The Georgetowner Hosts Final Mayoral Forum between Fenty and Gray



-Friday afternoon, September 10, at Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place on Washington Harbor, The Georgetowner hosted the last of the 2010 Mayoral forums between Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray. Drawing quite a crowd, the debate dealt with subjects as expansive as the state of small businesses and as focused as the improvement of Georgetown’s parking meters. The end result was a forum that provided greater insight into the positions of the more prominent candidates on the ballot and enough drama to keep the air of excitement billowing until voting day next Tuesday.

Unlikely candidate Leo Alexander opened fire, arguing that small businesses were being taxed out of the District due to costly rent. Gray echoed Alexander’s fears with a plea to voters: “Let’s not run customers out of the District to Virginia or Maryland.” Gray went on to add that his efforts lead to the personal property tax exemption rate being raised, eliminating the tax altogether for small businesses with a net worth under $225,000.

In spite of his opponents’ concerns and criticisms, Mayor Fenty remained optimistic, pointing to the 26-year success of his family’s own small business (he did not specify what type business his family runs). Noting his history of working with the Georgetown Business Improvement District, Fenty asserted “We are revitalizing Georgetown in a fantastic way.”

Another issue on Georgetown voters’ minds was Georgetown University’s student body encroaching into the community, as they have more frequently been taking up residence within the neighborhood. Alexander cited a lack of communication between the university and the neighborhood as the reason for all the worry. Fenty labeled the debate one of “acrimony.” However, it was Gray who offered a definitive plan to smooth over the “strange relationship,” promoting the establishment of a zoning commission that would handle the 10 to 15 year growth plans of city universities. Gray’s hope is to limit college housing expansions to campuses because a large number of students are transient.

The candidates were given the chance to tackle Georgetown’s parking problems as well. Alexander pointed out how expensive it was to have a good time in Georgetown, joking that in order to even park your car for dinner, “You need to have a roll of quarters with you.”

“Two rolls!” shouted an observer, to the amusement of the crowd.

“I stand corrected.”

Fenty’s plan to improve parking would involve more Circulator routes and further expansion of the upcoming trolley lines. Gray hopes to see smarter growth in the future, providing more housing where mass transit is located.

The forum came to a head when Fenty claimed he had recently been endorsed by former mayor, Anthony Williams. “He did not endorse you!” interjected a livid audience member. Fenty, in an attempt to brush off the situation and repeat his allegation, was interrupted again — “He did not endorse you!”

While the moderator eventually quieted the outraged woman, it was Gray who was able to shed light on the situation. The woman was none other than former Mayor Williams’ mother, defending her son’s neutrality throughout the campaign.

With the matter settled, the candidates went on to give their closing statements. Alexander pointed out the political ramifications of Fenty raising $5 million in campaign donations, Gray $2 million, and himself $35 thousand: “Think about the strings attached to that money,” he warned rather ominously.

Gray’s spoke to the state of the economy: “We have got to get people back to work again.”

Fenty challenged Gray’s reluctance to criticize mayoral decisions, until the political season, and defended Chancellor of DC Public Schools, Michelle Rhee, who Gray could replace if elected: “Michelle makes tough decisions that don’t always make the city happy, but for the right reasons. A mayor must make tough decisions, which [Gray] is not prepared to do.”

Sharp words to end a tense debate. Here at The Georgetowner, we consider that a success.

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