Write-in Anthony Williams? How to vote in the DC primary election, what to do if Mayor Gray isn't charged by election day
Early last week, Thompson admitted his guilt in court ("Jeffrey Thompson's guilty plea reveals a plot that subverted D.C.," Washington Post) and since then there has been lots of writing in the local media, especially the Washington Post, and the Washington City Paper about Mayor Gray's involvement, which he continues to deny ("D.C. Mayor Gray Denies He Knew of Illegal 'Shadow Campaign," WUSA-TV).
As much as I am against corruption (e.g., the past blog entries "More on DC ethics and corruption: intrinsic vs. extrinsic behavior" and "The system of corruption: when you don't understand "systems", of corruption or anything else, you don't understand outcomes," among others), at some level I just look at this as jockeying between factions of the local growth coalition ("If you don't know urban political theory, it's likely that you don't understand local land use: St. Louis: DC; etc.").
So I am not surprised, except for the amounts of money involved and the brazenness ("U.S. Attorney: “What You Learned About Today Is Only the Tip of the Iceberg," Washington City Paper).
The real problem is that the 2014 Mayoral primary doesn't give us many good candidates. And the two biggest issues for me are vision for the city and the future--based on a commitment to urbanism and an expansion of sustainable transportation modes especially Metrorail--and the ability to manage the Executive Branch of government and achieve high quality operations on the part of the various agencies.
I have pointed out in past blog entries that candidates because the city is overwhelmingly one party, have the luxury of not having to define a real platform ("New Year's Post #1: Defining mediocrity up and the 2014 elections in DC").
I read an article in the New York Times about Malaysia, "Amid Search for Plane, Malaysian Leaders Face Rare Scrutiny," which opined that the country is weak in terms of governmental capacity and skill because the political oligarchy there is insular and mediocre. I think the argument is extendable to DC for similar reasons. From the article:
Malaysia’s governing elite has clung to power without interruption since independence from Britain almost six decades ago through a combination of tight control of information, intimidation of the opposition and, until recently, robust economic growth...Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Councilmember. Councilman Tommy Wells is the only Councilmember untainted by connections to Jeffrey Thompson, but he has his own machine connections and happens to be white.
The government is accustomed to getting its way, and the crisis surrounding the missing plane is holding officials accountable in ways unfamiliar to them, Ms. Ambiga said.
Malaysians have come to accept that their leaders don’t answer questions,” she said. “When you are not seriously challenged in any meaningful way, of course you get complacent and comfortable."
For DC Mayor: Tommy Wells") and I think it's likely he would hire better agency directors than the other candidates.
But I do wonder if he could pull off the governance element. I don't think he's been successful in articulating a walkability-placemaking agenda beyond his ward, and I am not impressed that he caved on Height Limit issues, although he has taken the right position with regard to the redevelopment of the Hine School site, and has been a strong supporter of Eastern Market and a pedestrian-focused street closure on weekends in front of the Market, in the face of continued opposition by the indoor vendors, which says something as does the fact that he chose to run for mayor in a manner that requires him to give up his Council seat if he doesn't win--none of the other Council incumbents (Evans, Bowser, Orange) are in a similar position.
While I think it is theoretically possible for a white candidate to win as mayor even though the demographics for a white candidate won't be favorable for another 8 years or so ("DC's complexion is changing. Will the next mayor reflect that?," Washington Post; "Detroit voters elect 1st white mayor in 4 decades," Associated Press) if they are very special, he isn't that candidate. (David Catania isn't either by the way, except maybe as a default. See "DC Council member David Catania launches independent run for mayor" Post).
Jack Evans is out too (photo at right from the Washington City Paper), and he is not on my list anyway, because he is too much the candidate of the Growth Machine and hasn't addressed a variety of issues that he should have (such as proper oversight of DC's Office of Tax and Revenue) during the more than two decades he's been on Council.
Vincent Orange, formerly Ward 5 Councilmember, currently Councilmember-at-large. I've never been a fan of Vincent Orange, as bright as he is, because his vision for the city is much more suburban and car-centric than mine and/or is misguided like the push to bring the Washington Redskins football stadium back to the city ("Councilman wants to see 'superdome' complex at RFK," WTOP radio).
