Chocolate Lame Duck

The Washington City Paper declared Mayor Vincent Gray a lame duck this week. So what?  Notwithstanding the low influence of the Washington City Paper, Mayor Gray should recognize this as a chance to implement the Rahm Emanuel philosophy: every crisis is an opportunity.

As Rahm Emanuel urges, even a bad situation is a chance to capitalize, to do something bold. Gray is in such a spot.  For starters, he could get indicted.  However, the overall issue is, his chances of getting re-elected are almost nil. He has squandered the mandate he had (it was fleeting anyway) and his own colleagues have lost faith in him.  But Gray can act on this decisively in the spirit of Rahm of Chi-town (considering he doesn’t get indicted and forced out) and still impact city politics and do something good for the people.

Here’s a Rahm future for Vince:

1. Hold a news conference, announce that you have no intention of running again for mayor. You just want to finish the term and get things done in the interest of the citizens of the city

2. Bring in some folks from other camps to run a few things as evidence of your desire to just finish strong;

3. Isolate those who have betrayed you like Mary Cheh, David Catania, and Muriel Bowser; play the real new players close like Phil Mendleson, Michael Brown, and even Marion Barry. You might even want to secretly reach out to Adrian Fenty to see if you can alter that relationship.  Lunch or a chance citing in the city with former Mayor Anthony Williams would not hurt either. Bring him in to consult maybe?

4. Denounce Congress and their colonial power over the city. Call the Republicans out for what they are: two bit tyrannical politicians holding the city hostage to their stupid social agenda; and

5. Most importantly, stay in touch with your lawyer. This won’t work if you get indicted.

So dear Vince Gray; chances of you being mayor after this term are probably nil. But you can depart with a great legacy and you can influence the city’s future by forging an alliance with the city’s next set of power players and by doing good things for the next two years. Then turn power over to the right people.


Chocolate City Phil

I was once interviewed by Councilmen Phil Mendleson. I was going to be his Legislative Counsel. I didn’t get the job but I walked away liking Mr. Mendleson. He seemed genuine. I can now say also that I did get a chance to meet the guy who will likely be the city’s next mayor.  Whether Vince Gray stays his full term or resigns early, keep your eye on Mr. Mendleson.  No, I am not saying he is the right person for the position, or that he is what the city needs. No way.  However, I am saying that Phil Mendleson is a political insider who goes way back in the city. He is a staffer. Staffer know how the game is played.

Unlike Councilmembers Muriel Bowser, Mary Cheh, and David Catania, he is acting like he has no interest in the job of mayor and really just wants the city to function properly. He famously shunned calls for Gray’s head. And he used the word you always use in a crisis: stability.  In that one moment, the city began to look at him as mayor; he began to look mayoral.

Only a staffer from way back would understand such a game of politics. They are behind the scenes watching as politics unfolds.  They see the moves their bosses make from a distance but also up close.

But most of all, quiet as it is kept, Phil Mendleson, though he seems new to many, is old school. He worked for David Clarke, the city’s long time city council chairman from the early days of home rule.  Almost immediately that association gets him an audience and attention with half the voters in the city.

I always said watch the politico in the city who acted as if they didn’t want the job but that we needed them to take the job. That person right now is Phil Mendleson.

William Raspberry


As a kid, I would marvel at my mother and father reading the newspaper and drinking coffee in the morning. The newspaper was, of course, The Washington Post. They would be getting ready for work or perhaps it was a lazy Saturday, or a pre-Sunday church moment, but the newspaper would be there in their hands. My mother would reading Style section or doing the crossword puzzle; my father would be reading the news or the opinion columns. And the best of the best of those columnists was William Raspberry.

Raspberry died today so we pause today to honor him and to honor journalism, writing, and independent thought.  I grew up with Rasberry; first, seeing my parents read him, and then, I read him. I loved it and still do.

More than once, my father handed me a Rasberry column and ordered me to read it. He did it to my brothers as well.  Rasberry had that kind of hold over people and over the city. He was the people’s columnist in that he wrote about ordinary people. His famous back and forth conversations with regular folks in his columns to make a point are most indicative of his genius.

