Monday, August 16, 2010

I Would Prefer a Mayor Who Doesn't Want to Go to Jail

We are having mayoral campaigns soon in D.C. One big issue for this locality is "Taxation without Representation."

We want Congressional seats and for our primaries to count for something. The Founding Fathers were afraid I think that D.C. would become a huge courtier's paradise, with people constantly seeking to influence the President and Congress locally as they went to parties or picnics. They were trying to avoid excessive local-ness of interest.

Perhaps they sensed that the United States really would be this vast continental stretch. Or perhaps it was related somewhat to the slave question. Or perhaps the jealousy of those in outlying sections of the original 13 states, who feared the U.S. would become the United Colonies of Whatever Virginia Wanted.

But it hasn't worked out that D.C. is courtier-central in the way that voting would make a difference. It IS courtier-central, but voting is the least of it. The courting goes on with lobbies, not votes. Most of those elected come from far away. Many of those courted are administrators who are not touched by the electoral process. In the meantime, DC has a voting electorate that has often been ignored. Since most of them believe in the power of government or are somehow attached to it, they get really exercised about having their opinion ignored. LOL. 

And then there are the traditionally disenfranchised. The people who stick with DC are not the middle class or upper class who come for the courting. They are the poor and those who serve the bigwigs their coffee in the morning. Everybody else is very temporary.

So right now, we have a candidate running for mayor who says he would commit "acts of civil disobedience" in order to protest DC's unrepresented status. At which time, he would be arrested, and it would be a good thing.
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 13: (FILE PHOTO)  Former...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Well, it would be better than the last mayor who got himself arrested.

Washington DC hasn't always had a mayor. Marion Barry served as its second one, from 1979-1991. He was busted in 1990 on drug charges. In the meantime, the city had gone to hell without a responsible leader in charge. I remember hearing on NPR that police officers at that time barely had any budget. The funds for crime kits had been misappropriated or cut. The result was that there were no rape kits. Therefore there were no prosecutions for rape that could survive a trial.

It would go like this: the evidence kits that medical/LEO personnel tried to put together on their own were therefore not standard. Therefore all the evidence was tossed out when the Defense brought this up.

I still get mad about this when I think of it. This is what corruption is really about: not just a waste of taxpayer money, but a waste or diminishment of Every. Single. Freaking. Effort. To Do Good.

Anyway, Mr. Barry served six months in the Federal prison system, and could not run for re-election. However, when he got out, he was back on campaign and was re-elected mayor in 1994, serving until 1999. Congress, which has special powers in DC, appointed a special agency to disburse the funds to the city--just an expensive special oversight to make sure the city funds didn't go up one man's nose.

In 2005, he was elected the Ward 8 councilman and still on and off in trouble. In March of this year, the council voted unanimously to strip him of all council assignments.

Why does he get re-elected? Believe it or not, I HAVE asked. Because the electorate of Ward 8 loves him. He has done for them for years. And he has huge name recognition. And because his electorate feels he represents the truly disenfranchised class in DC.

Congress has always been a little high-handed about DC conditions. Sometimes that has been a good thing, but not always.

But I would like a mayor who concentrated on city management and staying out of jail. I think it's more important than DC statehood. Make no mistake--not having a full vote is limiting. Sometimes I even find it frustrating. But having a mayor hell-bent for jail is far, far, far, worse.

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Carolina Linthead said...

Very nice post, Ann T., and thought-provoking on several levels. Some readers may not realize just what a small city D.C. was before the Civil War. Since then, of course, things have changed *just* a bit. I have an odd affinity for the movie "Being There," in part because one of its sets was Biltmore Estate, in part because some of it was shot on the rough streets of D.C. where the main character, wholly innocent, encounters what the movie portrays as the jaded denizens of the *real* D.C.

Like most Americans, I've only ever visited. Either alone or with The Bug, I've ridden the Metro to many points around the city, sometimes bravely getting off the cool, relatively calm (non-rush hour) train to take the escalator up to the surface, just to see the neighborhood above. Sometimes one does that only to make a swift U-turn, lol, but then again, one might emerge near the National Zoo or from the depths of Union Station!

I've had or listened in on lots of conversations, mostly in places like the basement snack shop of the National Archives Main Branch, where working people share with each other stories from their neighborhoods as they take a break from keeping the place spiffy for visitors like me. They saw a middle-age, middle-class white male who mostly kept his head down and pretended not to be watching/listening. I saw people I admired very much, people trying to make it in what can be a very tough city, people who deserve better than they often get, at the national and especially the local levels.

Bob G. said...

This is one POWERFUL post...!

I'm familiar with the DC turmoil (having relatives in Falls Church), and have followed a lot of what goes on there.