Andy Shallal, restauranteur. I just don't know what to think about Andy Shallal ("Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal makes unconventional bid for D.C. mayor," Post). He is a long-time activist and local business owner, proprietor of Busboys & Poets, a multi-faceted very successful restaurant chain which has been opening locations in revitalizing areas. One is coming to my neighborhood this year and I am very excited about it. They have decent food that isn't too expensive (and I won't hold it against him that I used to get stomachaches after eating at his old restaurant Skewers, which was a block away from where I worked when I first moved to DC in 1987).
I got a laugh in the reporting from one forum where he was criticized for not opening a restaurant in Anacostia--his response was "developers pay me to open restaurants in their buildings" and the implication that there wasn't such money forthcoming in Anacostia.
His campaign has focused on urban inequality and the problems with the alleged reform program for the traditional school system and he says some good things.
But he's got a weak showing in the polls and is unlikely to make a viable showing. Note that a brew pub owner, John Hickenlooper, became Mayor of Denver and is now Governor of Colorado ("John Hickenlooper's Road to Colorado Governor," New York Times), so maybe a restauranteur is a good enough option.
Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Councilmember--there are other candidates but they have no chance.
Unfortunately, in her time on Council she hasn't done much, has shown little leadership or generated much in the way of new ideas or vision despite Post columnist Robert McCartney's arguing to the contrary ("D.C. mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser has good ideas").
I haven't seen strikingly interesting ideas from CM Bowser. And one of "her" "best" "ideas" in the campaign, "a Deputy Mayor for East of the River", is merely a bastardization of a long conversation I had with her legislative director about creating a "Marshall Plan" type program for Wards 7 and 8.
For example, one of my complaints about which I spoke with her directly, was with regard to legislation she introduced requiring slightly broader disclosure requirements for demolition applications. But the law provided no remedies, meaning that additional notice is meaningless because citizens are afforded with no legal means for being able to act on the information (the only remedy in DC law to prevent a demolition is historic designation, which for individual buildings, must meet an extremely high bar in order to succeed). So the legislation has no practical impact whatsoever.
As a constituent, in my experience dealing with her office--like her predecessor she has a reputation for great constituent service--they have never resolved any of the issues that I have brought to their attention. So that doesn't win her much support from me. But yes, she and her staff are out at virtually every community meeting.
Plus, to me constituent service is a great opportunity--complaints as indicators--to uncover structural and systemic problems, inefficiencies, and gaps in governmental operations, thereby providing a fount of information that can generate new understandings, hearings, new legislation, and changes in governmental practice. It never appears as if a structural approach is part of their standard operating procedure. They react the same way to the same complaint on a previously unresolved complaint as if the situation is entirely new.
She's articulate, tall, and attractive enough, so I can see her winning the primary--in fact I predicted this a few years ago when the allegations against Mayor Gray first surfaced--especially if charges are filed against Mayor Gray before election day, but I don't see much in the way of vision, I don't see a whole lot of potential in hiring good agency directors and letting them act, etc.
She's typical of someone who worked for government as an administrator and having a very circumscribed view of her role, more like a bureaucrat than a leader.
Mayor Vincent Gray. His biggest mistake was believing he needed Thompson's support. Lack of support for Mayor Fenty was high in many quarters and Gray likely would have won anyway.
Of the candidates he's probably the smartest. Although everything he's done proves that being smarter than Adrian Fenty isn't enough to be a good mayor, and you're only as good as your weakest element.
He doesn't have much vision (people disagree with me concerning the Sustainability Planning effort, which hasn't impressed me in terms of substance in execution), but he's been a decent enough administrator--I wouldn't claim that he's hired great agency directors and he's fired decent ones ("DC Government at-will employees need protections to tell the truth") and he hasn't fired bad ones ("DC 'fire' department continued")--but he has more vision than Muriel Bowser and I can't see her doing any better on the governance front.
So given the choices I have, and no filing of charges so far, I'm inclined to vote for Mayor Gray.
... or write-in Anthony Williams, who served as mayor from 1999-2006.
Labels: elections and campaigns