Loose Lips

The Undecided: Poverty Politics Edition

August 19: Fenty Talks Poverty

Today’s Event: Mayor Adrian Fenty finally responds to Defeat Poverty DC survey. I've been waiting for him to address the District's faltering economy and for him to acknowledge the nonprofit sector beyond Peaceoholics. So he scores points just for playing along. Fenty provides forthright answers addressing unemployment (he touts job creation via the development of the new  convention center hotel and the opening of the giant new Carmine's restaurant, which he mentions twice), and chronic poverty (he says the answer is education reform, of course).  Fenty cares!

Influence: Huge. I've been feeling uncomfortable in my prolonged Lean Gray status. And Gray certainly does not earn my vote with his own responses to the Defeat Poverty DC  survey. He ain't exactly Mitch Snyder:  "As Chairman, I supported the dedication of a portion of the deed recordation and transfer tax to the Housing Production Trust Fund, but we need to find a more stable funding mechanism for this program, which has seen a two-thirds drop in its funding level due to the downturn in the real estate market." Whatever.

Net impact: Leaning Fenty.

But: Fenty fails to mention the rundown conditions of the city's homeless shelters. And he says nothing about how he's going to house the hundreds of families waiting to even get into the shelter system. What's your plan for that, Mr. Mayor?

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Cherkis- I'm sorry man, but this is bullshit now. I have no more faith in your balanced indecisiveness approach. Fenty is a liar and a hypocrite.
    Conditions for the most vulnerable in the City have gotten worse since Fenty’s taken office. Yes one can point to the general economic decline the entire world has seen in the past two years but for DC specifically, Fenty has done more harm to low income families than any external factor, simply by him not choosing to do anything for them. The biggest reason I point to this is because of his funding priorities. Look where the man has placed the money year after year. I know education reform is necessary in DC, but putting all of your egg in one basket while ignoring other important services just isn’t the way to do it. Him responding to this means nothing if he can’t step up and make some of these requests a priority for his next term.
    Four years ago, he used the angle of being a man of the people, ear to the ground, on top of every bloody issue plaguing the poor, to win. I supported him. I've watched his devolve since, ignoring every promise except school reform, putting his personal interest and the interest of his friends above everything else.
    Just because he listens to a few policy hacks and smiles and promises to do better, doesn't mean he will. He's lied before and he's lying now.


    The fact that the plight of the homeless, the poor and the mentally ill is not somehow made a joke of speaks volumes about this current administration. Mr. Fenty has not taken the concerns of these groups seriously in his administration.

    Mr. Cherkis, you are so off base and message with your assertions that Mr. Fenty has done more than Mr. Gray in this arena. If it were not for Mr. Gray, as Chairman of the Council Mr. Fenty would have cut more funding for the programs that assist the least, the last and the lost of our society.

    The fact that this has turned into a Mayor's race about race is off-base as well. This city is divided among CLASS not race. Mr. Fenty has gutted the working middle-class (black, white, hispanic, etc.) and the working poor; now DC ONLY consists of RICH/AFFLUENT and POOR/HOMELSS.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com Jason Cherkis

    But Fenty has put 1100 homeless individuals into housing. So that's something. And what has Gray done besides save a few cuts from the budget?

    seriously. I would love to know.

  • Sally

    I can't wait for the primary to be over, just so that this series will end with the shocking - shocking! - revelation that Cherkis voted for Gray.

  • Tom

    Cherkis, weren't woman being sexually assualted and/or propositioned in these shelters? Wasn't Money taken out of a fund that would be used for homeless to try and fund the Summer Youth Program? Wasn't there a article about the Former DC hospital being over crowded??

    I don't really care who you vote for, but your decision and decision criteria is loosing a lot of credibility

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com Jason Cherkis

    Thanks Tom. I broke those stories on the sexual harassment at D.C. General. I get it. But you know what? Fenty actually fired the people that ran that shelter.

    As for SYEP, I did not dig Fenty trying to take money from homeless services to pay for the summer jobs. I wrote about it in Undecided and elsewhere. I have been chronicling the homeless issue for a while.

    That being said, I do think Fenty's jobs plan was more specific than Gray's. I just don't know that Gray would do things different. Gray is no radical. There's very little that's progressive about his platform which is what's so disappointing.

