More to Tony Williams than petition Fiasco

By Coach Kathy Kemper

Published on 8/28/2002
The Current

There seems to be no end to the outrage being expressed about the mayor’s re-election team submitting fraudulent signatures. I am not excusing the inexplicable decision by part-time campaign workers and volunteers to submit the fake signatures. It was a ridiculous mistake that deserves full investigation. But this saga is missing some perspective.

The evidence have pointed to mistakes, not malfeasance, which is far cry from the modus operandi of some of Mayor Anthony Williams’ predecessors. Second, Williams has demonstrated integrity throughout his administration; he has no reason to purposely try to game the election system. Third, Williams has performed a Herculean task in digging his magnificent capital city out of the doldrums. He has vastly improved the city’s image, both regionally and internationally, as well as among President Bush and congressional officials.

In his first term, the mayor has submitted five consecutive balanced budgets, streamlined and improved city services and really turned around the city’s economic viability. The fact that his accomplishments have been overshadowed by this petition blip was made clear to me July 17 when I picked up The Washington Post. A front-page photo of the mayor accompanied a story about how he was planning to shake up his campaign team. The story seemed to dominate the local talk radio and television stations as well as conversations around town. Another front-page story didn’t bet nearly enough attention. It revealed that the San Francisco and Washington-Baltimore area bids for the 2012 Olympics had emerged “as apparent front-runners in the quest to land” the summer games. Four years ago, when D.C. was in desperate financial straits, did you ever dream that we had such a shot? The fact that D.C. is being mentioned in the same breath with a world-class city like San Francisco, and is beating out cities like New York, is a real testament to the mayor’s efforts to turn D.C. around. And if we do land the Olympics, just think about the millions of dollars in revenue that will be brought to our city’s businesses, as well as the potential for international coverage of the city’s stunning turnaround from Murder Capitol of the World to the World’s Capitol City.

He has the ability to dazzle roomfuls of average citizens and power brokers alike with his common-sense solutions. I saw this happen when he spoke to the INFO Breakfast Roundtable. As a guest speaker, Williams generated as much excitement as anyone.

During Williams’ first term:

  • D.C. has seen major reductions in crime rates.
  • The city has more than $10 billion in economic development right now, with $4 billion just downtown.
  • The new convention center is ahead of schedule, the International Spy Museum is a hit, and Home Depot has opened its first store in the city, a sign that major corporations think it’s safe to invest in Washington.
  • Besides the serious bid for the Olympics, Major League Baseball finally has its eye on bringing a team back to the city; the WNBA had its all-star game here; we had our first peek at Grand Prix racing.
  • The mayor has provided a 40 percent increase in funding for education.

Besides forging good relations with the city council, Williams has fortified the best relationship between the city and Congress since home rule. And he became the only mayor included as a member of President Bush’s Homeland Security Advisory Council.

D.C. has gone from late-night talk-show fodder when Williams took office, to the crown jewel of America once again. He deserves to be re-elected.

Kathy Kemper, a Wesley Heights resident, is founder of the INFO Public Policy Roundtable.

About the author

Coach Kathy Kemper, known as “Coach” to many, is Founder and CEO of the Institute for Education, a non-profit foundation that recognizes and promotes leadership, civility, and finding common ground, locally, nationally, and in the world community.

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