February 14, 2013 | by Peter Rosenstein
D.C. doing great, despite Graham’s issues

Mayor Gray’s State of the District speech touted how well the city is doing and we are doing great. The reserve fund is at record levels; the economy is booming with 55 cranes dotting the city’s landscape and office buildings and apartments going up across the city. Ground is broken for Skyland Mall in Ward 7 after decades of false starts; the new Coast Guard headquarters is nearly finished in Ward 8 on the west campus of the old Saint Elizabeth’s site and plans are moving forward for a high-tech center on the east campus. A major developer is being sought for the old Walter Reed campus in Northwest.

For the first time in years there is hope for fair agreements with public service unions and the mayor has proposed an additional $100 million investment in affordable housing and a $15 million fund for competitive grants to small non-profits.

The city is regaining control over agencies that for decades have been under court order; 1,100 people a month are moving into the District; and we are making steady if too slow progress on improving our schools. These successes appropriately credited to the Gray administration have been built on changes to the way we do business in the District starting in the Williams administration.

Yet there are still many problems to be solved. Too many children are in homeless shelters and there is still too much violent crime and too many hate crimes. We need even more affordable housing and must continue to lower the unemployment rate especially in the poorer areas of the District.

The successes of the last two years often get lost in the headlines over the questionable ethics of some public officials. We need to rebuild the public’s confidence in the political system. The mayor has submitted comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation to the Council, which awaits action. The Council passed an ethics bill and while it may not have gone far enough it was a start. Despite these lingering issues the city is being run better than it has ever been before.

Meanwhile, the issues surrounding Council member Jim Graham have reached a crescendo. The report by the city’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability should be seen as a shot across the bow for all public officials. We have to demand better. While the investigation of Council member Graham will not proceed, the report highlighted the issues that many thought while not illegal may have crossed an ethics line.

I disagree with the Washington Post editorial that called on Graham to resign. If nothing illegal occurred then it is up to his constituents, not the Post, to determine his future. His wheeling and dealing pointed out that with so few elected officials in the District, there will be constant conflicts of interest when dealing with constituent requests. Graham worked on Metro issues and, at the same time, worked to help a constituent in his Ward. Jim’s reputation for horse trading when his help is sought possibly created its own problems. Maybe rather than demanding his resignation other officials and the public can learn a valuable lesson from his current travails.

Maybe we should require Council members to post all their contacts and correspondence relating to any city contractor or potential contractor online within 72 hours of it having occurred. This transparency would potentially force our public officials to think twice about what they do or ask for. Legitimate correspondence would still go forward without a problem. Transparency in government is always a good thing and this would allow people to review and question actions as they are happening rather than years later.

There is significant progress being made on a host of issues in our city. Polls and surveys show that services are being delivered more efficiently and faster than ever before. The mayor will be working with the Council on major regulatory reform and on a total review of procurement practices in the District. One thought is to take the Council out of the contracting business altogether. As we build the District’s tax base we will be able to develop and fund programs for those most in need — the poor, children and the disabled.

11 Comments
  • If I half suspected that anyone read Rosenstein’s babble or had any respect for his opinion I might question as why The Blade would publish this collection of half truths. Rosenstein seems to have been living in a bubble or perhaps in Baltimore.

    The Gray administration has been almost continually mired in scandal since its earliest days. It deserves little, if any, credit for the momentum that is carrying economic progress in the District forward. Mostly, this is boilerplate lifted from the Post and spun to flatter Gray. Considering the halfway placement of R’stein’s head for the past 3 years this is not surprising. It is also not journalism or unbiased commentary. To credit success built on the hard work of others, frankly predating the William’s administration, a certain deal Dave Clarke struck with Abe Pollin back in the District’s darkest days comes to mind, but in no small part a result of Mayor Williams efforts to Vince Gray is simply laughable. Interestingly, R’steins former show pony Adrian Fenty, is missing entirely. A time line would suggest that the one person whose efforts over arch the city’s renaissance might be Jack Evans, but Vince Gray, not by the longest shot.

    More importantly, for The Blade to allow R’stein to act the shill for Jim Graham is appalling. To suggest that the Post’s, long overdue, call for Graham’s resignation is based solely on the report of the Board of Ethics and Accountability would be laughable if there was not so much tragedy, malfeasance, and loss attendant to Graham’s overall history in our community. Jim Graham commandeered our community’s response to the AIDS epidemic to make it a vehicle for his own enrichment and glorification, bulldozing over the work and best interests of a host of others. By the time Graham was finally ousted from Whitman Walker he had brought it to its knees.

