lanier's supervision swept up roughly 70 protesters in Adams Morgan following a spasm of vandalism. Plaintiffs in a January 2006 federal lawsuit claim that the cops repeated the sins of Pershing Park in failing to issue orders to disperse. They claim they were arrested despite the fact that they were attempting to break from the protest and had not committed any of the alleged property crimes. In an affidavit on the Adams Morgan roundup, Lanier admitted that no orders were issued prior to the arrests. But she justified her actions by playing up the threat posed by the protesters: 'Members of the group were carrying pipes and torches.'"

Finally, it appears almost certain that some sort of covert arrangement - perhaps implicit, perhaps more conscious - has been made between Fenty and the Federal City Council. In any case, the Council - a disingenuous polite front for local corporados - is clearly exercising far more influence in terms of appointments and policy than is good for the city. In DC, one doesn't have to make a pact with the devil; making one with the Federal City Council and its spiritual mentor, the Washington Post, produces much the same results without the theological hassles.

It is not too late for Fenty to turn his plane around and head in the right direction. Showboating as Mr. Super Manager isn't going to fool people for long just as it didn't with Anthony Williams. What does work is getting a good team together that loves the city more than it loves campaign contributors, that is willing to stand up for the people of the city as opposed to those who just use the city to make a lot of money.

It wouldn't hurt for Fenty to pay attention to the telling silence over the departure of Williams. It's hard to find anyone outside of the Board of Trade and the Washington Post who's really sad to see him go. And it's worth noting that, despite all his faults, Marion Barry was able to maintain a constituency well past his prime. Why? Because he had actually helped a lot of people when he wasn't destroying himself.

If Fenty only pays off those who paid for his election, he will end up on the losing end. It he serves those who voted for him, he will turn into a winner.


Bull pens are where farmers put bulls to keep them from doing what they're supposed to do. Here's how the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service suggests you do it:

1: Build a good, strong bull pen.

2: Remove bull from herd.

3: Pregnancy check all cows. Cull: a: All open breeding-age females b: All open cows with calves 5 months of age or older

4: Place bull with cows for 6 months.

In short, there's no action until you get out of the bull pen. The same applies to rodeos and baseball games.


WIRED - Of all the flagrantly unconstitutional attempts at legislating game sales, Fenty's proposed D.C. law takes the cake. Called the "Youth Protection From Obscene Video Games Act," the bill would outlaw any game with an [Entertainment Software Rating Board] rating of "Mature" or higher from being sold to minors. Similar measures with far narrower provisions have been struck down in several states. Not to mention the fact that Fenty's proposed law finds that all M- or AO-rated games, apparently simply by virtue of their being video games, "lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." All of them. That will ever be created. For eternity. Winners: The ESRB, who has proven time and time again that they can decimate this sort of legislation with their eyes closed. Losers: Washington, D.C. taxpayers. As Beltway website The Hill put it: "If the ESA decides to sue, it could be that Fenty is ready, willing, and able to cost D.C. taxpayers a fortune in attorney fees."

ARTHUR DELANEY, THE HILL - An Oklahoma judge issued a preliminary injunction against a law prohibiting the sale of violent video games to minors. At the end of August, a federal judge in Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction against a similar law - this just after the state of Illinois was ordered to pay over $500,000 in attorney fees to the video-game industry after having its own restriction on video games ruled to be unconstitutional. Judges have shot down these laws nine times in the last five years, finding that video games are protected by the First Amendment.

That hasn't stopped the D.C. Council from plodding ahead with its own attempt to restrict video-game sales with its "Youth Protection from Obscene Video Games Act." The bill is pending before the committee on the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. . . If the legislation passes, a business could be fined up to $10,000 for selling games with mature content to people under 17. And a parent who buys his or her 16-year-old child any game in the "Grand Theft Auto" series, for example, could be fined $1,000. At a hearing last year, Fenty pooh-poohed a letter from the Attorney General's office warning that this kind of legislation gets knocked down for being unconstitutional all the time. Fenty insisted that his bill is narrower than others.

"I'm ready, willing, and able to pass this legislation and let the courts decide whether or not the video-game industry should be held to the same standard they've already agreed to," Fenty said at the hearing. His legislation has the support of several community groups.