Election 2014

The Breathtaking Inanity of DC's Next Mayor

Muriel Bowser's broken vision for the country's capital


Since being granted self-governance in the '70s, Washington, D.C. has largely been run by a comically corrupt and incompetent Democratic monopoly. The lone exception is Adrian Fenty, an ultra-smart former city councilmember who took over the mayorship in 2007.

Fenty's outspoken disdain for the capital's sclerotic municipal bureaucracy inevitably backfired and he lost his 2010 reelection bid to Vincent Gray, a ghoulish government lifer who's now under investigation for running an illegal slush fund during that campaign. Fenty has since decamped to an environment more suitable to his temperament— Silicon Valley, where an abrasive personality and big-think theatrics are the opposite of liabilities. But back when he first became mayor, Fenty made the curious decision of hand-picking a little-known regional neighborhood official to take over his seat on the council: Muriel Bowser.

Bowser didn't share Fenty's grit or outspoken antipathy for DC's broken administrative morass. She specializes in formless progressive promises and tinny nothing phrases like, say, "shaping the landscape of our future."

After seven years on the council, Bowser is now running for mayor. She trounced Gray in the Democratic primary in April. Historically, the general election has been a cakewalk for the party's nominee—just six percent of DC voters are registered Republican. Accordingly, Bowser's initial public relations strategy was to do as little relating to the public as possible and win by default.

But this election has gotten unusually interesting in the interim. Bowser's chief competitor is a gay ex-Republican named David Catania, who's running as an independent. A few months ago, she was leading him by 33 points in the polls. That gap has dramatically dwindled, making this DC's closest mayoral contest in two decades.

Voters are apathetic about Bowser. And for good reason.

DC is undergoing a remarkable boom. The Fenty administration made some smart improvements in transportation and education that significantly enhanced local livability. The federal government provides a permanent economic stimulus. And so the capital has become a mecca for young educated professionals.

The resulting prosperity is not uniformly shared. Split DC down the main thoroughfare of North Capitol Street. On the west side, the average annual income is over $80,000. On the east, the figure is a third of that. The capital is now a place where one in four homes sells for at least a million dollars—and one in four kids lives below the poverty line.

And these aren't parallel universes. Parallel universes don't eat each other. Neighborhoods inhabited with low-income black families for generations are getting flooded with mostly white, upwardly mobile college grads, driving up real estate prices and driving out legacy businesses. Bodegas, shelters and auto repair shops are turning into craft coffee houses, high-end condominiums and Trader Joes.

That's why it's no surprise that affordable housing is the biggest issue in the race for mayor. Bowser's preferred solution is huge new investments in public housing. This is the standard party line, but it's an awkward one for Bowser to take. Her campaign has been plagued by the scandal engulfing Park Southern, the largest public housing complex in the city. Park Southern is a paradigmatic case of a government initiative originally animated by genuine altruism inexorably devolving into a yawning sinkhole sucking down money and human happiness. And its managers are major contributors to Bowser's election bid.

A recent investigation revealed that Park Southern's 700 tenants have been forced to suffer in unimaginable squalor. Property administrators ignored complaints about flooding and mold for years. Rotting pigeon carcasses were left to fester in stairwells. The building's air conditioning was perpetually non-functional during DC's life-sapping swamp summers. Its managers owe over a million dollars in late mortgage payments and utility bills. And it looks like they straight-up pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in security deposits.

Bowser has refused to return the donations since these abuses came to light. As head of the council's housing committee, she declined to hold a public hearing on Park Southern. And there's evidence indicating she tried to prevent the managers from losing control of the property.

And Park Southern isn't an isolated incident. DC's government has demonstrated extreme incompetence in providing people with affordable housing. The city's main homeless shelter, which costs taxpayers $50,000 per family per year, is staffed with sexual predators. It took shelter management seven years to build a playground.

There's a better way to ease pressure in the local housing market. DC has some of the most stringent limits on building heights in the country. Its downtown is markedly circumcised relative to, say, Miami's, Boston's or New York's. Residential real estate near job-dense commercial hotpots is comparatively rare and expensive. Low-wage renters are pushed out to the geographic fringes and have to slog through expensive, time-consuming commutes.

Knock down these artificial restrictions on home supply, fully voucherize rent subsidies, and then let vulnerable Washingtonians live wherever they'd like, switching out the demonstrably ineffective oversight of central regulators for the organic accountability of the market.

Bowser has an equally ignominious record on school reform, one of the other major issues of the campaign. The sum total of her legislative record on education is a non-binding resolution "committing"the city to replicating the success of a popular public middle school.

