By Kojo Nnamdi, Published: July 13
Vincent C. Gray’s election as mayor in 2010 was the result in no small measure of his success in tapping a deep well of resentment in the black community over Adrian M. Fenty’s perceived aloofness. Gray was helped along in this effort by Marion Barry.
I wrote in this section at the time that if the template for black mayors who connect with black voters is Barry and Newark’s Sharpe James, who have both served prison terms, then “Vincent Gray needs to hurry up and get himself locked up so he can keep it real, too.”
I now regret those words, as prophetic as they appear. I still think that Gray is a decent and thoughtful man, but he stands at the center of a political culture that is corrupt and broken.
At a contentious city council meeting this summer, Barry spoke about the council’s credibility problem and voters’ doubts about the D.C. government. “The stain is deep,” he said. He’s right.
I came to D.C. in 1969, and the future I imagined for it when the Home Rule Act was signed in 1973 was that the city, home to some of the smartest people and most innovative civil rights activists I knew, would provide a shining example of a democratic revolution. Some of that has come to pass. From qualified blacks who have new access to senior positions and contracts, to the revival of downtown and other areas, from new restaurants and theaters to green spaces and bike lanes, the District has indeed improved, often in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
The political culture, however, has deteriorated. It has what is clearly a pay-to-play political process, with personal corruption and campaign fraud now at the center of the system.
The latest example of this came on Tuesday, when federal prosecutors said that Gray’s 2010 mayoral run was funded, in part, by a “shadow campaign” of $653,000 from a prominent District contractor. Three Gray campaign consultants have pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges.
This shadow over the Gray campaign comes after former council member Harry Thomas Jr. pleaded guilty to charges of theft of government money and falsifying tax returns. In May, he was sentenced to three years in prison. And in June, Kwame Brown resigned as D.C. Council chairman after federal prosecutors charged him with bank fraud.
The question is:How did it come to this? How did we come to this?
You can see a big reason why the Washington-based white press corps worked so hard to contrive Obamamania a half decade ago. For their own sakes, they really, really want to end black rule in Washington, but that's embarrassing to admit even to your own conscience. So, pushing Obama on the whole country served to salve the white national media's consciences about what they want to do with their own city.