Friday, May 29, 2009
AFTER MONTHS of questionable decisions followed by defensive explanations, it was a relief to finally hear D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) express an entirely different sentiment this week: contrition. "I made a bad decision," Mr. Fenty said Tuesday after The Post's Nikita Stewart reported that the mayor allowed a campaign donor who has business contracts with the District to drive him around in a city-owned car. "I'm not going to do that anymore. . . . No more letting anyone else drive." Apology accepted. Going forward, though, Mr. Fenty should remember not to let such trifling squabbles trip up his ambitious agenda, most importantly his push to reform the District's long-underperforming schools.
Ms. Stewart reported that Mr. Fenty allowed his friend and former substitute teacher Keith Lomax to occasionally drive him around in a city-owned Lincoln Navigator. That's legally questionable -- District law states that only city employees and officials can operate city-owned vehicles -- but, by itself, hardly a scandal. But Mr. Fenty's flippant initial response -- when asked whether someone who isn't a government employee was allowed to drive the car, the mayor replied, "He is if I let him" -- gave us pause, especially when added to his recent record of pettiness.
In just the past few months, Mr. Fenty has immaturely refused to share baseball tickets with D.C. Council members; tried to hide details about an ill-advised trip to Dubai paid for by the government of the United Arab Emirates; selected a family friend of dubious qualifications to head an important government agency; fired his parks and recreation director with nary an explanation; and shed his security detail to move about unencumbered and, presumably, unnoticed. Mr. Fenty's dubious judgment has only emboldened some council members, who are all too ready to pounce on the mayor's mostly worthwhile agenda for political gains.
These mini-scandals raise the question of whether Mr. Fenty's rapid political rise and personal popularity have gone to his head. That's why the mayor's apology was an encouraging sign. There's too much at stake, particularly for the District's schoolchildren, for Mr. Fenty to allow himself to get bogged down in frivolity -- or his own ego.