Time was, a few short months ago, when a seat on the board of the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. (CYITC) was a nice little résumé item. You got to rub shoulders with the likes of board chair John W. Hill, CEO of the powerful Federal City Council, and vice chair Diane Bernstein, a well-regarded philanthropist long active in child-welfare causes.
Here are the titles of the top two officers on the CYITC board these days: “program manager” with the American Association of Retired Persons; “program analyst” with the city administrator’s office.
Hope you like programs, board members!
Such is the revamped CYITC, an agency charged, since its establishment in 1999, with supporting youth services by pooling public and private money and issuing grants. In recent months, the agency has undergone a leadership overhaul, with its seven-member board taking a steep hit in prestige as business and policy leaders have given way to lower-profile folks with closer ties to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.
It’s become a theme in city politics: The CYITC is only the latest supposedly quasi-independent District instrumentality to get thoroughly Fentyized in the mayor’s 18 months on the job.
For starters, there are the bodies that Fenty has summarily absorbed: the National Capital Revitalization Corp. and the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. After a D.C. Council vote a year ago, those two groups, both under fire for sluggish performance, became part and parcel of Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Neil O. Albert’s operation.
Aside from those, consider recent changes at the Sports and Entertainment Commission. Currently, seven of the board’s 13 members either work for Fenty or were appointed by Fenty. Those include Parks and Recreation Director Clark E. Ray, school facilities czar Allan Y. Lew, and top Fenty fundraiser Ben Soto. Last month, the Sports Commission board decided to name Erik A. Moses its new chief executive; Moses had been a Fenty administration insider, having headed the Department of Small and Local Business Development.
Or take the Washington Convention Center Authority. That body was rocked in May by the sudden departure of general manger and chief executive Reba Pittman Walker, a former aide to Mayor Anthony A. Williams who left amid Washington Business Journal reports of “friction between her and…Fenty’s recent appointees to the authority’s board.” In her place, earlier this month, Fenty named Greg O’Dell, who had been chief executive at the Sports Commission for about a year. Before that, he had been Fenty’s chief development officer.
Notably, when Moses and O’Dell were appointed to their new jobs earlier this month, LL didn’t hear about it from the Convention Center Authority or the Sports Commission, which both have their own media-relations operations. Fenty held the press conference himself and releases were issued from Albert’s press shop.
The culmination of the CYITC coup came two weeks ago, when Fenty replaced Hill and Bernstein with parks-and-rec chief Ray and Lisa Simpson, the aforementioned AARP manager who was immediately voted board chair. Late last year, Fenty also appointed his deputy mayor for education, Victor Reinoso, to the board, as well as James Carter, the administration analyst mentioned above who is now the board’s secretary. Three other members of the seven-member CYITC board are appointed by the D.C. Council.
The timing of the power move, sources say, was tied to CYITC Executive Director Greg Roberts’ announcement earlier this month that he would be leaving to take a job in Louisville, Ky. At the reconstituted board’s first meeting, it selected a Fenty employee, Serve DC head Millicent Williams, as the new executive director—a job that had paid Roberts more than $280,000 in salary and benefits.
It’s a shakeup for a supposedly independent group that gets most of its funds from the District government; according to the organization’s 2006 tax return, it received $18.8 million in public funds and less than $4 million from other sources. The city is budgeted to give the agency $18.5 million next fiscal year.
You can spin all of this as a happy consequence of the control-board era’s twilight: The Sports Commission, Convention Center Authority, and CYITC, after all, have their roots in a time when the District government couldn’t be trusted to manage much of anything, leading to the establishment of quasi-independent bodies with their own governing boards not directly subject to mayoral control. With the District having proven itself capable of responsible self-government, it’s about time that Hizzoner grabbed some of these reins, right?
But you could also spin it this way: Fenty is a monumental control freak.
Where Tony Williams was happy to leave his appointees to their better judgment, there is no part of the District government over which Fenty doesn’t want utter and complete suzerainty. Such an attitude has trickled down to even the most piddling of governmental bodies. Take the Green Collar Jobs Advisory Council: A document obtained by LL reveals that members of that august organ had to sign an oath promising, among numerous other things, to “uphold the values and vision of District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty.”
Folks have taken notice: Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray says he’s concerned about the recent moves at CYITC, saying the appointment of a mayoral insider to head the nonprofit isn’t in keeping with the original vision of a “collaborative…public-private partnership.”
“I’m certainly concerned,” he says. “The trust plays a very important role in the District of Columbia.”
Fenty dodged LL’s question as to whether he’s trying to bigfoot CYITC, complimenting Millicent Williams on her performance at Serve DC. More generally, Fenty says, “Whether it’s an agency directly under my control or a board or a commission or whether it’s a private organization, my job is to be as supportive as humanly possible and help the city be as productive as possible....I’m ready, willing, and able to help out.”
Marion, the Brother of God
Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry held his campaign kickoff in a church, and in LL’s estimation, that was just about right. The four-hour marathon rally at the Temple of Praise in Washington Highlands Saturday afternoon held all of the pomp, praise, bombast, and boredom common to every church service LL’s ever attended.
