These should be glory days for Mayor Vincent Gray. By many measures, he’s doing well and the city’s doing very well, too.
A news story last weekend noted that the District may have fewer than 100 homicides this year for the first time since the 1960s.
There’s so much construction now in the District that the mayor and other city officials gleefully count the dozens of cranes dotting the skyline and preside over many groundbreakings.
The city’s unemployment rate is continuing to tick down every month, not up.
Such a discouraging word. The “but” hangs out there like an unwanted guest. It’s like an asterisk on a home run record, or a jagged tear in a good suit.
This past weekend, The Washington Post editorial page broke some news. It reported — and News4 confirmed on Monday — that Mayor Gray has rebuffed several requests for a meeting with prosecutors who are investigating his 2010 mayoral campaign.
The mayor has declined to meet with prosecutors? Hasn’t he said he wanted the investigation to be thorough, and over as quickly as possible? It was his campaign. Wouldn’t he want to tell the prosecutors what he knew? Apparently not. On advice of his attorney Robert Bennett, the mayor isn’t talking or meeting.
On Monday, our News4 camera caught up with the mayor.
“You have declined to be interviewed by the prosecutors,” we said. “Can you comment on that?”
“Well, I’ve indicated, Tom, all along, especially in the recent past, that it’s really inappropriate for me to comment on a pending investigation,” the mayor replied.
Well, then, we asked, would the mayor just reaffirm that he is willing to cooperate, and is cooperating with the probe?
“Can you say that you are cooperating in any way that you can?” we asked.
“I think I just won’t comment at this stage on a pending investigation,” the mayor replied. “The investigation is ongoing and we’ll — we’ll see it through.”
That’s definitely not the robust effort at getting to the truth that many people expect of the mayor.
This is the mayor who initially called for an investigation into allegations his campaign had paid off Sulaimon Brown to heckle then-Mayor Adrian Fenty at campaign appearances. Gray said he would cooperate with any authorities looking into it.
This is the mayor who mostly has declined to discuss the widening investigation into the $650,000 “shadow campaign” that helped elect him. But he always said he was cooperating, that he wanted prosecutors to investigate thoroughly and that he would await their findings.
In the summer, his old friend Jeanne Clark Harris pleaded guilty to a felony for orchestrating the shadow campaign that backed the mayor. Gray expressed sadness for Harris. When reporters asked him last summer about Clark’s guilty plea, the mayor said, “I was the one who called for an investigation of my own campaign. And we will continue to work with this investigation.”
But now in this holiday season, we’re learning that the mayor is rebuffing any meeting with prosecutors. The next time the mayor comments that it’s an ongoing investigation, we’ll know one of the reasons why it’s ongoing: He ain’t talking.
The Post editorial concluded that “there’s no reason Mr. Gray has to wait for [U.S. Attorney Ronald] Machen to complete his work before telling the citizens of Washington what they deserve to know.”
But if the mayor’s not talking to the prosecutors, it’s likely the citizens will have to wait awhile, too.
■ A final word. Lawrence Guyot died last week after a battle with diabetes and other ailments. He was 73.
Guyot was a civil rights activist in Mississippi when being one could get you killed or badly beaten.
Guyot’s imposing size and his rapid-fire way of speaking left no doubt where he stood on any issue of the day. He brought that drumbeat-for-justice persona to local Washington. He fought for neighborhoods, the poor and the disenfranchised with equal gusto.
As a reporter, you could be sure to get a lively quote from him. If he didn’t like what you wrote, you’d get a lively comment about that, too.
He was a character and a warrior, and his passion would be worth bottling for current-day struggles.
In his statement on Guyot’s death, Mayor Gray said Guyot had “paved the way” for many other activists. He sure did.