This is unserious stuff. It's statecraft sourced from The Secret—as if just releasing good intentions into the ether will fix what has long been one of the worst school systems in the country. For most of DC's time under self-rule, such moist banalities have substituted for concrete policy, leaving an entrenched class of administrators and unions to keep crippling the lives of inner-city kids.

Bowser's inanity is all the most frustrating given that there are finally some limited successes to build on. The central act of Fenty's mayorship was seizing control of the schools and installing the all-world figure of Michelle Rhee as their chancellor. Among a long litany of effective reforms enacted under her tenure, Rhee fueled a rapid expansion of charters. DC is now tied with Detroit for highest concentration of charters among major American cities.

The capital is also home to the country's only federally funded voucher program. Installed during the early years of the George W. Bush Administration, it's subject to remarkably few bureaucratic entanglements. A major study led by University of Arkansas education professor Patrick Wolf found that within its first couple years of operation, DC's voucher initiative increased participating students' high school graduation rate by 12 percent. And as Wolf explained to me, researchers increasingly view graduation levels as the most important metric of improvement given the huge economic handicaps facing dropouts.

Competition cuts through the cheap talk about schools. And Bowser should be energetically embracing the emergent model—she herself is the product of two government workers that sent all five of their kids to parochial institutions rather than doom them to a DC public education.

Bowser is dangerously wrong on policy. But she'll probably still win. Elections are about voters reasserting their tribal identities. And one tribe still runs this city. Accordingly, Bowser has responded to Catania's rise by racking up a string of endorsements from elite members of the party establishment, including the repellent reptile creature that occupies the Virginia governorship and—as her new campaign literature will exuberantly inform you—the president of the United States.

NEXT: Todd Krainin on the New Presidential Propaganda

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  1. OT:

    Is it just me or is there something ironically hilarious about this?

    I’m Turrible Timothy, fear me, you low testosterone piss ants!

    From the start, Timothy introduced himself as “masculine-of-center genderqueer.” He asked everyone at Wellesley to use male pronouns and the name Timothy, which he’d chosen for himself.

    1. masculine-of-center

      Holy fuck that’s funny.

    2. Of all the people at a multiethnic women’s college who could hold the school’s “diversity” seat, the least fitting one was a white man.

      Lol. This is awesome. Diversity == !white && !male. Even at a women’s college.

      1. That is pretty fucking funny. Wouldn’t the most diverse choice possible at an all woman’s college be a man? After all, a transgendered man is a tremendous example of diversity at an all women’s school.

    3. Everyone wants to have a vagina and eat it too.

      1. Uh….yeah, depending on what you mean by ‘have’. Your point?

        1. That women who identify as men are mostly just lesbians with identity issues?

          If they were really so ‘trans’, as to think of themselves as ‘male’… would they really seek the solace of a Women’s College?

    4. I don’t have any idea what any of that means and neither do they. ‘Masculine of center genderqueer’ is a meaningless string of syllables.

      Why does the left prefer that the mentally ill define issues and the language around them? You get three guesses kids.

      1. Umm, because their ideology is a total failure and they have nothing to offer, so they failed to accept that and went insane?

      2. It is a meaningless string of syllables, but no more so than the kind of b.s. religious conservatives spout. And the right lets its mentally ill define issues and the language around them just as much as the left.

        The problem in either case is not the identity or bizarre beliefs that people on the left and on the right hold to, it is their demands that government make special accommodations for them.

        1. The point of proggie education is to make people so that no matter how much information they have they cannot draw sensible conclusions. Even if you prove up is up and down is down they will not accept it. Because of this they will not be able to defend themselves. They can be herded as easily as sheep.

          This is why. The idiots that spout this kind of bullshit are the product of proggie education. Their heads are filled with a hodgepodge of half truths, lies and nonsense with a heavy dose of emotion stirred in. They simply cannot think sensibly and that is the goal. They are programmed to vomit up a limited set of responses and to launch into the same course of action no matter the situation, no matter the issue at hand.

          Thus we get absurd situations like this. A woman pretends to be a man and demands that everyone else play along. She wants to be ‘diversity whatthemafuck’ but she can’t because now she is a white male, and diversity means everything except white males. It is insane, yet these people can’t see that.

        2. That’s some insane moral equivalence. Like, batshit insane.

        3. Religion is delusion, not mental illness. The two can overlap, but they’re not remotely synonymous.

  2. My roomate’s aunt makes $71 /hour on the laptop . She has been out of a job for six months but last month her income was $12021 just working on the laptop for a few hours.
    You can try this out. ????? http://www.jobsfish.com

    1. That is because your roommate’s aunt will do things even Warty won’t do.

      1. It’s impossible to measure the vastness of Warty’s depravity.

    2. is that where “laptop” = “pole”?

