May 18, 2022 - Politics

Town Talker: Paul Wiedefeld leaves Metro with broken trust

Paul Wiedefeld looks solemn
Photo: Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Paul Wiedefeld era has ended in a sputter, without any of the optimism once inspired by initiatives such as Back2Good and the Rush Hour Promise.

Flashback: Back in 2016, after less than a year on the job, Wiedefeld’s face was emblazoned on a T-shirt that read, “IN PAUL WE TRUST.” Instead of earning the long-standing ire of Washingtonians for his unprecedented shutdown of Metro, the Red Line-riding Baltimore native was being celebrated for placing safety above all else.

  • Our region’s trust — and patience — just ran out.

Same as it ever was: New safety scandals are again engulfing a Metro general manager. This time, it remains unknown how much Wiedefeld knew about train operators' expired certifications. And there are still unanswered questions about the 7000 series trains — pulled from service in October for wheel issues that Metro knew about since 2017.

🗣️ What they’re saying: There’s been a mix of fury and tongue-biting among the region’s leaders. Some are reserving their most harsh words.

  • “No one wants to kick a man when he’s down,” one Montgomery County official put it to me.
  • Others still point the finger at WMATA management, even if they concede Wiedefeld was a hard worker who never stopped trying — during a pandemic, no less.

“It’s a colossal management failure,” D.C. Council member Charles Allen tells me about the train driver certification fiasco. "I don’t feel like I still have a full understanding of what the general manager knew in the lead-up” to the 7000 series being sidelined," he adds.

Endorsement loading…

🍦 Watch this space: This morning, the basically lame-duck Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie will endorse a candidate in the Democratic primary.

Frenemies…

🎙 What I’m hearing: Council chair Phil Mendelson and Mayor Muriel Bowser have strained ties. Six years ago, Bowser cursed at Mendelson in a Wilson Building hallway, a bust-up the D.C. Council Twitter account commemorated yesterday. But Mendo is still voting for Herroner’s re-election bid.

Mail-in ballots are going out to District voters as we speak. Over a coffee this week, I asked Mendelson who he planned to vote for mayor.

  • Mendelson snubs two of his colleagues running for mayor, Robert White and Trayon White, who are further to his left. (Mendelson himself is being challenged from the left by Ward 4 neighborhood commissioner Erin Palmer.)

🤝 “If you look closely, her values are consistent with my values,” Mendelson says about the mayor; i.e. they are both moderate Dems. (His words: “being progressive but being reasonable about it.”)

💬 Remember, don't let Wilson Building officials gaslight you! Reporter Martin Austermuhle recalls a Bowser aide tried to cover-up the mayor's invective.

Town Talker is a weekly column on local politics. Send tips: [email protected]

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