Cropp and Fenty Have Pursued Their Legislative Agendas By Opposite Means
Monday, August 21, 2006
Mayoral candidate Adrian M. Fenty offers no apology for his independent, contrarian style on the D.C. Council. As mayor, he says, he would pursue the same approach, unbowed by criticism and willing to stand up for his beliefs.
"If you think of the role of mayor, it's someone who puts forward bold ideas and sticks to them," Fenty said. "It's not compromising on everything just to make sure something gets passed. Margaret Thatcher had a quote: 'Consensus is the absence of leadership.' "
His chief opponent in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, Linda W. Cropp, is best known as a consensus builder in her role as council chairman. She says a mayor must be able to move an agenda forward by working cooperatively with diverse groups.
"To be mayor is not a dictatorship," Cropp said. "It's not just standing up and saying, 'This is what I want done,' and miraculously it's going to happen."
During their years on the council, six for Fenty and 16 for Cropp, the two have pursued strikingly different legislative styles. Fenty, 35, has focused on constituent services and taken radical, attention-grabbing positions that have irritated colleagues but played well among residents. Cropp, 58, is the quintessential insider, wielding influence quietly, often behind closed doors, and moving legislation forward through negotiation and compromise.
Political observers say their performances on the council are a window into the type of leadership each would provide as mayor.
Other candidates in the primary -- such as business executive Marie C. Johns, council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (Ward 5) and lobbyist Michael Brown -- have not garnered enough support or money to pose major challenges. A Washington Post poll last month found Fenty leading Cropp by 10 percentage points among likely voters.
Under Cropp, a council diminished during the city's bankrupt days a decade ago has gained stature and respect, as well as an ability to work as a united force. Budget debates have become less contentious, a hybrid school board was established and -- albeit painfully -- a baseball stadium financing plan, with a spending cap, was adopted.
Cropp said she brings diverse groups together while Fenty's style "is just splash. He gets onboard an issue that people are already talking about and says he's with them and has a built-in audience."
Fenty opposed the stadium deal, saying the team owners should pay, and he cast the lone vote against an emergency crime bill last month, calling it just a "feel-good" measure. His proposal last year to spend $1 billion to renovate schools was initially dismissed by colleagues, but it caught on with advocates and was eventually approved.
"I see my role as fixing things," Fenty said. Asked whether he lacks seasoning, Fenty replied: "At a certain point, experience just gets you a reputation as being part of the government," adding that he considers the city government to often be ineffective.
In some ways, their respective approaches might reflect a generation gap. Cropp has spent 27 years in elected office and said she believes that patience and deliberation make for responsible governance. Fenty is bidding for higher office midway through his second council term and believes that the government has not been as ambitious as he has.