    I don’t know where Peter Rosenstein or The Blade editorial staff has been for the last 25 years but Jim Graham is known in this community and has been for some long time. An attempt to dismiss Graham’s career of corruption as “horse trading” is, to all those who his megalomania has caused to suffer needlessly, insulting.

    There are many bright, honest, committed members of the LGBT community engaging in our civic life here in Washington from ANCs to Boards and Commissions. To allow them to continue to be besmirched by the backsplash from the scandals rightly surrounding Jim Graham, defended by the likes of Peter Rosenstein in unacceptable. For The Blade to support this whether through ignorance of our history or indifference to Washington’s well being is unacceptable as well.

    Think of The Post’s laudable call for Jim Graham’s resignation not as an indictment but as a summation. Know this too, that when Graham is finally brought to account there will be dancing in the graves.

  • Please spare us the diversionary boosterism and focus on the present case. We all know that the Post does not appoint or remove council members, but it's disingenuous to suggest that on that account it was improper for them to call for Graham's resignation. No one is forced to heed their views any more than Peter's or mine. But they make a good point. When you take the oath of office, you're not just swearing to avoid criminality. Public office is a privilege and a responsibility, not an entitlement. Jim routinely adopts a tone of surprise and innocence, but he's an old hand at the art of influence peddling right up to the edge without crossing the line into criminal territory. Is that the standard we should uphold? It is sad that Peter would write such a mealy-mouthed and unpersuasive piece.

  • “Top Commentator” because all the others have been removed. Is this forum solely the purview of Rosendall and Rosenstein? It is no wonder the racks over flow with unread Blades.
    “diversionary boosterism” how is that relevant?

    “It is sad that Peter would write such a mealy-mouthed and unpersuasive piece”. I guess you have never read 95% of his stuff. This was another planted Graham story much like the “scapegoating” opinion piece in the Post.

    Thank the universe for Mark Lee, even though I often disagree. He at least breathes some fresh, authentic air into the process.

  • Somehow this got lost?

    If I half suspected that anyone read Rosenstein’s babble or had any respect for his opinion I might question as why The Blade would publish this collection of half truths. Rosenstein seems to have been living in a bubble or perhaps in Baltimore.

    The Gray administration has been almost continually mired in scandal since its earliest days. It deserves little, if any, credit for the momentum that is carrying economic progress in the District forward. Mostly, this is boilerplate lifted from the Post and spun to flatter Gray. Considering the halfway placement of R’stein’s head for the past 3 years this is not surprising. It is also not journalism or unbiased commentary.

    To credit success built on the hard work of others, frankly predating the William’s administration, a certain deal Dave Clarke struck with Abe Pollin back in the District’s darkest days comes to mind, but in no small part a result of Mayor Williams efforts to Vince Gray is simply laughable. Interestingly, R’steins former show pony Adrian Fenty, is missing entirely. A time line would suggest that the one person whose efforts over arch the city’s renaissance might be Jack Evans, but Vince Gray, not by the longest shot.

    More importantly, for The Blade to allow R’stein to act the shill for Jim Graham is appalling. To suggest that the Post’s, long overdue, call for Graham’s resignation is based solely on the report of the Board of Ethics and Accountability would be laughable if there was not so much tragedy, malfeasance, and loss attendant to Graham’s overall history in our community. Jim Graham commandeered our community’s response to the AIDS epidemic to make it a vehicle for his own enrichment and glorification, bulldozing over the work and best interests of a host of others. By the time Graham was finally ousted from Whitman Walker he had brought it to its knees.

    I don’t know where Peter Rosenstein or The Blade editorial staff has been for the last 25 years but Jim Graham is known in this community and has been for some long time. An attempt to dismiss Graham’s career of corruption as “horse trading” is, to all those who his megalomania has caused to suffer needlessly, insulting.

    There are many bright, honest, committed members of the LGBT community engaging in our civic life here in Washington from ANCs to Boards and Commissions. To allow them to continue to be besmirched by the backsplash from the scandals rightly surrounding Jim Graham, defended by the likes of Peter Rosenstein in unacceptable. For The Blade to support this whether through ignorance of our history or indifference to Washington’s well being is unacceptable as well.

