On Thursday, September 27, The Washington Post hosted a public forum on the state of leadership in DC, on the heels of recent corruptions in City Council and a federal investigation surrounding Mayor Gray’s election campaign.
“Connecting the Dots in the District” was the latest in a series of “Behind the Headlines” programs sponsored by The Post. Panelists for the evening included Barbara Lang, president and CEO of the DC Chamber of Commerce; Kojo Nnamdi, host of The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU radio; Carol Schwartz, a former DC Councilmember; and Clinton Yates, Express editor and opinion writer for The Root DC.
Washington Post columnist Bob McCartney started off the discussion by asking the panelists for their thoughts on leadership and accountability.
Lang spoke about her thoughts on qualities of leadership. She highlighted the importance of integrity and being able to deliver results. Lang also emphasized how we, as the electing public, need to hold our city’s leaders responsible for what they promise.
Nnamdi received applause after calling for a “policy ombudsman,” and stressed that perception is everything in leadership, drawing an analogy to the recent NFL replacement referee controversy.
Schwartz recalled how during her terms on the Council there was an attitude that you need to “go along to get along” and not rock the boat if you want to survive. Schwartz also recounted how she was often the only councilmember who would meticulously report all the gifts she received while in office, and called for a change to this norm. By far the youngest on the panel, Yates spoke on DC’s current “culture of silence” and “old boy” network in District politics.
As McCartney turned the conversation to how we break the old political culture, Nnamdi noted that the one-party system allows someone to win without seriously being challenged in terms of intellect and integrity, and went on to suggest an open primary. It was at this point that some drama erupted in the auditorium. An attendee, who later identified himself as Robert Brannum, shouted “No, No, No” after Nnamdi’s comments on open primaries. Brannum also fired out comments as Yates decried the political culture in DC.
At the end of the panel discussion, attendee questions were read by McCartney. Many questions were submitted on the topic of The Washington Post‘s reporting of malfeasance in DC government. Some suggested The Post was not doing enough given their resources (one question cited how often The City Paper often uncovers scandals despite their small budget). Others were outraged that The Washington Post constantly targets the same officials and regurgitates the same stories for weeks.
More information on the “Behind the Headlines” series is available on The Post‘s website.