You NAILED it about the whole CORRUPTION's NOT only about the $$$. That's mrerely a SYMPTOM of that much greater disease.

The levels that corruption will permeate seemingly know NO bounds.

We saw a lot of this first hand in Pilly with the maifa power-struggles and the decades long democrat rule (which contines today).
The mob had the UNIONS, some of the POLICE, local GOVERNMENT, and small-business private sectors in their hip pockets...and it showed.

If ANY mayor would condone "civil disobedience" (and we know WHO he's talking about here, because it SURE as hell is NOT the tea-partiers) as a meaans to an end...that's a very subversive form of RACISM...plain and simple.

Time to call the man out and see what he REALLY means.

Good luck with that.

Excellent post.

Have a great week.

Ann T. said...

Dear C. L.,
Your comment is very true. Sections of DC are in bad shape. Part of this is the dearth of affordable housing. The city has several programs for those who are middle class or less and would like to stay in-city.

So in a way, federally-run or not, we have most of the problems besetting cities all over America.

Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob,
When I get onto that corruption gig, I can barely stop myself!

I should say that DC residents who want the vote cover all the races in DC. People who normally would expect their civic duty to count for something as well as Tammany-style machine pols.

Unfortunately Mr. Barry and his machine delayed this for the upstanding citizens in town. Congress reps, who live here some of the time, found it distinctly dangerous.

We have had a good mayor this time and I believe I will be voting for him. I do think some decades of responsible leadership will be needed before we get to be the 51st state.

Ann T.

Thanks to both you and C.L. for such disparate but thoughtful comments!

meleah rebeccah said...

"But I would like a mayor who concentrated on city management and staying out of jail. "

Um yeah! Me too!

The Observer said...

Ann T:
The first thing I thought of, after I stopped laughing, is "I would like a mayor who was not the subject of lawsuits or filing lawsuits."

Ah, me, where do we find these people? And where can we find better people? And how can we keep them from being corrupted by the corrupt system? Should we tie a rope around their ankles and pull them out when they start getting too "comfortable"?

And what is it about cities that generates this "machine" politics (all democratic, too, hmm)? Chicago machine. Google Pendergast and you will find out about Kansas City's machine. One of the results of the final cleaning out from Pendergast was the changing to a City Manager form of government. Does DC have a City Manager?

Great and thoughtful post.
The Observer

VF: quito, which is what many would like to see our mayor, Mark Funkhouser, do.

Ann T. said...

Dear meleah,
Oh, I know! ROFL!!! But if you look around, many cities aren't doing very well with un-jailable mayors!

Thanks for the laugh,
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Yeah, it IS funny! And then not.

Machine politics always works for the disenfranchised. Look at Tammany, and how it answered to the press of immigration, the provision of jobs, mobilization of new voting sectors, and so forth. The Irish took that model to New Orleans and who knows where else.

In New Orleans, the machine was interlocked w/ various groups. All of them had names like "Alliance for Clean Government", and a sample pocket-sized ballot of their candidates. With pictures.

As people stop paying attention, machines get more powerful. Also as people can't READ, things like sample ballots are going to be more prevalent. Machines only go away with a. strong federal prosecution b. educated populace c. accurate muckraking journalism.

Before the "populist machine" in many cities, there were citizen's committees--such as in Dallas--and JFK had to be assassinated before that iron control got rocked. The C.C. did not help assassinate JFK, of course not. But they were ultra-conservative in nature and they also had a voting machine, helped in part (I do believe) by Hunt family $$$ and other civic initiatives--targeted largesse. I cannot describe the propaganda sitting in Dallas public hospitals, for instance, written by Mr. Hunt, a crackpot if there ever was one, but with many alliances.

JFK's assassination shook Dallas to the roots. About that time, disenfranchised voters in Dallas began to mobilize under Dr. King's influence, and they devolved into the Tammany model.

The machine cuts across party lines. Each imitates the other, as far as my experience would have it. the difference is, do you have extra capital or do you have extra voters? Either way you mobilize assets.

But then I would say that, moderate as I am.

What a great comment! I will read about this mayor of yours and his machine!

Ann T.

The Observer said...

Ann T:
Hunt family?

Lamar Hunt? Like the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs Hunt--they did start in Dallas, as the Texans.

His boy Clark is in charge now.

Must be--they have globs of money.

The Observer

WF: stludem--a neglected saint!

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
It was H.L. Hunt, Grandaddy. He was a staunch Baptist all his life, and upon his death it was discovered that he was a trigamist.

He could spew editorial vitriol the like of which I have never seen since. Ick!

Ann T.
I think St. Ludem must be the patron saint of Cough Drops.