another angle on the tommy wells demotion

A quick thought about the whole, ill-advised shakeup within the DC Council that found Tommy Wells suddenly on the outs with Chairman Kwame Brown:

Wells, in his role as Chair of the Transportation Committee on the Council, worked hard to improve transit infrastructure throughout DC. In particular, he worked had via his (now former) position on the board of WMATA to expand Metro commuter services to Wards 7 and 8 on the east side of the Anacostia River.

In other words: he was working to improve the overall livability of these Wards, which often complain of being Balkanized and held in lower esteem by the rest of the city and city government.

And this, to a politician from one of said Wards, is electoral kryptonite.

Why?

Because the politicians who are successful in these Wards – from CMs Alexander (Ward 7) and Barry (Ward 8), to Chairman Brown and, to an extent, Mayor Gray – rose to success by leveraging their Wards’ second-class status. Their continued electoral success hinges on the status quo remaining just that.

And what does Wells do? He looks to change the playing field by improving Metro and DDOT services in these Wards. And while this is a popular move amongst many in said Wards (and likely amongst a majority in the Wards west of the Anacostia River, where improved transit and transportation infrastructure has made these areas desirable places to live and work), it’s seen as an affront to the old-guard political machines of Wards 7 and 8, as well as the old-guard relics who dominate the DC Democratic State Committee.

So, aside from the fact that Wells blew open the SUV buying scandal with Chairman Brown (which eventually steamrolled into a full-tilt federal investigation into campaign finance irregularities with Brown’s recent elections for At-Large Council and Council Chairman), he also was working to destroy the political backbone that brought Kwame Brown, Yvette Alexander, Marion Barry and other Ward 7 and 8 politicians into power.

So what does a threatened animal do? In this case, Brown fought back, but in a way that is the embodiment of petulant playground politics. In the role of school bully, he took Wells’ “toys” (i.e. the Transportation committee and WMATA board position) when Wells threatened to undermine part of the bully’s turf.

Frankly, I hope that this serves as a wake-up call to a new political guard in Wards 7 and 8: a group of open-minded, progressive leaders who truly embrace bringing the east side of the Anacostia out of its Balkanized past and present, instead looking toward a future where there one city isn’t just a political catchphrase, but a comfortable and accepted reality.

(In particular, I’m looking at you, Veronica, to lead in Ward 7!)

I tip my hat to Tommy Wells for keeping his commentary almost exclusively constructive and positive. Having just heard him on Kojo’s show, he was the epitome of class, accepting his new committee chairmanship (of the Libraries, Parks and Recreation, as well as Planning), and reaffirming his “loyalty… to the residents of the District.”

We haven’t heard the last of this – not by a longshot.