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Native Intelligence
Bonds' star appears to be rising
(Published August 9, 2004)

By DIANA WINTHROP

It was once known as the Office of Public Advocate, but it has also been called the Office of Community Outreach. Until the end of July, the mayor's new chief of staff, Alfreda Davis, was the office's director.

The office is staffed by people who serve at the pleasure of the mayor -- which means it has been a revolving door of employment for individuals who have been rewarded (for a short time) with a job in the mayor's administration. It is almost impossible to keep track of the laundry list of people who have held those plum jobs. They seem to leave as soon as they find their way to the restrooms. Reportedly, the mayor's new chief of staff is tapping a well-liked and respected native Washingtonian to become the new director of the Office of Community Affairs, known for tackling those pesky "quality of life" issues for D.C. residents.

For uninitiated new residents, Anita Bonds is a longtime, highly respected community and political activist who has served in a variety of city positions, dating back to the administration of former mayor Marion Barry. She is currently at the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service at Georgetown University as director of the university's after-school project.

Bonds confirmed she has submitted her papers and said "it is a real honor to serve the city I love once again."

The appointment of Bonds would be one of the mayor's more intelligent decisions in years, according to some Democratic Party insiders who complain that the mayor has never had an experienced political operative to help sell his programs.Bonds, who coincidentally is chairman of the Ward 5 Democratic Party organization, is one of those people who knows everybody -- including practically every minister in town. Her recent focus on at-risk children and her service on a number of community boards make her an ideal appointment, said one source. Besides he said, "In sharp contrast to the mayor, she really loves people and everyone loves her."

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Sometimes trying to make a point can get elected officials into trouble with their constituents. Just ask Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's delegate to Congress, who has angered some of the residents of the Northeast neighborhood where 15-year-old Myesha Lowe was murdered a few weeks ago. Norton, who has spoken at the funerals of several of the children murdered in the District, created a firestorm when she said: "I have to tell you I'm not afraid of the terrorists, but I am afraid to go into the neighborhood where Myesha was shot." Subscribers to the fairly new neighborhood Internet discussion group were aghast that Norton had disparaged their neighborhood. Many of the new residents who in the past few years have paid a premium price for townhouses and renovated them have a bumpy relationship with longtime residents, some of whom have lived in the neighborhood for generations. The discussion about Norton's comments said little about the remaining children in the neighborhood focusing instead more on concerns regarding property values and how they could be hurt. Norton, who lives on the other side of Capitol Hill, said she was trying "to indicate overreaction to terrorism and not enough, sufficient reaction to the murder of children in our community." One irate resident suggested Norton should walk the surrounding streets before "she makes blanket statements about the neighborhood."

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Emily Vetter, who was hired as executive director of the D.C. Democratic State Committee in early May, barely lasted two months before she quit -- before the Democratic National Convention in Boston at the end of July. Vetter, formerly president of the hotel association and owner of her own affordable housing firm, was reportedly overwhelmed and unhappy that she didn't have staff to help her raise money -- a large duty that went with her job. While Vetter was considered a political neophyte by many of the state committee members, she did receive high marks for assuring that the D.C. delegation had good hotel rooms in Boston.

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Poor A. Scott Bolden! He has been chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee for a year and a half and already people are looking for someone else to run the party organization. Bolden, who will be the first to tell you he has raised more money than any previous party chairman, has paid staff and, according to Bolden, more respect and support from the business community. What Bolden won't tell you is that he may not have the temperament for the politically sensitive job -- at least that is what his critics complain is his major drawback.Some state committee members are less than enthusiastic about what they say is Bolden's obsession with money, to the detriment of Democratic Party issues. Bolden hasn't won any accolades from the Hispanic community, either. The state committee still lacks any Hispanic representative, even though it is the fastest-growing ethnic population in the city. According to some members of the executive committee, Bolden also angered some of them more than once this year by hiring staff without approval. Some folks are speculating that Bolden, who is running for an at-large state committee seat in the Sept. 14 primary, might not win re-election, even though he is expected to have money to target unfamiliar voters. If he loses, he will be unable to continue as party chairman.

Some people are already looking for candidates to run for the job. One name frequently mentioned? Anita Bonds.

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Diana Winthrop is a native Washingtonian. Contact her at diana@thecommondenominator.com.

Copyright 2004, The Common Denominator