The boos keep flying at D.C. Mayor Fenty
Monday, June 14, 2010
Adrian M. Fenty wasn't even at the Academies at Anacostia graduation ceremony in the District on Friday, but when the mayor's name was mentioned, an unmistakable chorus arose: "Boo!" many in the crowd shouted.
Almost simultaneously, across town, where Fenty was attending a funeral for go-go great Anthony "Little Benny" Harley, his attempts to deliver condolences were nearly drowned out by a similar din. The taunts were so thunderous that Pastor Deron Cloud had to grab the microphone to calm the crowd at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
"This is not the place," Cloud said, to no avail.
The chorus heard 'round some parts of the District is one of vocal dissatisfaction for the 39-year-old Fenty. It's a far cry from the summer of 2006, when drivers honked excitedly whenever they saw him campaigning for mayor. Then, residents were as tickled to see the young candidate come to their doors as if a celebrity had dropped by with a sweepstakes prize.
Now, Fenty is in a contentious battle with D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, his chief rival for mayor, in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary. Supporters say that the criticism and boos are unfair, particularly because city services get high marks, students' test scores are rising, and new libraries, schools and recreation centers have opened citywide.
Fenty said he takes the boos in stride.
"It's part of the process. It's part of being in elected office," Fenty said in a brief interview Saturday before he joined other candidates at a forum at the D.C. Democratic State Convention at Howard University Law School. "You don't have the luxury of letting things distract you from the job you need to get done."
David Schwartzman, a Statehood Green Party activist running for an at-large council seat, let out a loud, baritone boo. "I supported him in 2006," Schwartzman said. "He's not representing the people. Now he's representing corporate interests. That's why I booed him."
Fenty's recent campaign message has tried to focus on the hundreds of millions of dollars in neighborhood development projects -- like recreation centers, schools and libraries -- that have been completed under his tenure.
Fenty is credited with eliminating the bureaucracy that often slowed the projects, but a complaint persists that he favors wealthier, predominantly white neighborhoods at the expense of majority-black communities.
Fenty supporter Mary Williams said the booing is based on the perception of Fenty as aloof, something she overlooks because, she said, Fenty's overhaul of public schools is resulting in higher test scores and other improvements. "There's no one, even if they don't like him, who can dispute that crime is down," she said. "This is not the Miss America contest. He is not Mr. Congeniality."