[from October 2006 issue]


Adrian Fenty will be Mayor. And, even though we did not endorse him, contrary to the claim he made in some of his campaign literature, we are nevertheless impressed with his initial moves -- specifically, his announcement that he would retain the very savvy Chief Financial Officer, Natwar M Gandhi, and bring in as his City Administrator Dan Tangherlini, the “can-do” guy who very effectively ran the city’s transportation department before being lured away by Metro (and then they blew it by not firming up his contract and Fenty had the good sense to jump in and grab him back for our benefit!).

If, as we hope, these two key appointments are true bellwethers of things to come on the appointments front, then what we have already seen augurs well for the city. Let us hope the next very critical appointments -- for the Office of Personnel and the Office of Contracting and Procurement -- are equally stellar. These are offices that, like that of Chief Financial Officer and City Administrator deal with the very beating heart of government and failures in those offices cannot any longer be tolerated as they seem to have been for so many years up to now.

But, you readers may be wondering, why are we talking about Fenty and what he needs to do when he is already, for all practical purposes, elected; we don’t really need to rush to the polls for him (although we had better not stay away in any large numbers that might cause an upset). But we do need to go to the polls to vote for some other offices that will be occupied by individuals who will also play an important part in determining how successful the new mayor will be in moving his programs forward and thereby moving the city forward.

Exhibit “A” is, of course, the City Council. If it is not composed of outstanding members it could become a true impediment to a successful Fenty mayoral tenure. So far we are highly encouraged that the Council will be a positive force, yet at the same time retain its independence; we have great confidence in the impending leadership of Vincent Gray who is positioned to become the next chairman (and we did, in fact endorse him enthusiastically for the position).

But there is another very important city council race to be decided -- the non-majority party seat for at-large member. The presumed leading candidate is David A. Catania, on the ballot as an Independent. Since he first joined to Council (and we had strongly endorsed him at the very start) we have seen him quickly become a very effective member who has, with dogged determination, aggressively looked out for the interests of all citizens, not just those who pay lots of taxes and feel they are not receiving much back for their outlay, but also for the less well-off and often ignored citizens who feel left out and abandoned, especially with regard to what should be basic “safety net” services like health care. For those less fortunate, David Catania has been a champion truly striving to bring about better services where they matter.

But for both categories of citizens, the well-off and the not so well-off, it is Catania’s “junk yard dog” approach to finding and eliminating fraud and waste and incompetence in government that has been such a positive contribution. And, while we are certain he will annoy the new mayor on occasion with his penchant for leaving no stone unturned, he is a kind of council member that is needed if Fenty is to succeed in reforming government services as he has pledged he will do.

There will also be another critical vote to be cast, and that will be for President of the School Board. We must not ignore this position even if we think it is likely that under Mayor Fenty the School Board will become largely powerless. If Fenty is to succeed in his plan to transfer the operation of the school system directly into the city’s government structure and run the schools through an executive branch department, he will need a strong School Board leader who will be capable of assisting in the complex political and operational realities of effecting a smooth transfer and a flawless start-up in a completely new environment.

There is an obvious choice at this time, and that is Robert Bobb who has recently resigned as City Administrator to run for the School Board presidency. Bobb is a proven leader and no-nonsense administrator who has the kind of drive and organizational skills to make things happen. Furthermore, he does have deep knowledge of the inner workings of DC government, and that is something that will be urgently needed by the new School Board president at this particular juncture. So, if soon-to-be Mayor Fenty’s plan to take over the school system is to succeed, he will need a strong partner in that venture and Robert Bobb would be the one.

Additional Thoughts About an ANC Candidacy

Publisher's Note: We learned well after the publication of our October issue editorial that a currently serving ANC commissioner who did not file for re-election because at the time of that deadline believed he was moving away from his district, had decided to be a write-in candidate in light of his changed plans. That spurred us to conclude that it would be appropriate to insert an addendum acknowledging the importance of the ANCs and the importance of electing commissioners who would be most likely to assist, at the grass-roots level, in contributing to a successful re-directed and re-energized DC government under the new mayor. However, since the print edition was already published and the next issue would not be published until after the election, we have inserted our comments as this addendum to the on-line October editorial.

As we have stated above, if Mayor-presumptive Fenty?s term is to produce positive results he will need support from ?individuals who will also play an important part in determining how successful the new mayor will be in moving his programs forward.?

Although there are far too many ANC races across the swath of the city covered by this newspaper and therefore just too many to comment on in the limited space available for this column, commissioners seeking re-election and individuals seeking to be elected for the first time who have the temperament and commitment to work for the cause of good government can clearly be valuable allies for the new mayor at the grass-roots level.

An example of one such commissioner -- and there are scores more who also deserve re-election, though too numerous to name here -- is Babak Movahedi who, during his present tenure as a Dupont Circle ANC com-missioner, has served our community well. He has consistently demonstrated a keen understanding of the true statutory role of the advisory neighborhood commissions and has exercised an appropriate even-handedness and adherence to the practical reality that these commissions are supposed to be advisory in nature only and not regulatory bodies in their own right. His commitment to upholding the principles of administrative due process reveal that he is exactly the sort of commissioner needed to ensure that our govern-mental institutions, starting at the ?grass-roots? level, will not create unwanted stumbling blocks at the same time our new mayor will be working hard to eliminate the old stumbling blocks.

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