- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

What a difference a year makes as resident complaints about the D.C. mayor begin to reflect a sense of buyer’s remorse.

Last October, D.C. voters were still shouting hip-hip hooray after helping Vincent C. Gray beat then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary. These days, they may as well be singing “Mr. Big Shot, who do you think you are.” Mr. Gray seems to be out of touch with the very people who actually put him in office.

Residents are complaining that his vision of public schooling doesn’t mesh with theirs and that his decision to rename a public library for a recently deceased school board and community activist ignores their plans.

They also are saying he cannot deliver much-needed jobs and that he is being insensitive to Washington’s rich black history by being unaware that the Lincoln Theatre will go dark if it doesn’t get a quick and substantial infusion of public dollars.

These few examples hardly represent the spectrum and would be insignificant shots across the bow but for the single tie that binds them: each represents an aspect of Washington’s commonwealth.

Consider the library brouhaha. Residents in Ward 8, the city’s poorest, are in the throes of preparing for the grand opening of their new 22,000-square-foot library on South Capitol Street SW. The city’s library trustees and neighborhood benefactors already united behind a name, the Washington Highlands Neighborhood Library, but the mayor wants the library memorialized in honor of William R. Lockridge, the educator-activist who died earlier this year.

The two sides will try to come to a meeting of the minds this week. Nonetheless, Mr. Gray’s position goes against the spirit of the community and the letter of D.C. law, which forbids naming public buildings after someone who has been dead for less than two years.

(I think its name should honor the late activist and newspaper executive Wilhelmina Rolark, who served nearly 16 years on the D.C. Council. But I have a personal bias and no vote on the matter.) Obviously, Mr. Gray had no eyes or ears regarding community goings-on. Otherwise, there likely would be no push back on the library or other neighborhood-centered issues.

A year ago, things were different.

Anti-Fenty rhetoric fueled Mr. Gray’s mayoral run, and voters pushed him to victory.

Now, residents are complaining about the Mr. Gray, too.

Sharon Pratt was the first native Washingtonian mayor kicked to the curb by increasingly vocal, disgruntled residents, and Mr. Fenty was the second.

Mr. Gray could join them.

Mr. Mayor, can you hear them now?

Red light, green light

If things go as planned, D.C. will undergo a major makeover as huge economic development projects begin taking shape.

That Costco, Wal-Mart and Aldi plan to open shop ASAP along busy corridors has put council members Harry Thomas Jr. and Vincent B. Orange on alert.

They don’t want the New York Avenue NE gateway to become a red-light district.

Mr. Orange has drafted legislation that would ensure there are no legal loopholes to give a green light to a red-light district in Ward 5, which is represented by Mr. Thomas.

Mr. Thomas told me on Friday that he thinks already-existing zoning and liquor laws place a moratorium on strip clubs, topless bars and other adult-entertainment establishments.

But he will work with Mr. Orange to ensure possible loopholes are closed.

“I support his efforts because it mirrors legislation on the books,” said Mr. Thomas. “We’re redoing Ward 5 and the city. We don’t want a red-light district anywhere.”

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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