  3. She specializes in moist banalities and tinny nothing progressive promises.

    How… Presidential… of her.

    I foresee a long and successful political career.

    1. Seems run-of-the-mill D city politico to me.
      Does DC deserve something Detroit or Chicago don’t?

      1. She sounds perfect to me.

        1. she sounds like Cory Booker with a vagina.

          1. I think that’s unfair to Cory Brooker.

          2. So does Cory Booker.

            1. so does vagina…

    2. This is also true of the candidate to whom, Rob Montz donated money, David Catania – see page 63 http://ocf.dc.gov/pdf_files/EF…..O_0_1.pdf.

      Catania stripped all commercial property owners last week of the right to freedom of contract with those who buy their properties, in a demagogic outreach to community organizers who opposed a local super markets selling a store to someone with a non-compete clause that the site could not be rented to a rival supermarket chain for so many years.

      A few libertarianish peeps support Catania, who polls say is going to lose, because …. He’s gay? He was a Republican? He’s white? He’s not a Democrat? Catania always says he is the most progressive candidate, and that’s true, in a Bloombergian statist sense. He has a huge list of programs, from failed public schools to homeless people to trees he wants to spend money on and he will raise taxes to do it. His losing race is actually a spoiler that will just depress my vote as the Libertarian candidate, trying to grow a new party and get the minimum vote to keep our new ballot status that allows people to register as Libertarians ( we are the fastest growing party at 10% a month).

      By comparison , the less substantial Bowser looks like a libertarian, in that her administration promises benign neglect. She also supports legalizing commercial sales of marijuana, and her tepid support of the charter school movement is at least as good as Catania’s.

      1. and by programs do you mean pogroms?

  4. You would think that someone would point out the obvious correlation between Democrat dominated cities and the level of squalor that blacks live in. Then again, thinking isn’t really a strong trait in most voters.

    1. But for the Democrats, so much worse, rinse, repeat.

    2. Sunken Idaho|10.26.14 @ 1:36PM|#
      “You would think that someone would point out the obvious correlation between Democrat dominated cities and the level of squalor that blacks live in.”

      There’s always a way to blame the rethuglicans or the market:
      In Detroit, it’s because rethuglican people just decided to move out and starved the place of their tax money!
      Why didn’t they stay and keep paying the taxes?

    3. “You would think that someone would point out the obvious correlation between Democrat dominated cities and the level of squalor that blacks live in.”

      It gets pointed out all the time, it just doesn’t sell well.

      “Hey guys, I will give you all a free pony!”

      ^That is what sells well.

    4. Republicans fucked it up so badly that even god-like Democrats still haven’t fixed it.

  5. The federal government provides a permanent economic stimulus.

    So what happens when the host dies?

    1. The parasites must move to a new host or die. Biology 101.

      1. See Detroit.

  6. just six percent of DC voters are registered Republican.

    What I’m seeing here is that, basically, barely a sliver of our bureaucracy or Washington media aren’t card-toting Democrats slightly to the left of Elizabeth Warren.

    How is this even possible? Six percent of people disagree with the ruling party in some of these Democratic strongholds. Even most dictators who host mock elections usually allow for more than 6% of the vote to go against them.

    1. Frankly, I think that most of the Republicans who work in DC have a lively idea of how bad it’s likely to get when the hand-outs stop, and live in the ‘burbs, where they have a bit of a head start when it’s time to make for the hills.

      1. I prefer to stick with my narrative. Washington DC – more ideological uniformity than North Korea.

        In all seriousness, nearly every poll on this subject matter tends to indicate that Republicans are grossly outnumbered in three big largest markets. Something like 90% of Washington correspondents self-identify as liberal. Nearly everything put out by our media has a liberal and really Democratic-statist slant.

        It’s actually surprising to me that Democrats still lose elections. The deck is stacked entirely in their favor.

        1. It’s actually surprising to me that Democrats still lose elections. The deck is stacked entirely in their favor.

          In fairness, the Democrats are fucking insane and grossly incompetent. They manage to lose through idiocy what they should inevitably win through their media monopoly.

    2. People register Democrat in DC to vote in the closed Democratic primary, the actual election. It’s actually 6.5% Republican and more interestingly 17.5% people who register “no party,” a kind of F-U from 1/5th of DC to the major parties, since they then cannot vote in the closed primaries, the Democratic primary being the actual election for many races. Since March of 2013, when the Board of Elections finally printed a registration form with a “Liberterian” (misspelled) option, the DC LP has been the only growing political party, with 50 people registering Libertarian every month this year.