    Fenty's ideas are fairly radical: Let's house the homeless. He's housed more than a 1,000 of our homeless citizens. But the issue there is the fact that homeless services is still underfunded. The unemployment rate is still huge, etc. I get it.

    But I'm not going to give Gray a pass. I can't recall a single piece of legislation or speech or anything from Gray that addressed the over capacity issue at the EMERGENCY shelter at D.C. General let alone think up better options than the inhumane at CCNV or the trailers on Irving. Last time I checked his own Ward, Ward 7, had a really high unemployment rate.

    Seriously: What the fuck has Gray done? And don't say run a group home back in the day.

  • candycane1

    Jason, why don't you just stay in the middle until primary day. Seriously, I don't think you're undecided at all.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com Jason Cherkis

    candycane: I'm truly undecided. There are many of us just look at the latest poll numbers.

  • Isn’t It Obvious

    Jason, knowing that there is a separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, what would you have Gray do in his capacity as a LEGISLATOR? He in not empowered to DO anything about the homeless situation other than those powers enumerated to the legislative branch. One of the things that Gray did was make sure that the funds were not removed when Fenty submitted his budget to the council to remove the money for the homeless and other needy members of DC. Had Gray not intervened, Fenty would have taken from those who can least afford to have anything else taken from them. Fenty attempted to take; and Gray restored.

    Moreover, Fenty does not really care about the needs or concerns of the homeless, because they have no fixed address, they can not vote. He is only giving lip service to those things that he believes those who can vote care about. You wait and see, if Fenty gets back in office, he will continue to try to take from those who can least afford his terrible budgeting skills.

    Lastly, make sure that you are giving credit to appropriate person. Was it anything that Fenty and his administration actually came up with on their own, or was it that he was again attempting to take credit for programs and initiatives that were put in place in the Williams administration that Fenty is attempting to reap the rewards for?

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Cherkis- Gray done more for the affordable housing community and the social service sector than Fenty has. Ever budget cycle, Fenty cuts valuable programs for low income folks to offset expenses elsewhere and every single year Gray and company fight very hard to put the funding back into place. A lot of people aren't privy to this, but those of us who work in this field know all too the drama that goes on. Fenty outright lies and refuses to meet with any number of groups to discuss the budget and concerns of the poor. Him coming on strong now is just another campaign ploy. Gray's the one who's stepped up time and time again.
    Gray isn't a radical, but he sure is practical. Fenty is just a phony.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Cherkis- check this out: http://www.dcfpi.org/what%E2%80%99s-in-the-final-fy-2011-budget-a-first-look

    DCFPI, the group behind Defeat Poverty put this out. Look at the cuts Fenty made to the programs that literally dozens of groups and thousands of low-income residents rely on and look who restored it- the City Council with Gray running marathon sessions to restore the cuts made by Fenty. It's all smoke and mirrors with Fenty.

  • http://twitter.com/Matt_the_Bolt The_Matt

    For what its worth, Gray's answer is wonky and not very appealing as a soundbyte, its true. But in the end, it goes more to the meat of what government can do. If we find a process that ensures production of more affordable housing (30+% of most folks budget, more if you're really poor), that'd likely go a lot further to immediately helping poor folks out; its an important and relatively easy way that government can help level the playing field, even if it doesn't address the long-term systemic causes of poverty. Education is key on that last point - the systemic causes, so I'll go there next.

    Education reform is going to be huge - but in the end, there needs to be more recognition that performing well on the DC-CAS won't prepare you for work. A high school diploma these days prepares you to learn the stuff you need to know to get a job - you don't come out job-ready. That's why Gray's ideas on the UDC community college are interesting to me.

    Fenty's been no friend to the poor - his economic development strategy appears, to me, to be one of getting more affluent residents in, and attracting businesses, without lifting the folks that are already here. I think, from his perspective, he's happy to let them get pushed out to the surrounding counties (think of all the affordable housing that's been removed for big developments without replacing it inside the district).

    Gray, on the other hand, has led a council that gives tax incentives to developers as if they were candy; dipping into the the city's pockets without providing any return for at least 10 years. Other tools might be more appropriate - maybe density bonuses in exchange for designation of a certain number of affordable housing units?

