Saturday, January 13, 2007

Call it a mayoral “man crush.”

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has modeled much of his early administration on measures practiced by his neighbor to the north — New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — and the mentor-student relationship is beginning to make the two look like the political version of the old Playskool refrain — My buddy and me.

“If [Mr. Fenty] wants to model himself after somebody, gosh, Bloomberg would be a good model,” said D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat. “It looks like a good relationship.”

Mr. Fenty, a 36-year-old Democrat, has already emulated Mr. Bloomberg, a 64-year-old Republican in his second term, in several areas.

The former Ward 4 representative on the D.C. Council has knocked down walls to create a bullpen-style office for himself and his staff on the third floor of the John A. Wilson Building — an open-air office structure ripped directly from Mr. Bloomberg’s similar style in the Big Apple.

The bullpen layout, which Mr. Fenty studied during a visit with Mr. Bloomberg last year, allows staff members to conduct their business in the open, and reportedly gives them more access to their respective bosses.

“It really does cut down on the time it takes to make a decision,” said Tene Dolphin, Mr. Fenty’s chief of staff. “You turn your chairs around and have an impromptu meeting.”

Mr. Fenty also has borrowed from the Bloomberg bible that commands a more managerial governing style. The new mayor plans to streamline the District’s sometimes-bloated government by running it like a business and gutting inefficient agencies.

“He manages New York City like a corporation,” Mr. Fenty said of Mr. Bloomberg. “His managerial style of leadership encourages productivity and accountability, which yields results.”

But Mr. Fenty’s biggest imitation of Mr. Bloomberg thus far has come in his proposal to take over the District’s struggling public school system.

In December, Mr. Fenty took a cadre of council members on a field trip to New York, where the group visited a Harlem school reconstituted and reformed following a takeover instituted by Mr. Bloomberg in 2002.

Mr. Fenty then announced his proposal for a mayoral takeover last week: A plan that includes measures to reduce the role of the elected school board and appoint a Cabinet-level chancellor to run the 58,000-student system.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bloomberg took the time to visit his counterpart at the Wilson Building and express support for the plan. The mayor was officially in town to testify on Capitol Hill, but he spared a few minutes to praise Mr. Fenty before his legislative branch colleagues.

“I’ll do anything I can to support Adrian, and I think you’re lucky to have him,” Mr. Bloomberg told the D.C. Council.

The emulation is nothing new for Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman who switched political parties before running to replace former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in 2001.

There are rumors that he may make a future run for the White House, and Mr. Fenty is one of several political candidates from the United States and elsewhere who have come to New York wanting a look-see at his style of city government.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa visited Mr. Bloomberg last March. Others that have made the trek include Vancouver, British Columbia, Mayor Sam Sullivan and the mayor of Duesseldorf, Germany, Joachim Erwin.

Lorenzo Morris, a professor of political science at Howard University, said part of Mr. Fenty’s draw to Mr. Bloomberg could be that the New Yorker took office by using his own money and was subsequently free from many burdensome political ties.

Likewise, Mr. Morris said Mr. Fenty is more of an independent in the Democratic Party.

Mr. Bloomberg’s political initiatives have shown “an independence from party politics,” Mr. Morris said. “The managerial approach is simply an expression that he has fewer partisan and political obligations to respond to as he plans his city government.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s visit this week wasn’t all business: He presented Mr. Fenty with four wall clocks and name plates with the District’s four quadrants on them.

The gift is similar to Mr. Bloomberg’s five wall clocks in his bullpen that represent each of New York City’s five boroughs.

Mr. Fenty, for his part, gave his mayoral mentor a D.C. pen set and bestowed him with honorary D.C. citizenship.

“Mr. Mayor, we’re very interested in having you as a taxpayer,” Mr. Fenty said.

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