    Think of The Post’s laudable call for Jim Graham’s resignation not as an indictment but as a summation. Know this too, that when Graham is finally brought to account there will be dancing in the graves.

  • Rosenstein Translation Machine

    Translation: Hey, it dawned on me that this present after-burn of Jim Graham’s latest ethics immolation maybe wasn’t the ripest moment to push my hack attack column on Patrick Mara, and in support of the Graham-esque former Councilmember Michael Brown. So I took a pivot. You see, I know my previous “there’s-nothing-to-see-here-please-move-along” pieces lauding Vince Gray really resonated and drove the conversation (how I know: a guy named Peter in my bathroom mirror told me), so I thought it might do a similar trick in staging my eventual hack attack on Pat in favor of my good friend Michael Brown. Stay tuned, dear readers!

  • Reading Mr. Rosenstein’s column, one might think he moonlights as the chief spokesperson for the “ends justifies the means” school of public progress. Contrary to his protestations, I am sure the city would move forward with little to no disruption should Jim Graham own his ethical lapses and step down. As for the suggestion that DC voters are the best arbiters of a politician’s character, I’ve got two words for you Peter: “Marion Barry.”

    The danger of having elected officials like Graham and Barry is not just that they exhibit and engage in inappropriate behavior, it’s that they don’t understand why we have a problem with it. When did the ability to self-regulate cease being a requirement for holding a position of public trust? Is it any wonder that the “defense du jour” for elected officials has become “I’ve done nothing Illegal.”

  • I appreciate all the attacks on my column and clearly only Rick Rosendall has the ability to stand up for his views by name and while I disagree with his comments here I respect his right to say them as he respects mine. The other comments here are made by people apparently too afraid to put their names next to them. Debate is great but often being afraid to put your name beside your comments makes them irrelevant. Clearly some of the comments here are made from a biased point of view which the commentors claim I have. The difference being that I am willing to stand by my views whereas the anonymous commentors here are clearly afraid to stand by theirs. It would be great if the Blade only published comments from those willng to use their names but then I do realize that would dramatically cut down on the number of comments published. So thanks everyone for taking the time to read the column including “Jack” the person who claims no one reads it. And thanks to Rick for having the decency to use his name.

  • There is a distinction, and it is not minor, between a featured op-ed and the unattributed reactions to it. The “columnist” is afforded the privilege of print space and a broad forum in exchange for “owning” the content. The rest of us participate as we see fit subject to review and unilateral rejection of our submissions. Our only obligation is to put it out there respectfully. I doubt that the Blade’s circulation goals are served by a columnist disparaging readers, anonymous or otherwise. Dismissing unattributed comment as irrelevant may be salve for a bruised ego, but it doesn’t advance understanding. Churlish is never pretty.

  • People have posted anonymous comments on my writing, too. The difference is that I am willing to critique the substance of those anonymous comments and not simply rely on red herrings and ad hominem attacks.

  • Dave Edmondson is correct. Anonyous comments with substance can be responded to and it is always interesting to read them but I still believe it is the anonymous comments without substance that need not be considered. A columnist has the ability to give his/her opinions and that is a major distinction as “Just saying” is saying. It is also a priviledge I know that I respect. But as he/she says the anonymous commenter has as “Our only obligation is to put it out there respectfully”. So as many people who read the Blade and other publications see commenters often forget that part and don’t bother with the discussion of facts or reven their own opinions which would have value but rather lke to disparage an individual instead. Now as a columnist I know that comes with the territory and I don’t mind that. So Dave Edmonson is correct and I apologize if my last comment was construed as saying that someone debating the facts should be disregarded. We may all have our own interpretation of a story or incident or want to debate the facts of an issue and that is always legitimate.The comment section of a newspaper gives everyone the opportunity to voice their opinions and broaden the discussion. But wouldn’t it be great if people were able to stand by their opinions and take credit for them. There are always reasons for someone to be anonymous. It could impact their job – they could be a whistleblower- they might be fearful of reprisals- and all are understandable- but the more people identify themselves when sharing their opinions the more value in the long run their discussion will have and i think it will be better for our community. Everyone’s opinions have value but clearly that value to others- their friends and those that respect them-would increase in value if they are willing to stand by them publicly. Discussion and debate are not only fun but truly valuableif we want to change change society and move us forward.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.
Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin