D.C., don’t let politicians ruin that smile

Courtland Milloy
Columnist July 22, 2012

Hey, what’s with the long face, D.C.?

Your response to a recent Washington Post poll amounted to a numerical scream. You say the District’s government is “on the wrong track.” You say city services are faltering, schools aren’t improving and you just can’t stand Mayor Vincent C. Gray.

This poll must be just a snapshot of an inopportune frown and not the real you, D.C. How about a more flattering portrait drawn over time?

D.C. ranked among America’s top 10 fun cities, survey finds,” read a headline in The Washington Post on July 6. That survey, sponsored by the Trident chewing gum company, found that one in five people nationwide can’t even remember the last time they had a good time. Not you, D.C.

Sure, it’s not always easy to remember the fun times. Especially if that survey by the dating site HowAboutWe.com has any merit. And why shouldn’t it? You believe a gum poll, you can believe a dating site poll. HowAboutWe found 34 percent of D.C. singles rate themselves as “heavy drinkers” — the highest percentage in the country.

So shake off that hangover and let me refresh your memory.

The District and Arlington made this year’s Parenting magazine top 10 cities for families. In announcing the rankings on July 16, the editors wrote: “With a bustling economy, the Arlington/DC area provides great jobs for parents and a great cultural spot to raise kids. . . . The Metro system connects Arlington to DC, giving residents the ability to live in Arlington and work in the capital or vice versa.” (Say that again: “. . . or vice versa”?)

Maybe city services aren’t so bad, and perhaps D.C. schools are improving, if slowly. No question about the great cultural spots.

Then there’s the Measure of America report on best cities for women.

“The nation’s capital, which also came out on top for women’s pay in a survey released for Equal Pay Day on April 17th, topped the list,” the report, a project of the Social Science Research Council, said. “In D.C. women make an average of $16,000 more each year than women in the lowest-ranked urban area [of the 25 considered], Riverside-San Bernardino” in California.

While the study looked at the entire Washington metropolitan area, the well-being of so many women in the District helped drive the ranking to No. 1.

Men’s Health magazine even rated D.C. tops for finding “the most eligible women,” while SeekingArrangments.com ranked D.C. as the sixth-best city in America for finding a “sugar daddy” — a wealthy man willing to subsidize a woman’s extravagant lifestyle.

So what’s up with the discontent?

The Post poll asked: Do you think things in the District of Columbia are generally going in the right direction, or do you feel things have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track?

Fifty-one percent of white women say wrong track; 47 percent of white men say wrong track; 44 percent of black women say wrong track; 41 percent of black men say wrong track.

Exactly what’s wrong? Too much poverty, disease, illiteracy, crime? The poll doesn’t really say. But if the District needs something to be disturbed about, it’s those things.

Asked to describe the state of D.C.’s economy, 55 percent said good or excellent. How’s Gray doing when it comes to bringing in new businesses? Forty-six percent say excellent or good.

Does Gray understand the “problems of people like you?” Forty-five percent say yes; 46 percent say no.

The real animus is directed at the mayor himself: 56 percent have an “unfavorable impression” of him. And because he is embroiled in a campaign finance scandal, even more seem to think he’s crooked, want him to resign and wish that former mayor Adrian M. Fenty could take his place.

Whatever’s on your mind, D.C., do not let the politicians steal your joy. You know the saying:Harboring resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.

Remember that Trident poll?

About a third of Americans say that a friend is the most fun person they know. And then there’s that special 16 percent who “actually think they are the most fun person in their social circles.”

Now that’s the D.C. I know — a smile and an ego to match, making you No. 7 on the national gum “Fun Index.” Sure, Atlanta came in first, but that’s only because of the ghetto fabulous “Freaknik” foam and pool party held there during spring break.

There’s always the next contest, D.C.

Meanwhile, cheer up.

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