Best Gadfly

Marie Drissel
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
Who says you can’t fight City Hall? And, for that matter, who says you can’t bet against the casino? While much of the city was focused on political corruption scandals this year, Drissel, a longtime civic activist who helped launch Anthony Williams’ political career, managed to almost singlehandedly bring down an effort to legalize online gambling that had the support of the political and gambling establishments.

How’d she do it? It was not just a roll of the dice: Drissel outsmarted, outworked, and just plain outplayed gambling’s big supporters, a group that includes At-Large Councilmember Michael Brown and the city’s Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi. Thanks to dogged determination and a few good hits on Freedom of Information Act requests, Drissel was able to drum up enough allies (read: the Post editorial page) to ensure that city leaders had to stop ignoring some glaring questions about how the first major U.S. city to legalize online gambling came to do so with almost zero public debate. In the end, Drissel got almost the entire council and the mayor over to her side. And she says she’s not done watchdoggin’ yet, warning Brown in the Post that if he tries to push the same legislation again, she’ll “put a brick wall back up.”