By the time LL arrived, an hour into the affair, the parade of preachers had already begun. He showed up just in time for the Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist and Barry’s on-again, off-again spiritual muse, who hailed Barry as the “No. 1 elected official in the District of Columbia barring none.”
That would mean that Barry and Wilson’s hot-and-cold relationship is once again running hot, after a cold stretch prompted by Wilson’s endorsement in 2004 of then incumbent Sandy Allen against him.
Wilson made amends for his Allen endorsement from the pulpit: “It wasn’t because I thought he wasn’t the best person to do the job,” Wilson said. Rather, he explained, he had concern about Barry’s health, what with the diabetes and the prostate cancer. “He proved me wrong when I talked about his health,” Wilson continued. “He’s like the Energizer bunny out there!”
(And just to prove that everything’s hunky-dory in Ward 8 politics, Allen was also in attendance, wearing a Barry campaign T-shirt.)
Oratory, however, is only one way to give glory to higher powers. There’s great art, for instance: Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, Michelangelo’s Pietà, Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. In that vein, consider Legacy Building: Five Decades of Service, a 45-minute-long film chronicling Barry’s rise from the Delta to the heights of urban political might.
Here’s a few of the honorifics bandied about in the video: “innovative mayor,” “superb administrator,” the “catalyst for the city’s black middle class,” the man who “shook D.C. from its sleepy Southern doldrums into a thriving cosmopolitan city.”
The film also served as a handy guide to the top level of Barry apostles, with such folks as Fred Cooke, Herb Miller, R. Donahue Peebles, and Ivanhoe Donaldson appearing on camera to praise their patron.
As for the lowlights, there was only this: “In November 1990, [Barry] lost the only election of his charmed political career after falling prey to some personal difficulties and demons.” Other omissions: mentions of late first wife Effi Barry or second wife Mary Treadwell.
After passing the plate—music tinkled in the background while the mostly elderly crowd was urged to supplement the $100,000-plus Barry’s raised already—third wife Cora Masters Barry introduced her estranged husband.
To a sweet funk groove, the Mayor-for-Life took the pulpit. Now, earlier, the tribute video took pains to note that Barry “believes in the separation of church and state.” The man himself paid no such constitutional lip service: “Let’s give God some praise,” he started his remarks. “Some politicians get hung up on the separation of church and state. But not me, ’cause God created the church and the state.”
Can LL get an Amen?
Now LL, as a Catholic, believes no faith experience is complete without a solemn mystery or two. How’s this: Where was Barry’s second-highest-paid campaign aide, his son Christopher Barry?
While sitting in the pews, LL spotted a working lineup of the day’s speakers. On that sheet, Barry’s son was slated to introduce his father toward the end of the program, with Cora Barry giving valedictory remarks. But it was Cora who gave the intro, and Christopher’s only appearance of the day came in the tribute video: “Following in his footsteps and living in his shadow has not been easy,” he testified.
Perhaps he’s not the Son, actually, but the Barry Spirit?
There was this hint as to what the younger Barry is doing to earn the $5,000 he was paid on April 11, according to campaign finance records: Barry’s campaign signs carry the tagline, "Paid for by Barry for Ward 8 committee.…Christopher Barry, treasurer."
• Is the D.C. soccer stadium officially dead?
The smart money, says LL, will follow the employment situation of Linda Mercado Greene, the former top aide to Barry who became an executive for real-estate investor and D.C. United owner Victor MacFarlane in 2006. Greene was a crucial connection in securing Barry’s support for a Poplar Point stadium and convincing other leaders in Ward 8 to follow (Loose Lips, “United We Spend,” 6/6).
Greene fell victim to a “restructuring” last week at MacFarlane’s investment firm that included 14 layoffs in three offices across the country. MacFarlane spokesperson Julie Chase says Greene wasn’t among the layoffs but that “her role has been moved” and that she has been offered a job with the soccer team itself. It was unknown as of press time whether Greene would take the new job.
A source close to Barry says Greene’s departure would be “devastating” to his support of the project, and his support is about all the project has right now.
• The greener pastures of utility lobbying hold only so many charms, apparently: Former Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent B. Orange Sr. has picked up ballot petitions for the District’s male slot on the Democratic National Committee.
Orange, who did not return calls for comment, took a job as vice president for government affairs for Pepco in early 2007 after his failed 2006 mayoral run. Since then, Orange has been seen often at city hall.
He’ll be running against Dixon, the former council chair who has held down the national committeeman spot since 2000.
Orange’s run also means the District’s Democratic voters might have no fewer than three Pepco executives to choose from on their primary ballots. Besides Orange, Deborah M. Royster, Pepco’s deputy general counsel and president of the Ward 4 Dems, is running for the national committeewoman spot and Linda Jo Smith, a public-affairs representative for the company, is running for an at-large spot on the local Democratic committee.
Pepco spokesperson Clay Anderson says the company has no problem with its employees’ civic aspirations: “We’re fine with people’s personal lives,” he says.
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