District Digest: Public opinion turns against the mayor

The shadow campaign weighs on public opinion. According to a poll by the Washington Post, 54 percent of respondents want the mayor to resign while 37 percent think he should stay. The disapproval stretches over all races, classes, and sections of the city. The poll also reveals a growing dissatisfaction among District residents with the D.C. government at large. Of those polled, 63 percent believe Gray is not running an ethical administration and 61 percent don’t find him trustworthy. For the first time in six years, a plurality of D.C. residents think the city is headed in the wrong direction.

Gray was rocked by scandal last week as the full details of the so-called “shadow campaign” came to light. Third-party agents conspired to illegally purchase the Gray campaign $653,000 worth of campaign staff, apparel, and consulting work—a third of all the money spent on behalf on Gray in the 2010 mayoral election. Federal prosecutors stopped short of accusing Gray of wrongdoing, but three members of the D.C. City Council are calling on Gray to resign.

Needless to say, Gray’s reelection appears increasingly unlikely. The poll additionally showed that, if the 2010 Democratic mayoral primary were held again today, Fenty would win by a two-to-one margin. At the same time, the survey showed that other possible mayoral hopefuls are largely unknown by the general public. Interim Chairman of the D.C. Council Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) lead the pack, each with about 30 percent approving, 10 percent opposing, the rest with no opinion.

Gray continues his bout of silence. By the advice of his attorney, Gray refuses to speak at length about any ongoing investigation involving his administration, although he did take an opportunity to fire back at his critics. Appearing last Friday on NewsChannel 8’s Newstalk, Bruce DePuyt asked Gray to respond to the D.C. Council members calling for his resignation. Of his most outspoken critics, David Catania (I-At Large), Gray said: “Let’s be honest, David Catania is a Republican who became an independent. We forget that we have partisan politics in the District of Columbia… He never supported me; he certainly didn’t support me in the election.”

While he also dismissed Muriel Bowser’s (D-Ward 4) call for his resignation, claiming that she wants to be mayor herself, he said that he was hurt when he found out that Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) requested his resignation, through a voice mail message, no less.

Other than that, Gray has held steadfast to his claims that he did not know about the shadow campaign and that the alleged illegal mega-donor Jeffery Thompson asked nothing of him. “I had a full-time job as council chairman, and I had to spend a lot of time doing that,” he said to the Post. “I was in a situation where I wish I had more than 24 hours a day, where I wish I could have been in the campaign office more extensively. I wasn’t there very often at all.”

Gray reportedly was aware of the shadow campaign on Jan. 10 of this year, when he met with conspirator Eugina Harris. Gray has refused to say anything at all about this meeting.

House panel considers lessening D.C. building height restrictions. The Heights of Buildings Act of 1910 caps the height of new structures at about 100 ft. for most structures. While this piece of legislation gave the district its iconic skyline (and protected Healy Hall’s status as the sixth tallest building in D.C.), it has also been blamed for blocking population growth and limiting the district’s tax base. A first step could be allowing rooftop space for lounge areas, but change seems unlikely in the near future.

Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program (Jul. 10, 2011)

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