It was just a rookie mistake -- a scheduling snafu -- but it was a bad one.
We Love D.C.’s Tom Bridge reported Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray was dining at the Press Club’s Fourth Estate restaurant Thursday afternoon, at the same time as the funeral for MPD officer Paul Dittamo, the first D.C. police officer to die in the line of duty since 2007. Gray was instead noshing with Kwame Brown, who will succeed him as Council chairman. Kris Baumann of the Fraternal Order of Police was furious at the perceived slight.
Gray later said he missed the funeral because his staff did not tell him about it. Bridge wrote that this “seems odd,” since “we sure knew it was happening and we’re not mayor-elect of anything.” Gray’s staff took the fall -- that’s what they’re there for -- but as Washington City Paper’s Alan Suderman writes, “This is the third time this week the Gray camp has been caught flat-footed. First, it’s the election party at a club that’s hasn’t paid its city taxes, then there’s the disclosure that transition director Reuben Charles’ has even more financial problems, and now this.” Suderman wonders, “Is making your boss look like a total heartless and incompetent boob a fireable offense?”
No one thinks Gray intentionally skipped the services for Dittamo, who died at age 32 early Saturday morning when his cruiser crashed into an electric pole while he was responding to a call. But the error sure looks bad. The Manassas News & Messenger reports that even Adrian Fenty, who lost the police union endorsement to Gray, was there. DCist writes, “You might think that a politician who gave up nearly a quarter of the votes in a slam-dunk election -- to a candidate who wasn’t even backing the write-in campaign organized on his behalf, no less -- might want to be a little more conservative with his political capital.” DCentric’s Anna John offers this advice: “Don’t give your detractors fuel with which to flame you, if you can help it, especially when you’re trying to eliminate division and lead ‘one city.’”
But the Washington Examiner’s Harry Jaffe says Gray isn’t alone in meriting scorn. “Not one city council member” came out for the funeral, Jaffe writes, and even Fenty “showed up more than an hour late.”
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* The Daily Beast interviewed Gray about his priorities and plans. He wants to hire more cops and expand universal education programs, but first must beat back a huge deficit. Gray says statehood would solve most of the District’s problems. (Yes, well, so would striking oil in Malcolm X Park, but it’s just as likely.) Statehood “would generate revenue,” Gray said. “It would give us the power to have a commuter tax -- we’re the only jurisdiction in America that doesn’t. We have to decide, does the federal presence own the place where it resides, or does it recognize it is somebody else’s place and has to pay its way to be there? The latter clearly does not prevail.”
* City Paper’s Suderman writes that he “has found another former campaign worker for Still Mayor Adrian Fenty’s failed re-election bid who just landed a city job -- despite a hiring freeze.” Pamela Whiting was hired as a $40,000-per-year clerical assistant on October 26. She declined Suderman’s request for a comment.
* Interim Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson sent a message to public school parents, saying that she “worked side-by-side with Michelle Rhee for nearly four years to shape the turnaround of our public schools. With your unwavering support, we’ve all seen reform pivot education in our city - and we’re going to keep going!” Those who might have been expecting a post-Rhee shift will be disappointed: “Continued progress is not an option; it is a necessity for our children’s future,” Henderson wrote.
* University of the District of Columbia President Allen Sessoms expects good things under Mayor Gray, the Washington Post reports. Gray “pays regular visits to the university, holds frequent strategy sessions with Sessoms and made the institution’s success a central theme of his campaign.”
* Results of midterm elections elsewhere continue to have repercussions in the District. Minnesota Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar, who currently chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, lost his seat after nearly 40 years in Tuesday’s Republican wave, meaning that the top Democratic slot on the powerful panel will be open. Streetsblog writes that even though she “doesn’t represent a state” and “isn’t a full-fledged members of Congress,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton could become the committee’s top Democrat -- and be in line to chair the committee if the Democrats take back Congress in the future. City Paper is a bit dubious, saying Norton could be in line for a “powerless House minority committee post.” But it would still be a bit of a coup for a legislator who, as noted, is not a full member of the House.
DCist notes another bit of election news: Mississippi Rep. Travis Childers, a conservative Democrat who “repeatedly spearheaded efforts to gut the District’s gun laws,” lost his seat Tuesday. D.C. voting rights activists campaigned against Childers, even though the Republican who defeated him is even more conservative.
* The Examiner reports there was little change in Virginia’s 11th District as vote-counting continued Thursday. Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly still holds a lead of 935 votes over Republican Keith Fimian. Brian Schoeneman of the conservative blog Common Sense crunches the numbers.
* The Post reports that former Arlington County Democratic Committee chairman Peter Rousselot announced his candidacy for chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party Thursday.
* In Maryland, the Post reports Sen. Ben Cardin has asked the U.S. Justice Department “to investigate anonymous robocalls placed to Maryland voters urging them to stay home on Election Day even though polls were still open.”
* The Georgetown Voice has a post-election piece on the Statehood Greens, “the District’s forgotten second party.”
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC