At library ribbon-cutting, Fenty celebrates accomplishment

A large fire broke out Monday at the Georgetown Public Library, heavily damaging the structure of the building and its valuable art and document collections. The cause of the fire is still unknown.Video by Akira Hakuta/
By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 18, 2010; 10:49 PM

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty officially opened the renovated Georgetown Library on Monday, helping to cement a legacy that includes the largest expansion and upgrade of the District networks of libraries in the city's history.

Fenty, joined by his presumptive successor, Vincent C. Gray (D), and schoolchildren, cut the ribbon on a newly refurbished $18 million facility that includes public-access computers, an outdoor reading terrace, slate floors and a renovated space for the historic Peabody collection of books and artifacts on the District's history.

"This has been my entire term in coming," Fenty said. "We are finally here."

The ribbon-cutting begins what will likely turn into a farewell tour for Fenty as he prepares to leave office in January after being defeated by Gray in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

Since Fenty took office, the city has opened new or refurbished libraries in Takoma, Shaw, Deanwood, Anacostia and the Parklands-Turner neighborhood and on Benning Road NE. By the end of the next year, new or refurbished libraries are slated to open in Tenleytown, Washington Highlands, Petworth, Mount Pleasant and on 36th Place SE.

Many of the projects originated under former mayor Anthony Williams (D) as part of a capital construction project he launched in 2005. But advocates say Fenty deserves credit for pushing the projects through to completion, despite a weak economy that drained city revenues.

"There is probably no other city that has done so much in such a short period of time," said John Hill, president of the District of Columbia Public Library Board. "It's not just about the edifice. It's the quality of the services and technology."

Before he and Gray cut the ribbon, Fenty seemed a bit nostalgic. He noted that it was the last time he would attend an official library opening as mayor.

"You can never open too many libraries," Fenty said in an interview. "I just like to get things done, and this is just the latest example."

But Fenty's push to build shiny new neighborhood amenities contributed to his political downfall in the primary.

During his campaign against Gray, Fenty was unable to shake allegations of cronyism and corruption for steering contracts to build recreation centers to a company run by one of his fraternity brothers. And Fenty's efforts to quickly push for the reconstruction of the Georgetown Library after it was damaged by a fire in 2007 opened him up to charges that he favored voters in wealthy, predominately white neighborhoods over more economically depressed areas of the city.

Still, now that the political season is winding down, Fenty's efforts are eliciting renewed respect from residents, advocates and politicians.

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