Fenty in Some Trouble

I think that Mayor Fenty's problem is that he's too clever by half. He's clearly an intelligent guy. His work ethic is legendary. Usually intelligence and diligence are enough. But not for Fenty.

Look at how he's handled the proposed school closures. Fenty had a pretty solid mandate after his landslide victories in 2006. But you can not close schools without people getting pissed off. You just can't. People are wary of things that have such a large impact on their own lives and the lives of their children. No matter the benefits of closing 23 public schools, people need to be convinced.

A man of Fenty's skills can do that. This is a man famed for knocking on every door in the District. If he were to take the time and meet with the families affected by this decision, he could win their support. I truly believe he could. But he either doesn't want to or doesn't think he has to. And that cockiness is biting him in the ass.

The people who are against the school closings want to talk to the mayor and D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. They're the ones making the big decisions and they're the audience these parents deserve. For Fenty to schedule a public hearing only to cancel it and replace it with 23 separate hearings is shameful. Fenty and Rhee will not be able to make all 23 hearings. That leaves a bunch of parents and concerned citizens airing their grievances to an audience that can't help them. No different than an ANC meeting. A whole bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing.

I imagine the Mayor thought that this would placate his plan's detractors. But to brush off his constituents who have very real concerns is to underestimate an angry electorate. And now those 23 meetings are being boycotted. A boycott that has the support of some Council members. They have a room in the Wilson Building and everything. Good.

I support closing schools with significant under-enrollment issues whether they're in the District or closer to home. But I don't support how Fenty and Rhee have handled this. To mismanage something so important shows some seriously bad management skills and/or some seriously bad priorities. If Mayor Fenty thinks he can placate voters or shove serious reforms down their throats, he is clearly mistaken. It doesn't matter whether his failures are because of his cockiness or his mistaken belief that he can outsmart people. What does matter is that his style is starting to cripple his own administration. He's lost the Council and he's losing the parents. And if he doesn't change, he'll just be another name on the long list of people who have failed in reforming DC's public schools.


  1. Totally agree. But while I think he could weather the school thing, the Attorney General business is worse. Linda Singer resigns, because she's being treated like a stepchild. Fenty appoints his best buddy as new AG. So much for checks and balances. Then they fire the guy who actually wrote the handgun brief? What could be the most important decision affecting DC in a decade and they got rid of the best qualified person to argue it, over petty personal politics?

    Cocky doesn't begin to describe him. He's becoming a megalomaniac. I am very concerned.

  2. I recently moved from D.C. back to New Hampshire. Fenty megalomania has struck here, too: A friend from D.C. e-mailed to let me know that Fenty is up here for the primaries, campaigning for Obama. (Because I guess he has nothing to do down in Our Nation's Capital?)
    I did a quick survey of people I work with up here. None of them know who Fenty is. None of them care who he thinks we should vote for. Why on earth would he think we would?

  3. I think I am hooked on your site. I think you are right about Fenty and the school closing. As bad as the schools are, the people that pay taxes and use the facilities are entitled to have a say in the matter.

    As a people we do not vote for (hire) our leaders, we hire our servants. It's about time politicians act like servants. I wish it were my quote, unfortunately, it is not.

  4. The biggest underlying issue with the school closings is the shakiness of the plan for where staff and students go once the school is closed.

    For example, Taft has no restrooms that are sized for small children. When a Burroughs Elementary parent is faced with sending their seven year old second grader to a consolidated school with 13, 14, and 15 year olds, the Burroughs parent is going to go charter.

    You watch. Close the school, lose half the students enrolled in teh existing school.