Loose Lips

The Undecided: Gray Mail Edition

Cherkis Leans Fenty

Yes, I'm undecided. It's true.

For large chunks of the past few years, I've written nasty things about Adrian Fenty, his administration, and especially his attorney general, who just a week ago my editor criticized me for calling "dickish." But the problem with firing one mayor is you have to hire another—and I'm still an agnostic about Vincent Gray, whose mayoral campaign, not to mention his past D.C. government patron, hasn't entirely inspired confidence.

So despite the fact that it's August, and there have been about 197 straw polls, I have no idea who I'm going to vote for: Fenty or Gray? Go-go or hand dancing? The athlete or the mathlete? The guy who appointed Peter Nickles (but built the awesome Wilson Aquatic Center) or the guy who wants Nickles fired (but turns to jelly when you try to nail him down about Michelle Rhee)?

Luckily, I've still got six weeks to make up my mind: Six weeks of campaign ads, endorsement events, candidate forums—and probably a few more straw polls, too. And I'll be keeping an almost-daily diary of the various things—conversations with partisans, viewings of TV spots, lonely middle-of-the-night realizations and maybe even a rare instance of substantive policy debate—that might help me make up my mind.

Or, at least, make up my mind until I change it again.

AUGUST 2: I'VE GOT MAIL!

Today's Event: Receiving a Vincent Gray pamphlet dump in my mailbox. I don't like taking in the mail unless it's the New Yorker or a paycheck. So I was at a real loss about what to do with the pile of heavy-stock, full-color brochures promoting Gray's "Character, Integrity, Leadership." I left the first round on a chair on my porch. The Blue Team obviously saw my indifference to their handiwork. The next day, campaign workers wedged even more of it into my front door. In two days, I got six pieces of Gray matter. It all went into the trash.

Influence: I understand that there's a Ward 4 Dems forum/endorsement coming up this Wednesday, but  Gray's bland pamphlets ("We can do better...") aren't swaying me. For one, it suggests he's fiscally irresponsible devoting so much full-color and fake smiles to one address. Not good considering Colbert King's assessment that District's wobbly finances is the Key Issue in the race. I don't give a shit about WaPo's premature endorsement of Fenty. But I do give points to the mayor for not stuffing my mailbox telling me about it.

Net impact: Fenty gains, mildly.

But: I really dig the "One City" logo with the District in red surrounded by eight stars representing out eight wards. If Gray had Fenty's war chest, he'd be sending every voter a T-shirt with that logo.

  • Elissa

    I look forward to six more weeks of this feature. Every day.

  • John

    (Karnak the Magnificent hold envelope to his head, thinks carefully)

    "What is the final decision of The Undecided, which will stun no one?"

    (Karnak the Magnificent opens the envelope, after blowing into it to expand it)

    "A Vince Gray endorsement?"

  • Jason Cherkis

    I wouldn't do this if I wasn't truly undecided.

  • LOL

    I have an idea. I should start my own blog and call it pundit sighting. I find it interesting that when i started out in government 20 years ago, reporters had great stories because they were out covering the beat. It seems like the younger reporters cover the mayor, government etc by email and press release. Your endorsement and your critiques have no weight. The perspective that I get from you and many of your colleagues that I should have been there myself.

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    this is kick-ass, jason. hope to get some real insight into your decision-making process here!

  • downtown rez

    Jason-
    A "beat poisoner" for you:
    I started reading CP in the early '90's, and it seems like I've been reading your writing the whole time. But this is the first writing of yours that has ever made me smile.
    By the way, did it occur to you that Gray et al might know who you are and where you live, and might have sent you that stuff specifically? I mean, I've not gotten a single scrap of Gray literature at either of my addresses.
    Just saying, and just asking.
    Thanks,

  • Jason Cherkis

    It's possible. I sorta recognized the Gray person who I think stuffed my door with Gray crap. BTW, Downtown Rez, your comments on the Gray cover story were really strong. You made excellent points. Don't know that I'm all the way there with you yet--especially after today's SYEP hearings. But you made a strong case for Fenty.

