- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2011

Questions and answers

In response to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) last week announcing an investigation prompted by reports in The Washington Times about spending from the constituent service fund of council member Yvette M. Alexander, the Ward 7 Democrat issued a letter to her constituents that — wait for it — criticizes The Washington Times.

Instead of answering questions posed by a reporter and submitted to her office in a Freedom of Information Act request about why thousands of dollars from the lightly regulated fund went to a field office, to a staffer and to other self-promotional spending, Ms. Alexander called the inquiry a “baseless attack, though after reviewing the source not surprising.”

Good one.

We also noticed the righteousness with which Ms. Alexander took offense to a reporter characterizing Ward 7 as “poor” and “needy.”

She said “… neither I nor Ward 7 residents refer to themselves as ‘needy and poor’ and I do not appreciate when any reporter regularly demeans Ward 7 residents.”

It’s unclear whether she was equally offended by a report for the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute last month by a Brookings Institution research analyst who argued that unemployment in Ward 7 was the highest of any ward in the city, at 20.7 percent.

We could go on. Instead, we excerpt a response penned by Ward 7 resident Geraldine “Jeri” Washington, one of a handful of residents who asked OCF to investigate Ms. Alexander’s spending in the wake of the reports in The Times.

“Councilwoman, what you haven’t said about this matter is what your constituents and the residents of Ward 7 are hearing. How wonderful would it have been had your letter to the residents of Ward 7 embodied not your spiked comments in rebuttal to a newspaper’s reporter but a thoughtful, thorough and forthcoming response to those who you purportedly represent. At first glance, it seems you are in attack mode, hunkering in a mud-filled ditch of vengeance while launching misfiring missiles at anyone caught in your crosshairs….

“You find the adjectives ‘needy’ and ‘poor’ demeaning. They are not so, they are defining. If you take issue with such descriptions, might I suggest a more fervent and sincere effort to eradicate them and all such circumstances that give them credence.”

Ms. Alexander concluded her letter to residents with a pledge to do the “real work of Ward 7.” It remains to be seen whether her constituents and the Office of Campaign Finance agree with her on what that is.

‘We’re coming to get you.’

Virginia Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. consoled himself with a brief history lesson last week as he mourned the passage of a new redistricting plan largely drawn by Democrats, who hold the majority.

Don’t despair, Mr. Norment told his GOP colleagues. He pointed out that while the party in power usually does its best to draw self-preserving maps, that doesn’t always work.

While Republicans held power across the board during the last redistricting in 2001, Democrats grabbed control of the Senate five years later. Before that, Democrats controlled both chambers during the 1991 redistricting. Under the maps they drew, Republicans swept the 1999 elections.

Mr. Norment’s apparent message to the Democrats: Watch out, cause we’re coming to get you.

“I can assure you I am going to put the best people on the ground I can find,” he said. “I don’t say that with any degree of animosity or retribution, but this is unacceptable.”

Miller on Schaefer

As Maryland officials gathered last Monday in Annapolis to mourn the death of former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. reflected on his experience with the famously quirky two-term governor.

Like many colleagues, he praised Mr. Schaefer’s accomplishments — especially as mayor of Baltimore from 1971 to 1987 — and remembered him as a cantankerous, yet dedicated public servant who did not respond well to conflict.

“When he waved to me, he wouldn’t use all of his fingers,” said Mr. Miller, who was elected Senate president in 1987, the same year Mr. Schaefer took office.

“[If we disagreed] he would get mad at me and he would go into his closet and wouldn’t come out for hours on end,” Mr. Miller said.

The governor’s “My way or the highway” political approach extended into other areas of his life, said Mr. Miller, who recalled Mr. Schaefer having trees cut down at the governor’s mansion, which he had redecorated by his longtime companion Hilda Mae Snoops.

Mr. Miller said that while Mr. Schaefer’s stubbornness did not always serve him well in Annapolis, it likely made him the effective mayor and political giant that he was.

“He never stopped demanding,” Mr. Miller said. “He was very unique — a very positive role model for the little guy.”

Paige Winfield Cunningham and David Hill contributed to this report

• Matthew Cella can be reached at mcella@washingtontimes.com.

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