OUR ELECTION PICKS FOR MAYOR, COUNCIL AT-LARGE AND OTHERS
[from October 1998 issue]
We wrote in this space last month that we had serious reservations about Tony Williams for mayor, and we therefore supported Jack Evans for the Democratic Party nomination. Since the time of the primary election we have been approached by several persons who voted for Williams who, upon reflecting more deeply in the last few weeks, have said to us, as did one lady, "Maybe I should have voted for Jack Evans, after all." Another voter who was an apparent Williams admirer commented, "Carol is looking better all the time."
Well, we have never had any doubt about Carol Schwartz. We enthusiastically supported her in that historic race against Marion Barry four years ago when she garnered 42 percent of the total vote. (That was actually her second challenge to the Barry rule; she took him on in 1986 also.) We did not support her just because we wanted Barry out, but also because we believed then--and we continue to believe--that would be a superb mayor and would be able to bring together our disparate and often unconnected neighborhoods and help meld us into a true city-wide community. No pandering to race-baiting bigots, foul-mouthed hacks, opportunistic hangers-on: Carol Schwartz represents clean government and pure motives in a way we haven't seen since the days of the very decent Walter Washington.
As we reminded our readers exactly four years ago, "Schwartz not only served for eight years as the Ward 3 member on the school board, but she went on to serve a distinguished four-year term as an at-large member of the city council between 1985 and 1989. Voters throughout the city thought so well of her, that, when in 1986 she challenged Marion Barry [for the first time] in the mayoral election, she garnered 33 percent of the vote citywide! And that by a white, Jewish woman from Ward 3--and a Republican (albeit not a `real' Republican as that concept has come to be known, but more of the tradition of that party's now virtually extinct liberal wing)."
We went on the ask, rhetorically, "What does this mean?" Our answer then, as it continues to be today--but even more so--is "that her service to the citizens was so outstanding in those years that impressive numbers of voters recognized her worth and wanted her to take charge. And why not? She proved herself then; she has a track record which reveals a thorough grasp of issues and of pragmatic solutions." (To read more of what we had to say about her approach to the major issues of the day, which continue to be among the major ones even now, we have included a slightly edited version of that editorial below.)
We have been appalled by Williams' seeming arrogance now that he won the Democratic primary. He appears to believe he's got a lock on the mayor's job now, so he doesn't want to spend, presumably, valuable time attending candidate forums where concerned voters would come together so they might be able to compare the two front-runners. Yet he seems to have plenty of time to schmooze with the likes of Rock Newman, the one-time boxing promoter and pal of Cora Masters Barry, and other prominent Barry-era cronies! Something's seriously wrong with this picture.
Actually, we have reason to believe that Williams is seeking to avoid any encounters with Carol Schwartz because he knows, in his heart of hearts, that she is vastly more conversant with our city and its people--who really are her people; she is one of us, and that is very important for a mayor to be. Yes, we need bean counters and managers, but they should be hired (but not as high-priced, superficial outside consultants). Bean counters and managers and political leaders should not be one in the same. This is still, in theory, a democracy and not a state-managed society.
'Nuff said about the mayor. Since ours (again, in theory) is a government of shared authority between the executive and the legislative branches, it is critical that we have an effective city council replete with intelligent, vigorous, and independent-thinking legislators who will take their jobs seriously. That means more than just passing laws and regulations (which prior city councils seemed to have reveled in doing; we have too many laws and regulations which are barely enforced as it is).
Being a member of the city council also means devoting much effort to gathering facts, studying issues, participating in meaningful oversight hearings, knowing how to probe, and ultimately extract from the bureaucracy the best possible efforts on behalf of the citizens. It also means being fearlessly, but pragmatically, aggressive and willing to publicly debate the issues and to listen to citizens no matter who they are.
Well, does it come as any surprise that we have described David Catania? We enthusiastically endorsed him when he ran to fill the at-large seat vacated last year upon the elevation of Linda Cropp to the chairmanship. He ran against the well-known Arrington Dixon, a former council chairman. The Democratic voters liked this young, liberal Republican for his ideas and apparent energy. We saw in him great promise to be an effective council member whose incisive mind and ebullient personality would benefit us all.
We have not been disappointed in the least. In fact, we have been amazed at how Catania has become in a very short time a real leader who has done much to spur the council on to a higher level of debate and conduct. There's no question that he's vigorous in debate--those who watch council debates on TV know it and comment favorably on his performance on the dais--and there's no question that he sometimes will rankle other council members whose agendas may be different. But he is doing precisely what outstanding legislators should be doing and for that we must be thank ourselves, as voters, for having had such good sense. Let's hope we can thank ourselves again.
On top of everything, Catania has proved himself to be a creative and pro-active legislator. The legislation that he introduced to create an independently elected attorney general in the District of Columbia, accountable to the citizens through city-wide election, was very important indeed. He recognized the need to remove from the mayor's control the function of investigating wrong-doing within the administration and also the need to hand to the citizens more direct control over law enforcement--just like in the 50 states.
We have also seen Catania working behind the scenes to influence others who control our destiny, whether it be on the question of freeing up funds from Congress for new initiatives or more prosaic, but no less critical, issues like how to get funding restored for the advisory neighborhood commissions. (This ANC matter was not resolved at the time we wrote this, but observers were being cautiously optimistic that some compromise might be able to be reached.)
To re-elect David Catania to the council will mean that there will be quite a team in place, collectively of a quality not previously experienced. Because we expect, and strongly urge, that Jim Graham from Ward 1 and Phil Mendelson, the Democratic nominee for the other at-large seat up for grabs, will both be elected, to have the voters bring back Catania for a full term will mean that we will have given ourselves a rare gift: A dedicated team of brilliant and public service-minded legislators who will join with incumbents like Ward 2's Jack Evans, Ward 3's Kathy Patterson, Ward 6's Sharon Ambrose, Ward 8's Sandy Allen, and, hopefully (if he should emerge from his loser's funk), Ward 7's Kevin Chavous to really make a difference--along with the skillful leadership of the council's chair, Linda Cropp.
What we don't need is for the voters to decide to forgo David Catania because of some sentimental attachment for the continued presence of Hilda Mason or for the outrageously contentious Mark Thompson who is most recently famous for having been convicted this summer by a Superior Court judge for beating his wife. This was, according to court records, one of s series of violent incidents which included punching and choking and even a threat to murder. While we admire council members, like David Catania, who are aggressive, we do draw the line on wanting members in that body whose aggressiveness is of the non-intellectual kind; that sort of disruption we don't need in and around council chambers.
One final word. While the school board has been made temporarily irrelevant by the control board and the Congress, it will come back into its own. That is a given. We need to ensure that it is ready to once again assume its rightful responsibilities. That means new blood like the kind we are seeking for the city council. Voters in Ward 2 have an opportunity to elect someone of this sort on November 3, and we think that someone should be Shaw-area resident Deering ("Tip") Kendrick. He's bright, energetic, thoughtful and a fine leader. He serves as president of the Mt. Vernon Square Neighborhood Association and understands well the problems facing our inner-city neighborhoods. We believe he could bring valuable insights and new perspectives to the deliberations of the school board, deliberations, which we again remind our readers, are likely to become meaningful before too long.