The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 74/No. 40      October 25, 2010

D.C. Democratic primary
reflects workers’ discontent
WASHINGTON—Incumbent mayor Adrian Fenty lost the Democratic Party Primary here. In this majority Black city—where the working class has already been hit hard by growing joblessness and other grinding economic burdens—the mayor had come to symbolize an austerity drive directed against working people by the city government.

With his growing unpopularity, Fenty became less useful to the local capitalists and lost backing within the Democratic Party machine. As a result, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, who helped carry out the anti-working class policies of the Fenty administration, won the Democratic nomination.

Like the Bloomberg administration in New York City, Fenty’s administration was held up by President Barack Obama as an example of how public schools should be run. In both places city officials sought to capitalize on dissatisfaction with the quality of public education to deal blows to the teachers’ unions and accelerate the replacement of public schools with privately operated charter schools. Fenty appointed Michelle Rhee as schools chancellor to oversee the firing of more than 400 teachers without regard to seniority. This prompted protests by students and teachers.

Presumptive mayor Gray was quick to dump the unpopular Rhee. The two recently reached a “mutual decision” that she should step down, reported the Washington Post. Rhee announced her impending resignation October 13, while other top leaders of the school administration are to remain.

The Fenty administration oversaw an increase in fares for public transportation, expanded traffic cameras to issue tickets for minor infractions, and stepped up enforcement of parking rules. As part of what was promoted as a “green” campaign to clean up local rivers the Fenty government instituted a charge for each disposable shopping bag used in the District.

The editorial writers at the Washington Post were surprised that a mayor with such a long record of “successes,” in their eyes, was denied a second term: “Fenty, the youngest mayor in the four decades of home rule, drew national accolades for his efforts to reform schools; oversaw a dramatic decline in the homicide rate; and led a successful drive to build neighborhood amenities such as recreational centers, dog parks and athletic fields,” the paper said.

But for thousands of working people, these became symbols of contempt for working people.

“I’m really happy that Fenty lost,” Linda Hindress, an airport worker who lives in northwest Washington, D.C., told the Militant. “They talk about the dog parks and bike lanes, but I don’t see these things in my neighborhood. Look at Wards 6, 7, and 8; people need jobs.” The official unemployment rate is 25 percent in the overwhelmingly Black working-class Ward 8.

“The city government, led by Fenty and Gray, who is now favored to be Fenty’s successor, has overseen the capitalists’ assault on working people,” said Omari Musa, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor. “The socialist campaign has received a good response from workers because we tell the truth about what the capitalists have in store for us and present a revolutionary class-struggle perspective to fight it.”

With government officials now declaring that there is a $175 million shortfall in the city budget, Democratic Party officials have already started talking about the next round of attacks on social services and jobs in the District.
Related articles:
‘Working class needs to take political power’
Socialist speaks at immigrant rights rally  
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