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Some Post-Primary Election Thoughts; Arrogance and Brushing Off Rent Control

As other commentators have already noted, the mayoral campaign leading up to the November general election will certainly be an unusual one indeed. Never before have DC voters been exposed to a genuine mayoral slugfest with two entirely different personages –- both in temperament, style, accomplishments (or lack thereof) –- than what we anticipate between Democratic Party nominee and Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser and independent and At-large Councilmember David Catania. This campaign could conceivably distract us political junkies from what would otherwise be total fixation on the Congressional races, even though those outcomes will be of far greater consequence than who we choose for mayor.

Lurking in the underbrush of this race will be the memories –- whether positive or negative –- of previous Mayor Adrian Fenty’s single term in office; like Fenty, Bowser has emerged out of representing Ward 4 on the city council, having succeeded to his seat with his blessing. The Fenty legacy, however, is for Bowser a two-edged sword: For those who were put off by Fenty’s perceived arrogance and highly questionable coziness with old buddies and newly acquired ones to whom he steered lucrative city contracts, there appears to be much wariness about whether a Mayor Bowser would end up channeling the ghost of Mayor Fenty.

We have no idea whether she would bring into her inner circle the same dubious characters that had been part of Fenty’s, but at the time she never, to the best of our recollection, called him out on those relationships.

As for the arrogance factor, however, she has already revealed a similar trait –- possibly learned from her mentor, Fenty. What is now undoubtedly old news for our politically aware readers, no sooner had she won the primary than, with Fenty-like arrogance, she presumptuously informed City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and the other council members that when they take up the matter of the 2015 budget her views ought to be given special deference since it will be her who will be stuck with it! We were pleased that Chairman Mendelson wasted no time in disabusing her of that notion.

So, from what we have heard and also seen in published comments from persons who have interacted with her in her official position, especially her own Ward 4 constituents, this charge of arrogance in one-on-one settings has legs; it is a trait she will definitely need to overcome. If not, and if she becomes mayor, she will ultimately fare poorly, as did her mentor Fenty. 

Another manifestation of this arrogance was revealed in the way she treated representatives of the DC Tenants Advocacy Coalition (TENAC) last year. Rightfully concerned about the continually disappearing affordable rental housing in the city, these tenant representatives have been attempting for the past year to get an audience with Bowser since she chairs the city council’s committee that has jurisdiction over the housing agencies and is supposed to be concerned with housing policy –- though until she took over what was then known as the Committee on Economic Development and Housing (italics ours) but then got the “and Housing” part dropped.

The rest of this sad tale is best summarized by TENAC’s own March 26th statement: “Concerned tenant advocates from all over the city tried to meet with Bowser. At first she refused, but the group persisted, explaining to Bowser the need for reform of rent control. A majority of the Council has indicated support for rent control reform. She finally agreed to meet monthly with six tenant representatives to work on such legislation, but only after repeated postponements, but still has not done so.”

Why not, we ask? Is it simply that she has no concern for lower and middle-income tenants who will be driven out of the city but for strong and effective rent control, or is this just another example of what too many persons claim is her arrogance. We do not know the answer, though it is possible that it is a bit of both. One thing is clear, however: since she is responsible for the council committee that is supposed to be concerned about housing issues she has thus far been derelict in carrying out her assigned responsibility.