Fenty sets up reelection bid with State of the District speech

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) delivered his annual State of the District address Friday, speaking about education, crime and the economy.
By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty set up his reelection bid Friday in a 30-minute State of the District speech that touted rising test scores for the long-troubled public school system, a record-low homicide rate and a growing population that reflects the continued rebirth of what he likes to call "a world-class city."

The speech outlined the accomplishments of a results-oriented mayor whose reelection campaign is likely to focus on convincing voters that he deserves the credit for the city's success.

In his 2006 election, Fenty (D) made education a top priority, promising to improve the schools academically and physically. "Go by some of our schools these days. When's the last time you heard about a boiler not working?" he asked an audience of about 180 elderly residents, mostly African Americans, who were bused to the new Deanwood Recreation Center in Ward 7 for the event.

Although his mentions of improved technology and transportation largely fell flat, Fenty appeared to touch the crowd when he talked about improving education, fighting crime, helping the homeless by building permanent housing and bettering neighborhoods through economic development. He pointed to the new $157 million St. Elizabeths psychiatric facility that he said is part of an effort to revitalize Congress Heights in Ward 8.

The mayor, criticized last year for failing to talk about the city's HIV/AIDS crisis in his address, said the epidemic is "one that is just not talked about enough." He said the city is seeing a decline in the number of new AIDS cases.

Fenty is facing a challenge from D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), who edged him out in several polls, including one in January by The Washington Post. Eleven candidates have filed for the Democratic primary.

Fenty will kick off his campaign Saturday by officially opening his campaign headquarters on Georgia Avenue in Ward 4, where he served as a council member for six years before becoming mayor.

The Post poll and other surveys show that Fenty's popularity -- displayed in 2006 in an unprecedented win of every precinct in the Democratic primary -- has plummeted. Although more than half of residents think that the city is going in the right direction, just 42 percent approve of Fenty, according to The Post's poll. Fenty's numbers dive even more dramatically among African Americans.

The poll also showed that large numbers of residents and a majority of blacks don't see Fenty as honest and trustworthy.

Fenty's choice for a backdrop -- the $33 million Deanwood Recreation Center still under construction -- appeared to be a dismissal of the probes into the parks and recreation construction contracts that probably will dog him on the campaign trail.

"This project represents the very best in District government. It exemplifies exactly what our government should be about," he said of the facility.

Deanwood, which will have a library and pool, will be the city's largest recreation center when it is completed. Omar Karim, the mayor's friend and fraternity brother who is working on the project, was on hand to help with tours of the facility.

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