D.C. approves of Mayor Fenty's accomplishments, not his attitude

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By Petula Dvorak
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

When it comes to mayors, District residents have survived drug use, corruption and even bow ties.

But maybe what we can't tolerate is disdain.

And that's what Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) seems to be serving up these days.

A Washington Post poll released over the weekend shows that approval ratings for Fenty are seriously in the tank.

Throughout the city and across socioeconomic and demographic lines, District residents aren't so sweet on their athletic mayor anymore, to the tune of a 30 percentage-point drop in warm-fuzzy feelings during the past two years.

The twist is that although people aren't liking Fenty, they are happier with their neighborhoods and the quality of services than they've been in 20 years of polling on such things.

This is a truly bad place for a politician, although no one seems eager to step forward and challenge Fenty's bid for a second term.

In 2006, 142 precincts in the city voted for a man who seemed energetic, optimistic and a little bit like the rest of us. He pounded the pavement and shook our hands. He helped lift strollers and held doors. He returned phone calls and talked, like a regular guy. He laughed.

After following him around for a story on his campaign, I actually thought he was going to make a pretty good mayor.

But after he won the election, Fenty changed dramatically, shutting off the humanity people knew and admired. He worked hard to control his image and all the information coming out of city offices. The mayor surrounded himself with polite and well-dressed spokespeople and muzzled the city officials who had long been doing their jobs well and understood each of their areas of expertise with insight and precision.

Whether reporters were looking for an intricate nuance in the details of city mental health care policy or simply the number of foster kids in the system, the mayor's spokespeople intercepted calls to just about every city agency.

And he began doing things that very few of us do:


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