The District of Columbia is a town known for being front and center when it comes to a good front page story. And to outsiders not accustomed to what it’s really like to live and work in the nation’s capital, things in this cosmopolitan enclave can be downright confusing and even comical, as evidenced by some of the goings-on that played out in the local headlines this year.

It all began in January, just as President Barrack Obama was rounding out his first year at the helm. The city was still trying to figure out how to deal with a slate of issues carried over from 2009 and among them were the gay marriage bill, medical marijuana, the highly anticipated mayoral race and efforts to stabilize the burgeoning unemployment rate.

At the beginning of February, however, nature brought all plans to a standstill when a massive winter storm blanketed the Mid-Atlantic region, dumping more than 2 feet of snow on the Baltimore-Washington area. The blizzard tested the wills of many local governments, making roadways near impassable and cutting power to hundreds of thousands of homes.

By the time April rolled around, the city’s beloved Black matriarch and head of the National Council of Negro Women, Dorothy Height, had died at age 98. Her death came at time when the District. was still trying to acquire passage of its long-suffering voting rights bill and former District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee was negotiating a new teachers contract.

Shortly after, in May, while the District’s jobless picture grew brighter ? having dipped from 12 percent to 10 percent where it currently hovers – the City Council found itself opposed to a fingerprint data program that would share data with federal immigration authorities.

The University of the District of Columbia made headlines over plans to improve the quality of students enrolled. In doing so, well-meaning UDC officials created an advertisement that critics claimed “white-washed” the traditionally Black school.

Halfway through the year, as Metro finally admitted fault in the horrific train collision that claimed the lives of nine people in 2009, the mayor’s race got off to a contentious start with candidates Leo Alexander, Mayor Adrian Fenty and Council Chairman Vincent Gay butting heads and trading barbs at a series of public debates. For a moment, and despite his lack of a bountiful campaign war chest, Alexander seemed to be what D.C. voters were looking for. Then the tide changed, with Fenty and Gray regularly duking it out as the major contenders. Months later, the race was capturing headlines nationwide with many rooting for Fenty, although local residents took him to task for not being accessible to the Black supporters who overwhelmingly voted him into office.

Fenty started apologizing – although a little bit too late. By the time the primary rolled around, the city was clearly a divided one and the race became a contest against the Ivory Coast (Fenty) and East of the River (Gray). In the end, Gray won with 53 percent of the vote, which ultimately led to Rhee’s resignation as schools chancellor.

Since then, the “Waiting for Superman” founder has headed up her own nonprofit, StudentsFirst, which will galvanize parents, educators and community stakeholders to continue the fight for reformation among the nation’s troubled public school systems.

Under Gray’s leadership, which goes into effect Jan. 2, the city continues to grapple with a$188 million budget deficit that could escalate to more than $400 million. Gray has proposed cuts in several services and programs, including the removal of longtime welfare recipients from the rolls after a five-year period.

In between the mayoral race and efforts to slash the budget, City Attorney Peter Nickles dragged Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas into court several times after questions arose over thousands of dollars added to an unregistered campaign fund. Nickles will be heading out the door the first of the year with Fenty, Rhee, Fire Chief Dennis Rubin and a few other Fenty administration loyalists. So far, no more has been heard on the Thomas matter, which rings a similar bell: Whatever happened to Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry’s reality show, “Mayor for Life”?

The last we heard, Barry was still looking for a network sponsor despite comments from Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander that the show left a lot to be desired in terms of acting and that it had been “poorly done.”
 

 

DorothyRowley

AFROStaffWriter