When I was on my own, in college, and afterwards, and buying the Post myself, Raspberry was there for me as well. I read him religiously and though I frequently didn’t agree totally, I got his points. I especially appreciated his piece on why blacks could not pass the bar in D.C. and become practicing lawyers.  As usual, he was thoughtful and probing.

Raspberry has been gone from the scene for years now and the Post opinion page has suffered. In all honesty, gone is that people’s voice. Sure, there is an occasion good column but Raspberry was the king of it in this city.  I write columns and op-eds myself these days because of him. He was a role model. He also had a cool name.

Suliamon Brown – gate

Mary Cheh and David Catania, City Council members of the capital of the world, are calling for mayor, Vincent Gray’s head.  Resign.  It don’t surprise. Gray stole the election is the suggestion and he is illegitimate as mayor. He knew about the theft in January but said nothing as the investigation went forward. Should have said something? He was mayor. He didn’t know they stole the election until after it was stolen. Am I missing something here?  His sin is he didn’t tell the feds that the election was stolen after he found out it was stolen.

Gray might have known more or he might have known before but the revelation from this latest allegation by one of his campaign bankrollers is nothing but more slime. In other words, I don’t think it is a crime. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Gray is done in this town.  Even if he weathers this storm, he should not try to run for office again. For many reasons, he is a marked man with little chance to win unless he is exonerated and the government apologizes. However, I am surprised by Mary Cheh and David Catania moving on Gray like this. If the facts had revealed he knew when the criminal acts were going down, he would be done anyway but the facts just revealed don’t say anything. They just say he knew after the fact.  Should he resign on that basis?

President Richard Nixon’s crime back during Watergate was he found out about a crime and decided to cover it up. He gave the orders. Did Gray give orders to cover this up? If he did, he is done.  I am waiting for the shoe to drop. This ain’t the shoe. 

Chocolate Scot Irish

My late aunt, Patricia Burrs, was a historian. No, not like John Hope Franklin or Chancellor Williams, but the family historian. Through years of research, on her own, she tracked our family’s Scot Irish side down to this guy named Benjamin Cook. Cook owned slaves and he had sex with one of those slaves and started a new family, a black one, in the world of “one drop” America. One drop black, you black. Eventually, the black family got separated from the Scot-Irish family. And that new family went on with their lives. Ben’s child grew up, got married, had children, and those children had children. Eventually, that line leads to Hazel Lancaster, of Palestine Texas, born in 1878, my father’s mother. 

I am in England now, just below Scotland, and my aunt has come to mind. This is just one side of the family too. There is lots of work to do. But in some strange way, it feels good to know, despite the circumstances, the origin of our lives, our family, in some small way.  

Chocolate Warming

There is a lesson in the bad storm that hit Chocolate City: global warming is here. I mean, it has always been here but now it is real, and with us, more than likely permanently.  I can remember 25 years ago hearing about climate change and how it was forthcoming and people laughed or didn’t pay attention. And now, most of the indicators of its beginnings are with us. The evidence is in, on other words.

Hopefully, more of us will get serious about it and save the earth, our planet. Even those who don’t care about this world and are more concerned about the arrival in the next world should get serious and change their ways. We shall try our best to devote time to this in this space. It is important. 

Chocolate City Climate Change

Growing up in Washington D.C., there were always thunderstorms in the summer months. We used to sit in the basement and let the rumble of these storms pass by. Yet, lately, especially this year, the storms coming through the city and the surrounding D.C. area are fierce. They are unlike any storms I experienced. It is also true that though it gets hot in Washington D.C., 104 degree days are unheard of in my day.

I used to relish having a summer job on the hot playgrounds of the city (My father was in charge of personnel for the D.C. Department of Recreation). because it was hot but it was still such a thrill. It was incredible playing tennis, basketball, swimming in pools, and then cooling off in the city. Those days are magic.

Friday’s storm was not magic. It was a tragedy. People died. Cars were crushed. Two million have no power. Houses were hit with trees.   I keep saying climate change is here. People laugh at me. One friend says I must be one of those kooky liberals.  I tell him I am not a liberal and that climate change is real. We are seeing the future. We can change it. Stop driving your car so much. Recycle. Don’t run the A/C so much. Go get a book on how to reduce your carbon footprint and reduce it. Don’t be stupid. These storms are not normal. Act accordingly.