the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

September 12, 2006

Saving D.C.: Marie Johns vs. Adrian Fenty


Anyone who has seen Marie Johns speak, trump her rivals in debates or read her solid proposals for reform knows that she is the best qualified candidate. The former local Verizon president has the management experience and reformist zeal needed to make a difference in the life of the city’s most neglected and poorest people.

I was inspired to support Johns after a friend of mine, Monica Yin, a victim of the city’s criminally negligent emegency medical services (her case was described in a series of Colbert King columns) decided after much research into the candidates that Johns was the best candidate to save this mismanaged city that has also allowed poverty, crime, drop-out rates and despair to flourish.

But progressives are asking themselves: Are we throwing away our vote if we vote for Marie? Will we help the veteran hack and council chair Linda Cropp become mayor if we vote for Johns instead of the front-runner, Adrian Fenty?

But as I pointed out in a Huffington Post column about the importance of Johns to both the city and the country as a model for addressing poverty and its many side-effects — rising crime rates, floundering schools, the fastest-rising HIV infection rate in the country — a vote for Johns will make a real difference:

Johns is the first choice of many voters who list the two front-runners, Council members Linda Cropp and Adrian Fenty, as their second choice, thus drawing votes from both camps about equally. And like other upset candidates who ultimately win, Johns is asking that voters don’t let themselves be swayed by two-month-old polling data and vote for the candidate that they think is best, and to many people seeking both real change and management experience in Washington, that candidate is Johns.

The Nation singled out John’s “Fighting Poverty Tour” in an article about the city’s rising crime rate and the failure to address the enormous gap between the poor and rich in the city — the largest such division in the country. Her economic redevelopment plan includes expanding incentives to small businesses that do most of the city’s hiring, boosting after-school and tutoring programs to help the most troubled students and bringing a technical-oriented community college to the blighted Southeast area of the city beyond the Anacostia River.

Some of the schools are so bad they deserve to be featured in the latest season of HBO’s The Wire, set in Baltimore, about the lives of young people being lost to the lure of drug-dealing. Roughly 80 percent of the city’s schools fail to meet even the most minimum benchmarks of academic competence by its students. Unlike Cropp, who sat on the school board while corruption, waste and the destruction of a generation of young people with a fourth-rate education ran rampant, Johns has a solid agenda for reform, including having the city government partner with businesses, universal pre-school, pay-for-performance for quality teachers — and ensuring that city government plays a far greater role making sure that the floundering school board manages the schools’ supplies and infrastructure professionally

There’s a reason that former OMB director Alice Rivlin, the head of the city’s emergency fiscal control board, has endorsed Johns, along with all of the city’s leading neighborhood papers, except the Washington Post. Rivlin called her the “best candidate,” and advanced the argument that if all the people who think she is the best candidate vote for her, Johns can win. As the Post noted, “Rivlin said that she was late coming to the Johns campaign but that in recent weeks, she became convinced that Johns’s combination of business skills, good ideas and proven commitment made her the best choice to lead the city forward.”

So far, The Washington Post, the biggest paper, has endorsed Adrian Fenty, a 35-year-old ambitious candidate who has shown a greater flair for campaigning than for governing. His claim to fame is constituent service and introducing a school modernization program that had to be rewritten by others, altered and refinanced in order to pass (as conceded in a generally positive piece on Fenty.) He’s the front-runner over Linda Cropp, a city council chair and former school board member who has presided over 30 years of mismanagement and failure, even though she helped improve the city’s bond rating and finances. The Post — and those two- month-old polls — has portrayed those two as frontrunners (they’ve raised $2.5 million each compared to Johns’ $500,000)

Today, the voters will get to decide who is the best person to lead the city — or just the one with the biggest campaign coffers to spend on TV ads. When it comes to leadership, Johns is clearly the winner.

Today is primary day. The only wasted vote is a vote that isn’t cast for the best candidate.

Note: Drinking Liberally has not endorsed any candidates in the Sept. 12th D.C. primary.


  1. I don’t think it’s fair to discount Linda Cropp. She has been around for a long time, but she knwos what’s she’s doing. She has a great record on education, fighting crime, and in constituent service. I’m voting for Cropp./

    —Richard • 11:08 am

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