Is Chocolate City Over?
A spate of local scandals in the nation's capital has black residents worried that an emerging white majority -- or even Congress -- will soon seize political power.
In a who-woulda-thunk-it scenario, about half of Washington, D.C.'s elected city officials are under one kind of cloud or another, a situation that has left residents angry, embarrassed, racially divided and fearful for the political future of their shaky and shaken local government.
The controversies include the two top leaders of the district government -- the mayor and City Council chairs, both Democrats voted into office last November -- and a number of councilmen. Mayor Vincent Gray is under federal and local investigations on charges that during the election, his campaign paid off a rival candidate to verbally attack the incumbent mayor and then gave the man a job in his administration.
In addition, several of the mayor's top staffers were forced to resign after a series of breaches of public trust, including being paid higher salaries than their predecessors, hiring the children of staff members and inadequate vetting of some hires.
Embattled Mayor Gray has denied all accusations. Nevertheless, the mayor's popularity has taken a beating, sinking 13 points since the election, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Shortly before the vote in November, 60 percent of those polled held favorable opinions of him, versus 16 percent with negative views. The latest survey found that 47 percent held favorable views and 40 percent unfavorable.
Council Chair Kwame R. Brown is being investigated by the city's Board of Elections and Ethics over more than $270,000 in funds and donations from his campaign that are unaccounted for. He blamed discrepancies on "administrative errors." He is mockingly referred to around D.C. as "fully loaded Brown" after he ordered not one but two fully equipped Lincoln Navigators as his official limousines. The first one was not the correct black-on-black color scheme he desired, so he ordered a second. The city is paying the leases on both vehicles.