From the city’s dropping crime rates to the impressive development that the District of Columbia has experienced over the last four years, Mayor Adrian Fenty’s government has vastly improved the quality of life in D.C. and demonstrated a commitment to tackling some of the city’s most daunting problems. His administration has made significant improvements to many city services that were in morbid condition for most of recent history, including the police department, AIDS policy, and the city’s social services departments. In the D.C. Democratic primary, which will be held September 14, Fenty deserves voters’ support to continue delivering results like these to the District.
Perhaps most importantly, Fenty’s vision for the city’s education system remains clear, and over the past few years, his choices have proven effective in raising test scores in what was one of the nation’s most dismal public school systems. Fenty’s chief rival for mayor, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray, has some specific and solid ideas for D.C.’s schools, like the much-needed reform of the District’s special education program, but in other crucial areas, he is vague and worryingly noncommittal. His refusal to either endorse IMPACT, the evaluation tool that guided D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee when she dismissed over 200 teachers this summer, or to suggest an alternative method to identify sub-par teachers is just one example. Gray has also made grandiose promises about leading aggressive and well-funded lobbying efforts for D.C. statehood without offering any explanation of how the City could possibly pay for such a campaign.
Fenty has not been the perfect mayor. While he has brought much-needed development to the District over the last four years, the city’s black population has experienced few of the accompanying economic gains, and his dismissive attitude about accusations of favoritism in the distribution of city contracts is unsettling. But his worst quality is also his best. Undaunted by political opponents, Fenty has made sound decisions in the face of loud protest, such as his controversial school closures and teacher firings that have helped improve DCPS’s performance. Fenty also lavished funds on schools and libraries in D.C.’s poorest and richest wards in equal portions.
Even Fenty’s rivals cannot and do not deny the breadth of the progress that the city has made under his administration. A vote for Fenty next month will ensure that D.C. continues to make those important gains.