Fenty Says He and City Are on the Move

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray after Fenty's address yesterday.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray after Fenty's address yesterday. (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)
By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty declared in his first State of the District address yesterday that he is moving fast to make Washington a better place to live, and urged residents to join him for a people's march on Capitol Hill to push for D.C. voting rights.

"The United States government has brought democracy to Baghdad before bringing it home to the District," Fenty told hundreds of senior citizens at Congress Heights Senior Wellness Center in Ward 8. "We are the only capital of a democracy in the world that has no vote in the national legislature."

In a 40-minute address, Fenty (D) detailed actions he said his administration has taken during his 78 days in office, including installing new police and fire chiefs and launching affordable housing and health-care initiatives. He concluded by trying to rally support for the April 16 march on Congress.

Fenty's call came a day after advisers to President Bush said they would recommend that he veto a bill that would give the city a full vote in the House of Representatives. The D.C. vote bill, which would add two seats to the 435-member House, one for the heavily Democratic District and the other to Republican-leaning Utah, is expected to reach the House floor today.

After his address, Fenty said he has left messages for White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten to talk with him about the bill.

"If this passes the House and Senate, I do not expect the White House to veto it," Fenty said.

Fenty's speech, titled "Moving Forward Faster," echoed the message the competitive triathlete has tried to convey since taking office, one of making government more responsive to residents of all stripes. He focused heavily on education, public safety, human services and economic development, and his remarks were greeted enthusiastically by the seniors, who gave him two standing ovations.

The mayor called for quick passage of his school takeover plan, which would decrease the power of the Board of Education and require that the superintendent report to him. "I've laid out my vision, and it's time to act," Fenty said.

This marked the first time a mayor has issued a State of the District address in Ward 8, where residents have complained of being ignored by city leaders and left out of an economic renaissance that has lifted much of the city.

Arlene Thomas, 77, of Congress Heights said she was glad Fenty showed up in her community.

"We've been the stepchildren so long, it is time for a new day in Ward 8," she said. "We pay taxes like everybody else."

Irene Green, 73, also of Congress Heights, said she was impressed by Fenty so far, but expressed some caution about his pace.

"He's moving so fast that I hope he's doing everything right," she said.

Typically, mayors wait until after their first year in office to deliver a state of the city address. Asked why he chose to give one so soon, Fenty said, "We felt we had got a lot accomplished in 78 days and that it was right to communicate that to the residents."

Several D.C. Council residents attended, including Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), who lives in Ward 7 and applauded Fenty for choosing a venue east of the Anacostia River.

Fenty couldn't resist making a joke during his closing statements about voting rights. After telling residents to put on their "walking shoes" for the march on Capitol Hill, the mayor, whose parents own an athletic shoe store in Adams Morgan, paused.

"And for those of you who don't have walking shoes, I know where you can get a pair," Fenty said, introducing his mother, Jan, sitting in the front row. The crowd laughed and applauded her.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company