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article imageOp-Ed: D.C. pols focus on public goals would go far to rebuild trust

By Nate Smith     Nov 18, 2014 in Politics
Washington D.c. - Outgoing Washington Mayor Vincent Gray is likely to spend his remaining few months in office focused more on his mounting legal troubles, than any lame duck initiatives he may have planned for the city.
Assorted media, including the Washington Post, report Tuesday that investigators are closing in on an indictment of the D.C. mayor for misappropriating campaign funds related to his 2010 mayoral campaign.
Reports within the last 24 hours suggest prosecutors were offering Gray a potential plea agreement as far back as September.
Gray, and his attorney Robert S. Bennett, maintain the mayor's innocence.
Regardless, accusations of impropriety dogged Gray's entire bid for re-election, and constituent polling in the days leading up to his April primary defeat at the hands of current mayor-elect Murial Bowser.
An investigation staged by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. into Gray's 2010 campaign has resulted in guilty pleas from six former Gray associates on charges ranging from a shady $650,000-plus campaign to help boost Gray's 2010 election chances, to accusations the Gray campaign paid long-shot mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown to focus his attacks not on the challenger Gray, but on then-incumbent Adrian Fenty, whom had fallen out of favor with locals over a perceived disengagement from voters.
Gray also may have accepted campaign donations in excess of the city's legal amount to be accepted by candidates.
Bowser, 42, has served on the D.C. city council since 2007, and was a beneficiary of a rare endorsement from President Barack Obama in the run-up to the election. Likewise, the Post also endorsed her primary campaign over the incumbent Gray.
After knocking off Gray in the Democratic primary, she handily defeated two independent candidates, Carol Schwartz and David Cantania in the General Election.
Still, low voter turnout, which failed to eclipse 30 percent in the primary, and then just did break 30 percent in the general, was widely considered a sign that D.C. voters were frustrated by the allegations.
This is not D.C's first foray into scandal within the mayor's office. Similarly, accusations of wrongdoing are far from relegated to the mayor's office, and have indeed spilled over onto the city council.
Just as the infectious virus of corruption doesn't mature overnight, residents' trust in government won't be rebuilt in a week, month or even over the course of a single mayoral term.
A Republican has never been elected mayor of D.C., and likewise the city council is comprised overwhelmingly by Democrats.
Not that Republicans are inherently any more upstanding than Democrats, but a more competitive political process in D.C. might encourage better behavior from the candidates seeking political office.
Bowser is a former D.C. councilwoman from the 4th Ward, who considers herself pragmatist and capable of bringing people together. Her campaign emphasized rebounding neighborhoods and public schools within her district.
Additionally, she'll be tasked with working with her former members of council to approve a spending plan for the city, and trying to develop a plan to combat growing homelessness.
D.C. voters Nov. 4 also approved a ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis within the city.
For Bowser, a major step towards eradicating the scourge of corruption is working with other city leaders to help implement priorities most important to D.C. residents, rather than concentrating on her own political interests.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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