Three Mayors, One Message: Voting Rights for D.C.
||WTOP Radio & Online (DC)
||Friday, January 7, 2011
||Paul D. Shinkman
WASHINGTON -- Just days into the Vince Gray administration, three former mayors of the District appeared together Friday on the Politics Program with Mark Plotkin. And despite their disparate records as the city executive, all agreed from the outset on one particular issue: D.C. statehood.
Former mayors Anthony Williams, Sharon Pratt and Marion Barry all said the current administration and the general population should be giving greater attention to voting rights.
"We have not become angry enough, impatient enough, about being second-class citizens," said Pratt, a D.C. native who served as mayor from 1991-1995, adding that the world will take notice "the day we rise up in collective protest."
"We're too urban, we're too liberal, we're too black and we're too Democratic," added Barry, citing the perceived qualities of the city for which he was mayor in two separate blocks -- from 1979 to 1991 and again from 1995 to 1999.
Barry, a sitting D.C. Council member, anticipates the city's new leadership, under Gray and newly-minted council Chair Kwame Brown, will "push it harder."
Williams added he wished he could have given the issue more attention during his two-term tenure from 1999-2007, but he "had so many other things to worry about."
This issue has gained lofty attention, including the support of then-President Bill Clinton, who in November, 2000 while Williams was in office, had the city's distinctive "Taxation Without Representation" license plates bolted to his motorcade vehicles.
President George W. Bush removed them in January, 2001. The trio agreed on the show to send a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to re-initiate the Cadillac-borne activism.
But this won't have been the first time Williams interacted with presidential material, even before he was sworn in as mayor of the nation's capital.
During his tenure as assistant director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority in Massachusetts, Williams recounted Friday a young student from his alma mater, Harvard Law School, entering his office and asking for advice. The young man had combed through the school's face book, and sought out the future mayor for advice on his public service experience.
Whether the advice took or not, the student went on to a distinguished career in community organizing, and local, state and federal politics, and developed a record strong enough to be elected the 44th president of the United States.
"That shows you, even at his early age, the way he applied himself and did his homework," Williams said of Obama. "It's an amazing story about the kind of person he is."
And all three mayors had no shortage of advice for their successor, the city's sixth mayor, Vince Gray, who was sworn in Sunday.
"Do the difficult stuff right now," offered Barry, specifically citing any potential tax increases, job creation or development east of the Anacostia River.
"You've got to use your political capital rapidly," Pratt added. "I would say, 'Jobs, economic development. Jobs, economic development.'"
The three also recognized the future of the Redskins, particularly their home field geography, which has taken a front seat in caller complaints on recent WTOP shows.
"Unless the owner is an angel," like former Capitals chief Abe Pollin, said Williams of luring teams to town, "they're going to want something for it.
"And believe me, you're going to get your butt burned."