December 28, 2002

WHENEVER I SAY BAD THINGS ABOUT THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, and especially its police department, I get angry email accusing me of “D.C.-bashing,” and saying that my impressions are out of date. Only I keep reading things like this:

The nexus between corruption and the vast areas of moral wasteland within the D.C. government is a topic that should come up next week when Mayor Anthony Williams delivers his second inaugural address.

It won’t. . . .

The speech will have everything but a candid assessment of the District’s dirty open secret: Despite Marion Barry’s four-year official absence, a culture of corruption is still present in the city.

Calendar year 2002 saw a steady stream of high-profile scandals, including improper fundraising activities in the mayor’s office, the Democratic primary petition fraud, the bankruptcy of Greater Southeast Community Hospital due to financial shenanigans by its owners, and now the unfolding story of the alleged embezzlement of millions of dollars in Washington Teachers’ Union funds. A constant throughout all of these improprieties is, of course, Anthony Williams’s association with most of the scandals’ major actors.

All this within one year. Why? . . .

Because a pervasive climate of impunity prevails in the city. It thrives in a culture where explicit, measurable job performance standards don’t exist, where favoritism and nepotism carry the day, and where sanctions and firings are reserved for people without connections. And when the person at the top of the government wins elections but, through years of actions and inaction, compromises and squanders his moral authority, what should you expect from the people at the bottom?

So is Colbert King out of touch with the District, too? And what about this?

UPDATE: Nikita Demosthenes has some observations.