  • downtown rez

    Tease.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    I'm too far gone from Fenty to ever claim partiality, but have been really disappointed in Gray’s campaign. He has so much other things to work off of instead of focusing on the pettiness of Fenty. Anyone who knows the man and knows what he’s about will agree with this. Unfortunately if he lays out a comprehensive plan for the City, he risks alienating his newly found base of disenchanted African-Americans. Gray’s plan is a better version (simply because Gray will be overseeing it) of the platform that Fenty ran on four years ago. However, because it highlights all of the problems that are blighting this City, long-time residents, who predominantly low-income African-Americans; and a new socio-economic class of African-Americans, will turn away from him because it’s exactly what Fenty plan is. For many of them, change equates to gentrification and as a result, many of them see gentrification as displacement (of livelihood and neighborhood). I’m born and bred in the City and grew up in one of worst neighborhoods in City and during the crack epidemic that saw a massive reduction in residents from the City and the deaths of 80 percent of the males in my 5th grade class. I attended arguably the worst public school in the City and have had to deal with decades of issues of race and class. I embraced the change of the City, both in landscape and population. I was a fervent supporter of Fenty when he first ran. The energy and apparent vision for a brighter future for DC was where I thought the City should be going. Four years later, even with all of the economic progress made in the City, the disparity between the have and have-nots have only grown under his leadership. I never thought Fenty favored whites over blacks, but was troubled to see that his priorities were always self-serving. His agenda became less about issues surrounding the City, but more about how good he would look in doing something (this resulted in the racial tensions). New residents loved the amenities he was rolling out for them. Older residents despised him because of it. He won 4 years ago with tremendous community support because of promises he made to all of us. However, since being elected, he has refused to meet with the people/groups that got him elected, that peppered the streets in support of him. He has since veiled his entire administration in a shroud of secrecy and refused the normal courtesies of a public official. He appointed unqualified friends and associates to very influential positions of power. He even made certain friends multi-millionaires by subverting City dollars to them in a number of questionable contracts. And none of these friends are even qualified to hold a managerial position in the various industries they lead now. Fenty’s arrogance compounded by his childish pettiness is the reason why I cannot in good conscience ever support this man again.

  • Hunh?

    Jason did you happen to check Gray's interview w/Mark Plotkin when Plotkin asked him pointblack, will you keep Rhee.

    His response was the same as I've heard before, "I take the exact same approach Mayor Fenty took (in 2006, after he won the primary) when asked whether he would keep Ramsey, 'I won't make any cabinet decisions until after the election.'"

    As a reporter, what's hard to understand about that? Fenty fired both Ramsey and Janey. I would hope that most thinking people believe that a mayor should make these decisions AFTER the fact rather than prematurely. It's also surprising that these sorta jabs at Gray's answer are continuing. The person is question intimated that SHE will not stay in DC if Gray was elected because he doesn't seem to share Fenty's vision on education.

    But people keep complaining that GRAY won't give a definitive answer. I ask, why does it matter if she plans to leave anyway.

  • Concerned C

    I am voting for a Mayor who see the city as a whole and not picking sections to see what he can gain at any cost. Chairman Gray dont have to answer questions regarding Michelle Rhee. She has already announced that if Vincent Gray wins she is resigning. So that is more bullshit going on in that department. Also I believe firing those teachers is a retaliation by the Fenty Administration (since the teachers endorse Chairman Gray, we're terminate a few). I guest they call that an "eye for an eye". She knows the White population is only looking in one direction.

  • DC Guy

    Over in Ward 3, everyone is getting the Jason treatment from the Fenty camp. Everyone knows Fenty needs to carry Wards 3 and 4 so strongly that they are all getting multi-pieces of "Green Team" (ironic, no?) literature.

  • Hymesb

    Jason,

    I have talked bad about you in the past. And, will probably do so again in the future:-). However, you deserve credit for this article regardless for your eventual decision.

