- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Meet Rosemary Smith.

An 80-plus-year-old woman, she is a fourth-generation Washingtonian who is as straightforward as many politicos are crooked truth-avoiders, and as opinionated as A-list commentators.

Another noteworthy thing is that you do not have to live in or around the nation’s capital to appreciate her political and community perspectives.

A godly woman, Miss Rose — as she is affectionately called — doesn’t wonder how we strayed from our community-centered lives, how we put ourselves, our families and our spiritual selves into the hands of political hacks. She does, however, want to put us back on track.

Much of what she said Tuesday was in reaction to a column, “Rigged D.C. elections set up White to replace Orange,” which spun on the D.C. Democratic Party’s attempt to seat a party member, Robert White, on the D.C. Council before he’s won the privilege in the Nov. 8 election.

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“Who is he?” asked Miss Rose. “We have not elected him. I never met the man. I don’t know what he’s done, what he wants to do.”

Key points, eh? And common sense to boot.

A Roman Catholic, Miss Rose comes from a family of school teachers, ancestors and relatives whose children were reared and whose children reared their children to be apart of their community — and the thing is, “community” didn’t mean neighbors. “Community” included your bloodline and extended family, your civic family, your spiritual family and your purpose.

That pretty much explains why Miss Rose is quite blunt about some of our elected leaders of today, and questions whether they know what community really and truly means. She knows the very people she criticizes.

On Anita Bonds, leader of the D.C. Dems and an at-large council member, she said: “Anita bonds is a ‘yes’ person. Yes to whatever somebody says. Anita never does anything on her own. She does not hold her own.”

Miss Rose has known and watched Ms. Bonds since she helped Marion Barry in his first mayoral run, and became reacquainted with her as Barry began earning the “Mayor for Life” title.

Her insight is interesting, too, about Phil Mendelson, chairman of the council and the city’s chief legislator. “He needs to re-read the city laws and bylaws,” she suggested for Mr. Mendelson as the Democrats aim to usurp voters by seating Mr. White.

Of two other Democratic council members, Jack Evans of Ward 2 and Mary Cheh of Ward 3, Miss Rose takes on a how-dare-you position: “They both hold others jobs [as lawyers]. That Mary Cheh is upset about Vincent Orange holding two jobs. What is the problem?”

Of David Grosso, who disowned the Democratic Party but not their progressive politics to run as an “independent,” Miss Rose let it all hang out: “He’s for those white folks. He’s not really for us. He’s not for the whole community.”

Moreover, she said Ms. Bonds, Mr. Grosso, Mr. Mendelson and some other leaders wouldn’t be hypocrites if they actually went to the poorest neighborhoods of the city to see with their own eyes how poor people actually live.

“They don’t know that you can’t pay high rent with the money they make. If they pay rent, they can’t buy food and clothes for their children. They say they want to get them off welfare. Do they?” she said.

As for Mr. Orange, she has nothing but praise: “Ward 5 should be outraged. Vincent Orange has done beautiful job in Ward 5 and across the city. He needs to be commended, given credit, what’s due him. Sometimes white people can be cruel.”

It’s not a pure race thing. It is a power thing.

Ward 5 has concentrated political power. Mr. Orange lives there. Ms. Bonds lives there. Mr. Grosso lives there. And so does Kenyan McDuffie, the ward’s representative on the council. The shift of late has been away from the core of the city and toward Rock Creek Park, closer to where Mrs. Cheh, Mr. Mendelson, Mr. Evans, Mr. White and the mayor, Muriel Bowser, reside.

Miss Rose also notes a deliberate shift in rhetoric: “They talk about the middle class as if there is a middle. But they don’t talk about the lower class, the people ‘in’ the community. They need to look at the low income.”

In so many ways, she’s right. There is no Marion Barry on the council, no one in a position of power and authority who raises ire about the least fortunate. And whether you’re a liberal or a conservative, you should at least espouse helping the needy regardless of their age.

A hand up, and not always a handout.

Ms. Bonds is certainly in a position to be such a game changer because she is chairman of the council’s Housing Committee, which oversees not only veteran and aging affairs but all housing stock, and every ethnic and gender policy imaginable.

Miss Rose has long participated in civic affairs, witnessed the city transition from a sleepy town and been a voice of perspective in small and large forums for decades.

Every city, town and county should have a Miss Rose to run interference.

I guess she could say, “Can you hear me now?”

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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