Know that old maxim an elephant never forgets? Well, Team Fenty doesn’t want donkeys, independents and other prospective voters to forget either.
And if voters are merely unaware of what Adrian M. Fenty has accomplished as mayor, his re-election campaign hammers away - letting voters know Mr. Fenty paid attention when he served as a staffer on the D.C. Council Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation.
Team Fenty is trying to answer the question “What have you done for me lately?” before voters even pose the query.
It’s all part of the campaign’s “Getting Results” slogan, whose intent is to credit Mr. Fenty and dispel any suspicion that his administration has class or race biases. The mayor is an equal opportunity tax-and-spend Democrat.
Scores of new and renovated schools, parks, libraries and recreation centers have sprung up since Mr. Fenty became mayor in 2007 and his campaign never misses an opportunity to remind voters.
Mr. Fenty and his supporters pitch the capital-spending boom in campaign literature, on his re-election website, and during campaign stops.
The windows of the Fenty campaign headquarters in the 5900 block of Georgia Avenue are strategically plastered with “Getting Results” posters that tout building projects in each of the city’s political wards. Passers-by walking north can first see the poster for Ward 1, arguably the city’s most ethnically diverse, and Ward 8, the city’s poorest section, is last in the lineup.
But being last in line doesn’t necessarily mean Ward 8 voters have been shortchanged.
Wards 5 and 8 hold the No. 1 and No 2 spots, respectively, when it comes to spending on school buildings, according the nonprofit, nonpartisan 21st Century School Fund. Between the time Mr. Fenty took office in 2007 and 2009, when he launched his re-election campaign, Mr. Fenty spent more than $156.6 million in Ward 5 and more than $133.5 million in Ward 8 on school construction.
The fewest dollars were spent in Mr. Fenty’s own neck of the woods, Ward 4.
But the executive director of 21st Century, Mary Filardo, says the numbers actually tell several stories. For example, per-pupil ($35,938) and square-footage construction costs ($152) were the highest in Ward 2, which stretches from Georgetown to downtown Washington. Ward 3, the wealthiest area, placed second in per-pupil ($18,364) and square footage spending ($118).
When the number of students per ward is factored in, yet another picture emerges, Ms. Filardo says.
“Ward 7 and 8 had 34 percent of all of the DCPS students - 14,388 students in the 2008-09 school year, while Wards 2 and 3 enrolled only 19 percent - 8,199 students,” Ms. Filardo said in a recent statement. “Communities without social capital lose out on public investment when there is poor planning and no intentional public policy for equity.”
Ms. Filardo’s comments weren’t arbitrary. Her statement was in response to an article last month in The Washington Post that analyzed city data and concluded that “Fenty’s spending priorities don’t favor certain wards.”
Mr. Fenty's “Getting Results” slogan gives Mr. Fenty credit for new parks, schools, libraries and recreation centers that parents and other stakeholders began putting in the capital-spending pipeline in 2000.
One of those projects is the Deanwood Recreation Center and Library, whose June 25 grand opening was attended by Mr. Fenty and his chief Democratic rival, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray. The recreation center, which cost $32 million and is located in Mr. Gray’s Ward 7, is the city’s largest at 63,000 square feet.
Mr. Fenty didn’t paint the entire picture. He didn’t tell voters that it was then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams who proposed the initial funding for the Deanwood project in 2005 - when Mr. Fenty and Mr. Gray were on equal political footing as council colleagues.
“From the beginning,” Mr. Gray said on opening day, “I worked with the District of Columbia government as the construction plans were being drawn to create a multipurpose facility that includes a recreation center, library, aquatic center, senior program, and early childhood component. The Deanwood Civic Association and other neighbors cared deeply about what was taking place on this land, and worked with me as we were determined to get this shining facility off the ground.”
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Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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