Thursday, October 9, 2008

How To Get A Meeting With Mayor Fenty

Page 54 of the October 2008 issue of Hill Rag contains an article about DC Mayor Adrian Fenty which aptly describes what I know to be true about him. As he indicated during a meeting that he held with ONE DC ( a grassroots organizer)on October 8th, 2008, he can be headstrong and assertive. (I attended that meeting as a collaborator, though I am not a member of ONE DC.)However, what stood out to me was a certain consistency that I see in how one can get a meeting with the mayor. In order to help you to better understand what I am about to explain, I must take you back about 6 weeks and explain an earlier attempt to meet with the mayor.

On August 19th, 2008, approximately 30 people -- homeless people, homeless advocates and supporters from local churches and the DC community at large -- did a walk-around at the Wilson Building (City Hall). It consisted of us going to the offices of the various city council members to present our cause: keeping Franklin Shelter open for the homeless men who need it. During our walk-around, we also stopped into the mayor's executive office. He supposedly wasn't there. We spoke to one of his staffers and tried to set up an appointment. She said that she would contact us with a meeting time and date. That was the last we heard from her. Our group sensed that the staffer was reluctant to arrange a meeting with the mayor and that we probably wouldn't be afforded an audience before him any time soon, if ever. Therefore, we decided to plan a trip to his house.

On the morning of August 21st, a homeless man approached me to tell me of his experience with the police. He explained that he and several other homeless men sleep outdoors in the Georgetown area. He stated that on the evening of August 19th, the police came and told him and the other homeless men in Georgetown that they had to go to the NY Ave. Homeless Shelter. He also stated that the police had said something about 30 people having gone to the mayor's office. It would seem to be a good thing to tell someone to go indoors to sleep. However, it is not illegal to sleep outdoors in Washington, DC. The fact that the police only gave this mandate after 30 people visited the mayor's office on behalf of the homeless makes this look like a mild form of retribution. The statements by the police help to enforce that. Bear in mind that the man who told me this story was not present at the mayor's office. He is not a community activist. Neither had I told him about our trip to the mayor's office prior to him telling me his story. It looks as if the mayor is trying to discourage people from approaching him.

On the evening of August 21st, about 2 dozen of us arrived at the mayor's house in the Gold Coast Area (near Rock Creek Park). We lambasted him with signs and chants for the planned closure of Franklin Shelter. He arrived about 40 minutes after we did. He spoke with us for several minutes (possibly due to media coverage) and promised to meet with us. He didn't want to carry on the meeting right then and there, as several of us asked him to. We arranged for 4 of us to meet with him on August 25th, just 4 days later. The meeting took place at the People's Building at 64 NY Ave. Clarence Carter, the director of DHS was present as well. It is important to note that, while Mayor Fenty met with us, he'd already dug his heels in and was unwilling to budge. Franklin has since been closed. It doesn't do much good to converse if nothing is going to change as a result of the conversation. The conversation was just a fruitless formality. To his credit, he didn't fumble with his blackberry or cell phone as a show of disinterest in the meeting, which i've heard of him doing at other meetings. I think our energy kept him engaged.

Franklin Shelter was closed on the morning of September 26th, 2008. That afternoon the Committee 2 Save Franklin (CSFS) held a rally in front of the Wilson Bldg. It began around 3:30 PM. At about 4:20, approximately 50 people attempted to enter the building so as to meet with the mayor. Security told us that only 15 of us would be allowed in, even though it is a public building and everyone is entitled to enter. We narrowed it down to the 15 that would go to see the mayor. About 10 security officers stood guard over our group as we waited to see the mayor. We knew that he had a meeting at 4:30 with someone else and planned to wait until that meeting was over to speak with him. (His schedule is public information.) We got word that a representative of the mayor would come to meet with us. That never happened. Then, the mayor had people to lie for him and say that he had left the building. We knew otherwise, due to both of his vehicles having been parked outside still -- his Smart and his Navigator. We decided to wait him out. Then, wouldn't you know it?! A few minutes after 6 here comes none other than the mayor himself, as he walked out of the Wilson with about 10 cops. He refused to talk to us, walked past us, got in his navigator and drove off. We couldn't meet with OUR mayor.

The grassroots organizers ONE DC invited the Committee 2 Save Franklin (CSFS) to go to the mayor's house with them on October 6th so as to make him keep his promises to create affordable housing. About 50 people rode a chartered bus to his house. We began to heckle him about his broken promises -- the promise to keep Franklin open as a shelter and the promise to create affordable housing on Parcel 42. This time he arrived less than 10 minutes after us. Once again he spoke with us and arranged a meeting for October 8th. Though the meeting was not all that productive in my opinion, he DID show up and learn a thing or 2 about ONE DC and the need for affordable housing. The meeting took place in the conference room on the 11th floor of One Judiciary Square.

The mayor consistently refuses to meet with grassroots groups at the Wilson Building. He never seems too happy when we show up at his house either. However, when we go to his house, he meets with us in a matter of days. This seems to be incentive for us to go to his house in order to make appointments with him. One would think that he would be more receptive to the idea of arranging meetings from his office. Several people have told me that he might change his behavior as soon as I publish this information. It stands to reason that he would. Let's see what happens. So, if you are a DC resident and you want to meet with your mayor, just go to his house in large numbers with plenty of media coverage (at least one TV/video camera). Another thing to take note of is the fact that neither meeting took place in the Wilson Building, where his office is. Is Mayor Adrian Fenty too embarrassed to be seen in or near his office with grassroots groups and organizers? He's a mad, mad, mad, mad mayor.

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