Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The DC Mayoral Election gets interesting: I guess I have to support David Catania

I have been pretty disaffected about the current election cycle.  DC is a Democratic city, so historically, if you are a Democrat and you get the nomination, you're going to win.

Candidates usually have limited platforms.  I have lamented that the city's overwhelming "Democratic-ness" means that the candidates typically have the luxury of not needing to stand for very much, because they will get elected whether or not they have a platform.  See "Repositioning cities (at least on the coasts) for greater political prominence, and a city-first agenda."

The primary election is too early.  This is exacerbated by DC's primary election cycle, which is now in April (it used to be September), which is at least 3 months too early, and this has the effect of giving nominated candidates a pass from hard questions.  See "Continued musing on restructuring DC's City Council (mostly)."

Muriel Bowser, the 2014 Democratic nominee for DC Mayor.  This year, Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Councilmember, beat incumbent Vincent Gray, who is still under the cloud of 2010 election campaign illegalities--he has not been indicted although many of his close political confidantes have pleaded guilty to various campaign-related crimes.

Bowser is attractive and articulate but doesn't stand for much, and tends to be wary of expressing much in the way of vision or "a vision" and doesn't seem to venture out much on issues in terms of staking forward or progressive positions.

Commentators like WRC-TV reporter Tom Sherwood have criticized her policy of not debating other candidates or discussing positions on issues until September, if and when other candidates were certified for the November general election ballot.

The city's demographics are unfavorable for a white candidate to be elected mayor--at least right now.  While the city's demographics are rapidly changing--the black population makes up about 50%, when less than two decades ago it was greater than 70%--I have been convinced that the city isn't ready to elect a white person as Mayor, even if the city has (Phil Mendelson) and has had (David Clarke) a white City Council Chairman, who like the mayor, is also elected at-large.

... Unless the candidate was super special, someone like Robert Kennedy.

(Note that in a shock, a white candidate became mayor of Detroit in last year's Mayoral election.  Detroit is more than 90% African-American.)

A trend of declining turnout suggests that the new D.C. mayor will be picked by a tiny fraction of registered voters.  Washington Post image showing a demographic breakdown of electoral precincts.

Local political disaffection provides an opening for change.  But because of the early primary and a Democratic nominee, Muriel Bowser, who appears to not stand for very much, there is a great deal of political disaffection according to polls ("DC candidates must overcome voter apathy," Associated Pres); "Bowser? Catania? Schwartz? D.C. mayoral race rests on an uninspired electorate," Post) and so maybe being the Democratic nominee "is not tantamount to being elected" in the face of a strong opponent.

Note the Post headline refers to "voter apathy.'  Apathy is "produced."  I prefer the term "political disaffection," which acknowledges that voter disinterest is generated in large part by failures in local political practices to engage the electorate.

David Catania, Independent candidate for Mayor.  After the results of the Democratic primary, independent City Councilman David Catania announced his candidacy for Mayor as an independent.

Normally I would think that David Catania, as smart as he is, isn't that  special white candidate who could win over the African-American electorate, because he is known for being combative, bright as he is, and he probably lacks the temperament better suited for "governance" and managing and running the Executive Branch of government, as opposed to being able to be somewhat of an outsider as a City Councilmember not being in the majority party.  Plus he is gay and a significant segment of the black population are religious conservatives.

However, there is no question that Catania works hard and he has been in front on issues of concern to the city's poor including maintaining the continued existence of a hospital east of the river and in supporting expanded transportation and economic development initiatives there as well.

On the other hand, like the rest of DC's passel of elected officials, he has issues too, and I think that often he doesn't understand that just passing a law doesn't necessary lead to substantive social or structural change.

David Catania gets eleccted in 1997 special election.  David has been on Council since 1997. and has an interesting political history.  He is a Republican, now an independent, who ran for City Council in a special election (this resulted from the death of David Clarke and Linda Cropp's election to City Council Chair in his place, freeing up an at-large seat) against a traditional old guard Democratic candidate, Arrington Dixon.

I voted for him, not knowing he was a Republican, but because he wasn't part of the old guard.

That special election presaged a later spasm of voting out old guard Democrats (although not always for something better) in the 1998 election cycle.  Jim Graham beat Frank Smith in Ward 1 and Vincent Orange beat Harry Thomas Senior in Ward 5.

Eventually, in response to the national Republican Party's general antipathy to gay rights issues, Catania renounced his party affiliation and switched to independent status.

Catania releases platform for 2014 Mayoral candidacy.  On Monday, the Catania campaign released a platform to undergird his case and candidacy.

While some of it is platitudinous, the reality is that his campaign released a platform, while the Bowser campaign has not ("With lengthy platform David Catania says he is the mayoral candidate of substance," Post).

On Tuesday, the campaign poked the Bowser campaign by buying the cover of the Express free daily to trumpet the platform and the failure of the Democratic candidate

Endorsement?  For the creation of a platform alone, I have to throw my support to David Catania.
On the other hand, I don't think that means much.  I tend to vote based on "my heart" and not cold objective calculation.  Most of the candidates I have voted for in the past few elections have not won.

So I fear this endorsement may not mean much.

And I am still disaffected.

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At 4:06 PM, Anonymous rg said...

"I guess I have to support David Catania"

My sentiments exactly!

I was polled by the Post yesterday or the day before. They asked about mayor and AG but not any other race.


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