The dismantling of Mayor Adrian Fenty’s administration, prompted by his 53-46 percent loss to City Council Chairman Vincent Gray in September’s Democratic mayoral primary, is continuing apace. Gray named the team that would facilitate his transition to the city’s helm late last week. And in recent days, hundreds of Fenty hires were given their walking papers in the form of letters from the Department of Human Resources, telling them how to resign from their jobs.
Now many are wondering about the future of the political wunderkind, who in 2006 became the youngest mayor in the city’s 40 years of home rule. While no answers are immediately forthcoming, according to a close supporter, Fenty will continue to do what’s in the best interest of the District’s children.
“He will keep on accomplishing and will not be a sore loser in making the transition as smooth as possible,” said Peaceaholics founder Ron Moten. “He’s been cooperating with Mr. Gray, even though I still believe it was an ugly and dirty campaign.”
Despite widespread criticism over Fenty’s brash, non-consensus-building leadership style, Moten maintained the politically astute mayor, who was overwhelmingly elected in 2006 by the city’s Black residents, always had their concerns at heart.
“To me, for all that he has done for residents and the way he was demonized during the campaign, he still showed a lot of class,” Moten said of Fenty. He added that while the mayor has received plenty of work offers, he will remain focused on enhancing education reforms established by former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.
Those reforms and Rhee’s 2007 takeover of the troubled District of Columbia Public Schools system, in large part, caused the mayor’s appeal to wither among his constituency. Yet, he has repeatedly said that reform of the District’s 120 schools ? no matter how hardcore – has been the right thing to do.
While his office did not respond to the AFRO’s request for an interview, the outgoing mayor touted his accomplishments as mayor in statements posted on MSNBC.com. When his term began in January 2007, he said, DCPS’ African-American students ranked 70 percent behind their White counterparts in math. “We’ve closed that by 20 percentage points, which is a huge gain, but it still leaves us 50 percentage points behind,” Fenty said. “The greatest worry is that we’re just not moving fast enough. If I could do anything over, I’d have moved even faster, to be honest with you.”
Meanwhile, as Fenty’s administration was being credited for expanding health care coverage for uninsured residents, public safety gains leading to a significant reduction in crime, economic development and affordable housing, he was heavily criticized over debacles involving Department of Parks and Recreation contracts handed out to fraternity brothers and associates and the beleaguered Children and Family Services Agency, among other sore areas.
Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protective Reform and an avid Fenty critic, said whatever Fenty does after his departure won’t have anything to do with protecting children. “I have no idea what he’ll wind up doing, but I hope it has nothing to do with the child welfare system,” Wexler said, “because he did terrible damage for the one he was responsible for as mayor.”
Through it all, Fenty always stuck by his decisions for managing the District. He claimed, however, shortly after the September primary that it’s unlikely he’d run for public office again.
But, according to D.C.-based political analyst Mark Plotkin, Fenty – an attorney by trade – could find favor over at the White House. “He can work as a lawyer or in his family business,” Plotkin said. “But I’m sure he’d like to get some sort of feeler from the Obama administration… Although the president certainly wasn’t very kind to him in the past, there might be an opportunity for the administration to say, ‘Sure, we’d welcome someone with his talents.’”
While no official statement has been issued on what matters Fenty aims to accomplish in the waning weeks of his tenure, his office’s latest posting dated Oct. 4 states that that he and Office of Victim Services Director Melissa Hook have announced the launch of a newly designed website for The Lighthouse Center for Healing. Otherwise, since late September, Fenty has named an interim state education superintendent and awarded more than $8.4 million for victim services.
Both Fenty and Gray have pledged to work together to ensure a smooth transition, and as the City Council poises to tackle a $175 million budget shortfall for Fiscal Year 2011, Fenty with Gray’s support has moved to put a freeze on hiring and promotions within city government as well as to restrict discretionary spending among agencies.
The pair, who have rarely met one-on-one in the past year, also have the joint tasks of continuing to run a city-owned hospital while determining the future of various appointees to boards and commissions that have yet to be confirmed.