Monday, September 12, 2005

# Posted 9:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FENTY FOR MAYOR? Today marks exactly one year until the primary election for mayor of Washington DC. Of course, in this bluest of blue states colonies, the Democratic primary serves pretty much as a proxy for the general election.

In order to improve upon my basic ignorance about the candidates for mayor, I decided to attend a party this evening held on behalf of Adrian Fenty, the 34 year-old council member/wunderkind who is gunning for the Democratic nomination. If only because of the open bar, I have to consider the evening a success.

When it comes to substance, it's a little bit hard to figure what Fenty stands for. He did give a speech that lasted about ten minutes, eight minutes of which consisted of statements so bland and inoffensive that a bright red Republican could've given exactly the same speech without hesitation.

Far and away, the issue that got the most attention from Fenty was education. He said that he wants to make sure that DC has the best public school system in America and that you shouldn't listen to the skeptics who say it can't be done.

It's hard to disagree with that. But as one of my friends (who has experience teaching in inner city schools) pointed out, the mayor controls neither the school board, the superintendant nor the education budget. So exactly how Fenty will fix the schools remains a mystery.

The issue that made Fenty sound like an old-school, LBJ Democrat was inequality. While acknowledging that DC has made tremendous strides over the past decade, Fenty said that it was time for everyone to share in that prosperity. In terms of equality, the most important item on Fenty's agenda is affordable housing.

In terms of policy, I'm not sure what that means. Fenty has said that he will release a detailed policy proposal by the end of this month. However, in political code, "affordable housing" means protecting DC residents from gentrification. In other words, "affordable housing" is about resisting precisely those market forces that have done so much to transform DC from one of the worst cities in the nation to one of the best.

Now I'm not saying that gentrification is a non-issue. It is unfortunate when long-time residents are forced out of their neighborhoods by ever-rising rents. On the other hand, gentrification has also enabled lower-middle class, mostly black homeowners to make hundreds of thousands of dollars by selling their homes to (mostly) white yuppies.

Frankly, what I'd like to hear a candidate say is that he will make the market work for both the most established residents as well as the newcomers. Before gentrification started, there wasn't much of a pie to distribute. But now that the pie is growing, the best way to spread the wealth is to keep it growing.
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