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The InTowner
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With just a few days to go before the Democratic party primary election readers may question why we have waited so long to have anything to say about incumbent At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown and former Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent Orange, both of whom are seeking the nomination for chairman, which we all know would then be tantamount to winning the position come the November general election.

So, it goes without saying that this will be an important ballot to cast, especially since whomever wins will be following in the footsteps of Vincent Gray who did an outstanding job keeping his 12, very independent-minded colleagues on an even keel, thereby allowing the council to perform admirably and productively these past four years.

To be candid, we are not overly thrilled with the choices before us, but, on balance, we favor Kwame Brown. We have watched him in council meetings and been aware of his work as chair of the council’s economic development committee; in these roles we believe he has performed in a steady and workman-like fashion and has seemingly been up to speed on the issues before him.

While his handling of his personal finances and apparent poor judgment affecting his family’s security, as extensively reported by the Washington Post and others, surely is embarrassing, that is his personal business. It is true that there are those who have argued that if he can’t keep his own family out of a huge financial mess how can we have confidence that he will be able to deal with the District’s rapidly deteriorating financial picture? About that we are not concerned simply because the chairman of the city council does not single-handedly decide on these matters by a long shot.

What is important is that we have a chairman who has the right kind of temperament to keep the members working together as a team, while at the same time being cognizant and respectful of their special ward-related concerns that will frequently influence how they will address issues before the council. We believe Kwame Brown will be able to lead in this manner.

As for Vincent Orange, based on what we were privy to back when he was a member of the council, we are not confident that he would be –- or has the temperament to be -– the kind of leader we think important. We remember how he bulldozed through a major land grab sweetheart deal for the benefit of business friends in Arlington, much to the detriment of his own constituents at the time by which the food wholesalers got pushed out from where they had been doing business for so many years – and not just to their detriment but to that of their restaurant and food retail customers and to the Ward 5 economy.

That kind of heavy-handedness bespeaks of an approach to doing things that augers poorly for the prospect of a council chairman who can only be successful if he is one who values consensus and cooperation. Unfortunately, we were not accorded an opportunity to address our concerns with the candidate; our attempts to make contact were not responded to by his campaign organization.

(Interestingly, we had the same experience with our attempts to contact Mayor Fenty’s campaign; are these two politicians more alike than we would wish?)

And, speaking of Mayor Fenty who is seeking a second term and who we strenuously did not endorse in this space last month, since then we have come even more convinced that our very favorable opinion of his challenger, Council Chairman Vincent Gray, was indeed on target. The more we have reviewed the mayor’s highly questionable dealings with friends, steering multi-million dollar contracts to totally unqualified buddies, pulling funds from special accounts to use for projects not authorized for those funds, among other transgressions, we know that the city needs the steady hand of Vincent Gray.

Further, we do not for a New York minute take any stock in Mayor Fenty’s phony pledge to be a nicer and more collegial person; his way of doing things is far too ingrained in his psyche. We would not particularly object to his arrogance if he wasn’t in the habit of disregarding laws and regulations that are on the books for the purpose of keeping city government operations transparent and accountable to the voters. If he had at least played by the rules then his personal traits would not have become such an issue. In this regard, we have absolutely no concerns about Vincent Gray; he is a decent and honest man who respects and appreciates his fellow citizens of the District –- that is a very important quality for a civic leader to have.