    I truly appreciate the nuetrality of your tone. A true breath of fresh air.

  • http://ABF ABF

    VINCE GRAY ALL DAY!

  • peter Rosenstein

    Jason,--If you are going to make up your mind based on what you get in your mailbox that is sad. You are a reporter. You know what is going on in this city.

    We have a Mayor elected because he claimed it was time to be open and transparent about budgets and policy. He was elected because he went door to door and made people think he cared about them. He was elected because he said he would support the LGBT community and he was elected because he said he would focus on education.

    Well let's look at the record. He has focused on education. He hired Michelle Rhee who has moved forward on the work that Clifford Janey did. It was Janey who changed the curriculum and raised the standards adopting those from Massachusettes. Michelle Rhee did close the schools that needed to be closed and is working to develop a way to evaluate teachers. But she did take three years to get a teachers contract signed because she first tried to break the union and failed. Test scores are going up but they have actually been slowly climbing since 1996. But we are making progress and that is good. But the reality is Michelle Rhee isn't the only one who can lead the school system. The problem may be that Adrian Fenty knows nothing about education, hence he opted out of the education debate. He also has no interest in either early childhood education, literacy, the community college or UDC- all components of a good education system.

    Then there is the budget. Adrian Fenty knows little about budgets and cares less. He overspent the summer youth program and is doing it again- this time taking money intended for the homeless to do it. He is using gimmicks and slight of hand- taking money from the District's reserves - and putting our bond ratings in jeapordy. And he is doing it all in secret- there goes the promised transparency in government.

    He reacts to people and communities as if they should be avoided. Criticism is unacceptable- you either don't hear from him or if you work for him you get fired. He refuses to talk about hate crimes- wouldn't support marriage-equality while the debate on the Council was ongoing and only signed the bill when it came to him as a veto proof bill. He talked about emulating Newsome and Bloomberg in this area before he took office, but they have spoken out whie Fenty has been silent. He even tried to move us backwards trying to see that the prison system was exempt from part of the human rights act.

    Adrian Fenty takes secret vacations borrowing homes from donors and the City pays if he takes security along. Adrian Fenty won't come to community events on weekends because he is riding his bike. He even takes city paid security on many of those rides.

    Adrian Fenty has not held one press conference since he became Mayor. As a journalist that should mean something to you. He holds ribbon cuttings and refuses to answer questions. Tom Sherwood has even attributed this to the possiblity that he is not smart enough to answer the questions he would be asked. Adrian Fenty is letting Peter Nickles run the government. Maybe Nickles should run for Mayor- but then he may have to move into DC fulltime.

    Vince Gray has a record in government and the non-profit sector which shows he is really about those in need. He has actually managed a City agency during what many consider one of the worst four years in the city. Not all successes but he had many. He has managed what some people call our 12 little Mayors and done it well. He has managed to bring concensus to many issues among disparate interests. He opened the Council budget negotiations to TV cameras while Fenty kept his secret as usual.

    Gray may not be perfect but he is an intelligent thinking man who has shown he will move this city forward.

    Whatever you decide to do as a voter you owe the people who read the Washington City Paper more than telling them you lean more to Fenty because of some Gray folders you receive in your mailbox or at your door. If all the press shows the same lack of interest in bringing out the real issues of this campaign as the Washington Post editorial board we are in real trouble.

  • Jason Cherkis

    Peter, my problem with the Gray literature is not just that I got inundated with it. The pamphlets also told me very little about how he'd govern. It was all boilerplate. I expected at least one specific thing he'd do among the six pieces of paper I received. I didn't get that.

  • candycane1

    Based on your picture, You're closer to the right, closer to Fenty. Yet you say you're undecided. Seems to me that you are confused. So you should stay in the middle. Come to the ward 4 forum. See you tomorrow night ward 4!!!!!

  • John

    Really, that's what it boils down to. Gray won't come out and say what he stands for, other than "Process", "I'm opposed to Fenty", and "Here, I'll spend money on whatever the latest interest group wants".