    As an equaly undecided voter, given Fenty's stock answers - his plan for everything appears to be Michelle Rhee - its tough for me to follow you this time, though the feature has generally been well-written, entertaining, and somewhat informative, I haven't heard enough from either candidate on poverty, housing, and economic development to really sway me. Though Gray, at least, has a "candidate plan", by which I mean one of those plans that candidates put out there to stake out a position without nailing down specifics (which is where most of the criticism of that plan has come from that I've heard), because, as we've seen at the national level with health care, the legislative process can do all kinds of crazy things to a well-thought out plan.

  • DCGuy

    Jason, I'm glad someone asked you that basic question. As council chair, what exactly SHOULD Gray be doing that he's not? W/the exception of the usual mishaps, I've always heard that Gray has been a rather effective chairman. I haven't been reading you too long but do you have any articles detailing Gray's ineffectiveness as chair? I would be fine with an article from one of your other WCP colleagues.

    As House Majority Leader, it's not Pelosi's "job" to end the Afghan war, smooth relations with our foreign allies, nor address the disparities in education funding. While she should (and has) work diligently to address those issues, it is the job of the White House, the Administration to tackle those issues. She helps him get his legislation through. What she does not do is introduce her own legislation that will supercede the president's own authority.

    After the council approved the voter bill, Fenty vetoed it. As mayor, his authority supersedes that of the council.

    Moreover, Yvette Alexander is the councilmember from Ward 7. Wouldn't "she" be a better person to address unemployment in her Ward than the council chair who happens to live there? What sort of criticism is that dude?

    And I'm sorry, no I will NOT give Fenty credit for placing 1000 homeless people in homes. As you correctly note, unemployment is still high, there are more homeless now than ever (due to the economy), and Fenty was willing to move money away from the already underfunded homeless to fund another week of the summer jobs program.

    I haven't read anything from Gray address the overcrowding but as chair, what should he say?

    I've only recently start reading your articles but this is likely the most nonundecided article yet.

    "What the fuck has Gray done" does not sound like someone who is undecided. It sounds and reads like someone who has made a distinction between the two candidates and determined that one has been better than the other. Again, I havent' read your stuff for long but that's kinda surprising.

    An undecided voter asking in 2008, "what the fuck has Obama done" does not sound like an undecided voter. It sounds like a Hillary Clinton supporter.

  • SEis4ME

    Sorry DCGuy and SEis4ME is the same dude.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Cherkis- I'm sorry I didn't read Fenty's response to the survey prior to adding my opinion here, but after reading it- what the fuck is wrong with YOU man?

    His response to poverty is education reform. Important yes, but, priority in reducing poverty. Get real.

    His reponse to the burden of taxes on low-income families- "leave within your means". Paternalism at its highest levels.

    His response to affordable housing- He's made affordable housing a priority? Really? Where and when? His annual buget cuts always targets affordable housing first. Dog parks are more important to him than homeless shelters.

    I don't buy the bullshit that he's produced or preserved 11,000 affordable units. It's groups that fight hard against him in the City that produces or preserves these units in spite of his attempts to route valuable funds to buddies instead of legitimate housing programs.

    The programs that he claims trains residents for carpentry and hospitality is poorly administered and I dare you to try to enroll in one of these programs. It's been a failure thus far.

    Gray hasn't talked about anything that isn't feasible or made claims that cannot be substantiated.

    Defeat Poverty needs to fact-check Fenty and fast.

  • SEis4ME

    @Jason, I'm the last person to credit the WPost with much, certainly not their "bipartisan" coverage of each candidate. However, here's an interesting quote from today's article:

    "During Gray's 3 1/2 -year tenure as chairman, he wrote legislation expanding pre-kindergarten programs, became the leading advocate for the University of the District of Columbia and initiated a series of reforms at the council to bring more sunshine to the legislative process.

    Gray, 67, also helped oversee the enactment of some of the most consequential pieces of legislation since home rule in 1973, including school reforms, the same-sex marriage law, the rewriting of gun-control regulations, the legalization of medical marijuana and the bag tax"

    This should at least answer a few of your questions about "what the fuck Gray has done!"

    And I'll ask again, please show that article detailing how he's tenure has been a complete bust..or close to it. If you can't, that puts you squarely in line with the nimwits who ask the same "What the fuck has Obama done"

  • http://twitter.com/Matt_the_Bolt The_Matt

    Even if Fenty "preserved or created 11k units" of affordable housing - what matters is the net change in the number of units. If he preserved or created 11k but ushered in new developments that razed 22k, its a hell of a different story than if he added 11k to the existing stock. Its a number, however, that I haven't been able to find anywhere.