      1. I wish you luck, man, but DC mayors going back to 1967 have all been black. And black folk don’t show a lot of concern for what comes out of candidates’ mouths as long as they (1) are black, and (2) say nothing that sounds like “the gravy train stops here.”

        1. In this campaign the race of a voter and his or her candidate may be less correlated than it ever has been in DC.

  7. There’s an aspect to DC governance that seldom gets mentioned outside the Beltway; Congress many have nominally handed off to Home Rule, but no DC government is free to act unless there is absolutely no Congressional interest.

    I learned this by living in DC for eight years (long story). During that time it became clear to me that the story of Marion Barry was either a tragedy or a farce, with him as the victim. All around the country, other Black Activists made the transition from activism to elected power. Some of them failed miserably, and some of them did damned good gobs. Barry got to power, and discovered that his only real authority was the authority to malfease. What the city needed was a sweeping reform of entrenched bureaucracy, a streamlining or regulatory calcification, and regular injections of money for useful infrastructure. Barry wasn’t going to be able to do any of that, because Congress would micromanage it to death.

    Maybe he’d have been a crook in any city, but in DC, he had no choice. The amazing thing is that Fenty lasted as long as he did.

    1. Having a hard time seeing Barry as a victim; he knew what he was getting into, as does this slime-ball.

      1. Nah, the Rethuglicans and Koch Bros put the crack pipe in his mouth.

      2. Bitch set him up!

      3. There’s an argument for that, certainly. But do you base that on his career as Mayor, or do you hve some knowledge of him from the activist years? I didn’t know him from then, but I talked with a few people who had, and they were disappointed in him.

    2. That’s true. DC for instance, could not really end its war on drugs or grant amnesty to people incarcerated for victimless crimes or expunge their records unless Congress agreed to criminal law reform. And the height limit, which does suppress the supply of housing in DC, but which is not opposed by Rob Montz’s candidate David Catania (I alone oppose it) is also originally a creation of Congress, which would have to grant DC the autonomy to modify it.

  8. “Rotting pigeon carcasses were left to fester in stairwells.”

    Poor fucking baby-ass, whining residents of public housing could NOT get off their fucking fat asses, and CLEAN UP A MESS w/o Government Almighty assistance? My heart bleeds…

    I know! A NEW government subsidy is needed to teach the arts and skills of picking up dead birds! Can I become a P.Hd. of dead-bird-ology?!?! What does a dead-bird-ology LICENSE cost, these days, by the way?

    1. “Poor fucking baby-ass, whining residents of public housing could NOT get off their fucking fat asses, and CLEAN UP A MESS w/o Government Almighty assistance? My heart bleeds…”

      I bet you there’s a law against doing that.

    2. “You have just been reported to the stairwell-cleaners union. Replace all those dead birds immediately!

      1. I am waiting for the butt-cleaners union, ya know it is going to happen any day now… “Ya took it upon yerself to wipe yer OWN butt? WHO in blazes do you think you ARE??!?! Replace that poop-stain RIGHT NOW, the union butt-cleaners are on their way! They will show up when it darned well suits them, and by-and-by ass the ass by-laws allow…”

    3. Given that DC has more rats than most cities – you seem them scurrying in bushes and parks anytime you walk or bike at night – I am amazed the pigeons remained long enough to be a problem.

    4. Yeah, that sentence really stuck out at me.

  9. “Rotting pigeon carcasses were left to fester in stairwells. The building’s air conditioning was perpetually non-functional during DC’s life-sapping swamp summers.”

    I once had a dead squirrel on my fire escape, and I disposed of it. The building I live in has no A/C, so I put A/C units in my window. My rent is not subsidized by anyone.

    Just saying.

    1. Do you have a degree in dead-squirrel-ology, or ANY kind of LICENSE for that? Or for the AC-ology? As a dead-squirrel-ologist myself, I may have to TURN YOU IN for your violation, which is AKA self-dependence! Can’t be having THAT kinda crappitty-crap around THESE here parts!!!!

    2. You’re doing it wrong.

      /dem shill

    3. I went to school an’ sucked Guv-Almighty dick, for 4 whole friggin’ years, just to get me my dead-squirrel-ologist license? If you went and did thet fer yerself, sans dead-squirrels-ology degree, then you have VIOLATED MY PROPERTY RIGHTS! My property rights as a REAL, genuine, board-certified dead-squirrel-ologist, see??! SEE what ye may be doing to MEEEE?!?!?

      1. Fine, but did you drive yourself to Squirrels-Ology School, or use Uber? Then your license is void. You were supposed to hire licensed cab drivers to transport yourself to and from school.