    Moreover, he can't. He's riding a coalition of people who have completely opposed interests. One set wants Rhee and the reformists gone, and back to status quo...another wants the same reforms, only "nicer" as one example.

    Any Gray is dancing between conflicting interests as hard as he can, avoiding saying anything substantive lest he alienate any group. Thus it is fun to watch and see if today is the hoe down two-step, the electric slide, or the funky chicken to avoid having to give a substantive answer.

    As I've said, as long as a candidate won't take a substantive position, I have to assume the worst. For example, I have to assume defunding the streetcars while taking on an unfunded liability for the shiny new community college wasn't a "mistake", but the classic "Washington Gaffe", while a politician doing the old soft show to avoid saying what they stand for accidentally does something that shows their real position.

  • downtown rez

    John-
    You are right on.
    The funniest part, IMO, is Cheh standing in the middle saying "he'll say no to this or that portion of his coalition when the time comes". Well, wouldn't it be nice to know where the Gray administration would stand on this or that issue before the election? How could anyone make an informed choice otherwise?
    What a joke. And noodlez calls me a gambler. At least I'm not sitting back waiting and trusting on someone else's hand to throw the dice. Someone who won't say what they will do or, worse, might even be saying different things to different elements of their "coalition". Because without a public statement, how would anyone ever know?

  • noodlez

    THERE WERE TWO BULLS ON A HILLSIDE OVERLOOKING THE HERD OF HEIFERS DOWN BELOW. THE YOUNG BULL FULL OF ENERGY AND EXUBERANCE SAID LETS RUN DOWN AND FUCK ONE OF THOSE HEIFERS. THE OLD BULL THOUGHTFUL AND PRECISE SAID LETS WALK DOWN AND FUCK THEM ALL.

    THE SOON TO BE FORMER MAYOR WITH ALL HIS ENERGY AND ENTHUSIASM DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH TIME IN HIS DAY OR POWER IN HIS BRAIN TO RUN A MAJOR, POWERFUL CITY SUCH AS WASHINGTON, DC. HE WOULD FIT PERFECTLY IN A LIL TOWNSHIP LIKE COTTAGE CITY OR BLADENSBURG, MD.

    GRAY IS OLD SCHOOL. WHY SHOULD HE SHOW HIS HAND EARLY? LET MOTEN SCRAMBLE ABOUT CHASING HIS TAIL. LET FOLKS LIKE TRUTH HURTS CONSTANTLY TUG ON A STRING THINKING HE HAS THE THREAD. LET THE SOON TO BE FORMER MAYOR TRIP AND FALL ON HIS WAY TO THE FINISH LINE WITH ILL ADVISED POLITICAL DECISIONS (EXTENDING SUMMER JOB CHECKS WITH NO MONEY).

    SEE THE PROBLEM IS YOU WHITE FOLKS WANT TO MAKE A DECISION BASED ON A PLATFORM. THAT IS WHERE THE PROBLEM LIES WITH FAGGIE FENTY. HE STOOD ON A PLATFORM AND DIDNT DELIVER. WHEN YOU STAND ABOVE THE FRAY HOW IN HELL DO YOU KNOW WHATS IS GOING ON?

    SEE US BLACK FOLKS JUST WANT SOMEONE TO LEAD, BE FAIR, KEEP US WORKING AND DONT SCREW IT UP. MAKE SURE OUR CHILDREN ARE SAFE AND EDUCATED. AND BY ALL MEANS DON’T PRETEND LIKE WE DON’T EXIST.

    FENTY, RHEE, GRAHAM, GAYTANIA AND NICKELS MUST GO!!!

  • John

    Ah "Noodlez". The funny thing with you is it is impossible to tell if you are for real, or some Klan wanna be trying to portray the ultimate negative racist stereotype.

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    jason: why is that certain commenters are allowed to spew racist and homophobic junk here without getting some kind of moderation slapped on them?

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