    While the Ed-board at the post is clearly in the tank, I don't mind quoting the news side of the house - stock went down before Fenty: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/05/AR2010020504067.html - what happened during Fenty's tenure though?

  • Really?

    Even if Fenty “preserved or created 11k units” of affordable housing – what matters is the net change in the number of units. If he preserved or created 11k but ushered in new developments that razed 22k, its a hell of a different story than if he added 11k to the existing stock. Its a number, however, that I haven’t been able to find anywhere.

    Thanks this is really the key question.

    Another question that I would like to know are where are these units located (break down per Ward would be nice).

  • Really?

    “In addition, my administration has created new job training programs in hospitality management, construction, electrical and HVAC, which will serve up to 200 residents. We have launched a new program to train residents in green jobs construction.”

    My issue with Fenty’s answer are that they are lies.It’s sounds great to say we funded job programs, when actually job training (i.e. hospitality manangement, constrouction,lectrical and HVAC program) have been funded by the Federal and District government for years.

    Funding training programs isn’t the problem. It’s the quality of the program that has been at issue within DOES for years. He hasn’t tackled that it actually just created more layers to the issue. But again this goes to the issue of this administration just being worried about the numbers.

    Having programs isn’t a result. The result is how many D.C. residents are receiving jobs after training? In what industry are these jobs? Are these jobs paying a livable wage? (note that they just enforced the livable wage bill recently, although it’s been on the books for about two years)

  • Really?

    “During my administration, development in many parts of the city has created jobs in the retail, hospitality, and construction fields. A great recent example is the new Carmines DC, a restaurant that just opened in Chinatown and is employing 200 District residents.”

    Ahhhh construction fields, I’m surprised he touched the third rail in this answer. Can he name projects in which D.C. residents work on (beyond flag waiver)? I ask this because anybody who know about Firstsource in the District knows it’s the biggest joke. Please review the link below. Debaroh She states that only 4 of the 16 projects reviewed met or exceeded the 51% hiring requirement.


    Background: There were two former DOES employees who ran the Firstsource program and knew it inside and out. Both retired. What does this mean? Once again institutional knowledge gone forever.

  • Really?

    At best these are mostly declarative statements that don’t get to the heart of the unemployment issue. On last thought Fenty really dances around the issues of residents lacking basic skills, creating more job opportunities isn’t getting at the heart of problem. Wrap-around-services, which is a term that the Fenty administration used to use. What happen to those

  • Truth Hurts

    One city Gray will bring all stakeholders together in a deliberative, holistic and inclusive process facilitated by a pro bono independent investigative team that will produce a thoughtful set of policy objectives for assignment to appropriate staff members.

    Cherkis will cast the deciding vote making Gray the new mayor, and the rest of DC's reporters will spend the next four years wondering why they didn't look at Gray more closely.

  • downtown rez

    You alluded to but didn't explicitly state the key plank in Gray's anti-poverty plan when you wrote:
    One city Gray will bring all stakeholders together in a deliberative, holistic and inclusive process facilitated by a pro bono independent investigative team that will produce a thoughtful set of policy objectives for assignment to appropriate staff members.
    The key plank is, of course, that to ensure all stakeholders are at the table he'll pay them a living wage, provide them with comprehensive health benefits, and ensure they get a housing stipend for their their work on the aforementioned thoughtful set of policy objectives, which will naturally take four years to produce, and be ready to implement in FY 2015. By then, the economy should have rebounded and the schools fixed, so we'll have more money anyway.
    See? Problem solved! Wasn't that easy?

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Drez and Truth- I guess you guys are dead on. Running a government and taking the time to make tough decisions is just so boring. Use all of our savings to just get things done and done soon. Forget the long-term consequences of a poor planning and impulsive spending. Gray will just waste so much time scrutinizing things, making sure the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. Who really needs this right? Cause massive debt isn't our concern today. Nope. We only care about school reform and fancy parks to walk our dogs. Our kids will be up to the challenge of digging us out of debt.
    So you guys are absolutely right. It was so easy. Let's not face the hard problems and make tough decisions. Let's plow ahead and someone down the road will figure it out fo us. Wasn't that easy?