    4. You probably violated two dozen city, state, and federal regulations right there. If we let people remove dead squirrels on their own or put in A/C without a qualified technician, there will be anarchy and lawlessness. CHILDREN COULD DIE.

      1. Not only that, he deprived the local carrion-eaters of food.

        1. Police will find more.

        2. Carrion Eaters Local 2117 is filing an amicus brief in the Pigeon-Picker-Uppers union lawsuit.

    5. I’m a realtor and at times a group of realtors are all sitting in a common room working on computers and we can overhear the “floor” calls to the “duty agent” from random people who call in looking to buy or rent etc. Recently on Capitol Hill we got a call from someone who had a section 8 housing subsidy voucher who was asking about a property she saw with a sign in front. It was actually for rent not sale and the agent told her the price. She screamed “that’s an illegal price!” She actually believed it was illegal to offer a house for rent at a price that might be above the maximum of a section 8 voucher.

    6. Did you fill out a 27B-6 in triplicate?

  10. Was I the only one who read that headline as:

    “The Breathtaking Insanity of DC’s Next Mayor”?

    1. No. I’m dissapointed. Imsanity in a DC mayor would at least be INTERESTING.

  11. “Just six percent of DC voters are registered Republican.”

    And the left have the gall to complain?

    1. “And the left have the gall to complain?”

      What else can they do?

  12. “Its downtown is markedly circumcised relative to, say, Miami’s, Boston’s or New York’s.”

    Ummm … circumscribed?

      1. That’s a glansectomy.

    1. Don’t bite.

    2. And if I’m going to be impotent, I want to look impotent!

    3. DC does have a much larger gay population than most cities, perhaps a much as 10%….

  13. DC Home Rule: Self-Determination, Good and Hard.

  14. Neighborhoods inhabited with low-income black families for generations are getting flooded with mostly white, upwardly mobile college grads, driving up real estate prices and driving out legacy businesses.

    So what? The protectionist-egalitarian-nativist-tribal fusion sentiment that you’re going for here is wrong on so many levels I don’t know where to begin.

    First off, these supposedly displaced people aren’t African tribesman being driven off their reservation. Nor is it a vicious horde of white colonists “flooding” into some people’s ancient hunting grounds. If the property is being upwardly valued, the inhabitants are all the better for it. Whatever flood is taking place is property owners voluntarily selling their properties and “legacy businesses”. I’m trying to understand what this Salon-lite article is doing at Reason.

    1. But them white folks is librul demcrats.

    2. I lived in a suburb that underwent gentrification. African-American retirees were displaced, and by “were displaced” I mean “sold at profits that would make your head explode.” The horror, the horror!

  15. my co-worker’s mother makes $71 /hr on the laptop . She has been unemployed for 9 months but last month her payment was $17334 just working on the laptop for a few hours. published here


  16. Like the Rabbi who cried for an eternity after realising his Torah was mistranslated, I believe the correct word is “circumscribed”, unless DC’s buildings have had their foreskins removed!

    1. then would they be more dick-less than they are now?

  17. Writer seems a bit hot headed and irrational and seems to have zero knowledge of recent DC history. Mayor Fenty’s tragic downfall was that he was polarizing ? a quality Ms Bowser does not share. Despite the tragic irony of his anti-crony campaign ? filled with felonious cronies ? Mayor Vince Gray may have been the smartest most engaging, caring and compassionate Mayors the District has ever had; he was woefully underserved by incompetent ? when not criminal ? minions. Mayor Anthony Williams’ vision and hard work set the District on its current trajectory of growth and opportunity. Neither Ms Bowser or Mr Catania are bad people; both are smart and care about the District. They have radically different leadership styles, but either one will guide the city in competent hands. They are both corporatists however; if you want to send a message to the inbred establishment, vote for a third party candidate like Bruce Majors who is not in bed with inhumane corporate interests.

    1. I agree as people these candidates are not as bad as they could be http://www.metroweekly.com/201…..interview/

  18. *That’s why it’s no surprise that affordable housing is the biggest issue in the race for mayor. Bowser’s preferred solution is huge new investments in public housing.*

    Hey, there’s this neat thing called freedom-of-movement. How it works is, if you can’t afford to live where you are, you move. Radical concept, I know.

    If you don’t have a car, start walking.

  19. My buddy’s sister-in-law makes $83 /hour on the computer . She has been without work for 8 months but last month her pay was $17994 just working on the computer for a few hours.
    For information check this site. ????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  20. Can you have some spare time to sit back in your chair having your laptop with you and making some money online for some interesting online work said Jenny Francis in the party last nightsee more what is for you there to increase your pocket money??.


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