Mayor Vincent C. Gray has been changing the culture of politics and government at a speed and indisputable level of success his predecessors only dreamed of.
In the 1990s, Sharon Pratt Dixon carried a broom and promised to clean out the Marion Barry-created bureaucracy; instead, she was swept out. Mayor Anthony A. Williams pledged to implement "managed competition," which would have altered the overall government; he never did. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's take-no-prisoner style was having results but he was defeated before he could finish the job.
Gray was supposed to be the "One City" man -- not the cleaner.
But he, his posse of self-serving managers and mercurial friend Sulaimon Brown have instigated near cataclysmic changes in the city. They have prompted alterations to the patronage system, including reductions in the number of mayoral political appointees and a new cap on executive salaries.
Still, some folks have asserted Gray is no fumigator. Rather, he is the District's version of Pandora, wreaking unimaginable havoc. They have cited, as example, recent events involving campaign bundler extraordinaire Jeffrey E. Thompson.
For decades, Thompson served the financial needs of local and national politicos. His was a mostly covert operation -- until he worked on behalf of Gray's 2010 mayoral campaign. Now he is front-page news.
The FBI raided his home and office earlier this month. Thompson reportedly delivered tens of thousands of dollars to Gray's campaign. A substantial amount of those donations were made by money order, prompting questions about whether there was an attempt to skirt campaign finance laws.
That concern has become a contagion.
The feds last week issued subpoenas to several other politicians for whom Thompson once served as a bundler. The aspirations of a few of them may be damaged -- perhaps destroyed -- if it is determined Thompson did, in fact, violate local campaign finance laws.
Havoc, however, is sometimes a beautiful thing.
Think about it: Without problems in Gray's campaign, the D.C. Council probably wouldn't have examined all those do-nothing political appointees. They wouldn't have forced reductions in executive pay. They wouldn't be considering swift passage of campaign finance legislation introduced by Councilmembers Mary Cheh and Tommy Wells; their bill may exceed the proposal being pushed as a November General Election initiative.
If we're lucky, there also could be a shake-up in the minority set aside program. Thompson has been feeding at that trough for decades. Through his Chartered Health Inc., he secured a $322 million annual contract. His accounting and audit firm -- Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates -- has worked for several District agencies. TCBA reportedly is the country's second largest minority accounting firm.
Did anyone see Thompson being introduced during the NAACP Image Award? TCBA does its tabulations.
Why are these companies still receiving special treatment through a sheltered-market program? When do minority firms become mainstream?
If Gray and his gang inspire a cleansing of that program, he would deserve the "Government Savior of the Year Award."
Is there such an honor?
Jonetta Rose Barras's column appears on Monday and Wednesday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.