Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy New Year Mister Mayor

In his January 1 piece TD columnist Michael Paul Williams pointed out the change that the end of Douglas Wilder’s term as mayor will have on the jobs of reporters and molders of public opinion here in Richmond. In Williams’ words:

“L. Douglas Wilder's departure from the mayor's suite in Richmond City Hall should leave local news gatherers in a state of mourning. Wilder's headline-seeking antics were the gift that kept on giving. Our new minister-mayor, Dwight Clinton Jones, reserves his fiery pronouncements for the pulpit. Jones the politician is as taciturn as Wilder is flamboyant.” 1

Of course, this maven has known for months that it will be harder to find things to write about with Mayor Doug leaving. Although Doug and his behavior provided much grist for my mill to grind last winter, since he announced that he would not run for re-election I only wrote about him once and that was to wish him good luck in the future.

Style Weekly, in its “Score 2008” on December 23, went so far as to declare Doug to be no longer relevant:

"We thought about writing a long perspective piece on the legacy of Mayor L. Douglas Wilder… but then we realized no one really cares anymore. It’s official: Wilder was such a complete bust that he merits only a couple of paragraphs.
* * *
No, it wasn’t a dream. Wilder did beat up lots of people and took credit for a whole bunch of things that don’t actually exist. But pinch yourself. It’s over now." 2

Here we are, only three days into the term of Dwight Jones as our mayor and things are radically different. When Mayor Doug took over (was it only four years ago) he came out punching by challenging sweet heart severance deals that had been given to certain city officials in the waning days of the old regime. It was clear that Doug was arriving at City Hall in a war mode. He was the knight that would fix everything in Richmond in short order.

As for Mayor Dwight—
· First, he writes an OpEd declaring education to be his highest priority;
· Second, he delivers a sermon in which he makes it clear that he cannot fix what is wrong with Richmond, that the citizens of our fair city must work hard during these tough times to make things better;
· Third, he tells the members of City Council that he will cooperate with them rather than trying to force them into submission. (In the mayor’s words:
"I offer to you the hand of cooperation and the hand of collaboration, and I offer to you an open door. If you receive that offer . . . I believe that we can do great things together. That's what the city is expecting." 3

Well, we haven’t even gotten to the first Monday of Dwight Jones’ term. But as of now I’m willing to say Happy New Year Mister Mayor.


Paul H said...

I agree, he should be given a chance to succeed. This is not an auspicious time to be taking office. In addition to the poisoned well being left by LDW, the economic crisis is rewriting the budgetary realities of governing.

I agree education is important, but government is not the magic bullet that will fix the schools. IMO, new ADA schools, while desirable, don't address the dismal pathology that hounds Richmond's most as risk students. Being a minister, the new mayor is perfectly placed to comment of the leading cause of urban poverty, teen pregnancy, which condemn two generations to poverty in a single stroke. I've never sat in his church and listed to him preach. That may be as much a guide as to how he will govern as any. There's a lot I don't know about this mayor. I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

Jason Roop said...

You left out one thing: a poor symbolic start, with the mayor-elect attempting to hold a "private" and "invitation-only" swearing-in ceremony, of which even reporters found it difficult to get details. On the plus side, Mayor Jones has said the financial details of his inaugural activities will be open. Let's all hope that he holds tight to his pledge of transparency and accountability.

Preston M. Yancy said...

I hope Mayor Jones pulls the plug on Gov./Mayor Wilders court appeals. He would do himself, the city and justice a big favor by doing so.
Preston M Yancy