So, are we One City yet?
Vincent Condol Gray became either one of the six best or six worst elected mayors of the District of Columbia, depending on one’s perspective, and Kwame Rashaan Brown succeeded Gray as D.C. Council chairman, in a long day of events Sunday. The morning “One City, Praying Together” interfaith prayer service was followed by the “One City, Moving Forward Together” inaugural ceremonies, and later, the “One City, Celebrating Together” inaugural gala. This morning, it’s “One City, Recovering from Hangovers Together” for many, no doubt.
The Washington Examiner says Gray took office “pledging to overcome the city’s ongoing budget crisis and high unemployment by uniting residents who are deeply divided along economic and racial lines.” The new mayor said, “Today, we begin a new chapter in the history of our city, one defined by a sense of common purpose, shared sacrifice and communities united. A chapter written not by a single author, but with the pens of 600,000 residents from all eight wards and all walks of life, committed to a vision of one city, our city.”
The Washington Post says “in a city rived with economic, racial and class divisions, Gray’s campaign emphasized a message of unity. He acknowledged such divides in his inaugural address but said, ‘There is far more that brings us together than there is that drives us apart.” But as the Examiner writes, “Gray takes over at a much different point in city history than outgoing Mayor Adrian Fenty. Where Fenty entered office at a time of economic prosperity, Gray enters amid the worst economic decline since the Great Depression.”
In an editorial, the Post says Gray’s speech “was more personal than policy-oriented. It was as if Mr. Gray wanted his powerful life narrative -- the journey from a childhood in a one-bedroom Northeast apartment, raised by parents who never attended high school, to the District’s highest office -- to serve as a metaphor for overcoming hardships. Only glancing mention was made of the difficulties the city confronts in its still-troubled schools and in neighborhoods where residents struggle with joblessness and are victimized by crime.”
The Examiner reports that “just minutes after becoming mayor,” Gray said he is “open to raising taxes.” Gray “was asked during a news conference following the inauguration if raising taxes is ‘on the table’ to help fix a $480 million budget gap expected for the next fiscal year. Gray’s response: ‘It’s pretty close to the table.’ He then added, ‘We have to consider all options.’” Last month, Gray argued against tax hikes.
On Saturday, the Post wrote that “as he has put together his team and shown signs of how he will govern,” Gray “has revealed himself to be a lot like Fenty -- but with a smile and genial disposition.” But there was one immediate change. The Post reports that two hours into his term, Gray “reopened the doors to the city’s traditional suite of mayoral offices, which had been gathering dust for four years” under Fenty. Fenty chose to create “a large, open space modeled on the ‘bullpen’ concept used by one of his political mentors,” New York’s Michael Bloomberg. But by returning to the suite, Gray “signaled an immediate stylistic departure from Fenty, suggesting he will be a more traditional, formal mayor.”
Brown, the Post reports, “pledged to have an ongoing dialogue with District residents to balance the budget, continue education reform, and create more jobs.” Georgetown Patch notes that Brown is the “youngest chairman in the council’s history.” The Washington Times says Gray and Brown “set a new tone for camaraderie that they said had been lacking in City Hall.”
The Post reports White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs David Agnew delivered a short message from President Obama, who “said he looked forward to ‘improve education, create jobs and support economic development across the District of Columbia.’ The message made no mention of the city’s longstanding struggle for congressional voting rights.” No surprise there.
Advice to Gray -- and criticism -- are pouring in from all around. Just eight hours after Gray took the oath, Jonetta Rose Barras’s column went up on the Examiner website under the headline “The Gray Administration Slow Getting Out of the Gate.” Barras says “there have been serious questions about Gray’s commitment to an open, inclusive government and his molasseslike approach to building his administration.” While he “has chosen several managers, but it appears he hasn’t formally named directors for key city agencies,” and he “has yet to specifically tell citizens where he wants to lead them. Unlike his predecessors, who released plans for their first 100 days, he has not published or distributed such a report.”
Post columnist Colbert King says Gray should focus on “the one serious problem that no District mayor has openly confronted: the nuking of our city’s nuclear families.” Also in the Post, Marc Fisher urges Gray to continue the work of Marion Barry “to empower the nation’s foremost majority-black city with generous social services, a new attitude toward development that would lift all boats, safer streets and a school system that would finally give Washington’s poorest children a shot at entering the middle class.” And the Post also published a list of advice for Gray from D.C. community leaders, though it lacked a catchy headline like the “Yo, Adrian!” advice to Fenty of four years ago.
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* In an editorial, the Baltimore Sun says Gov. Martin O’Malley “says he plans to submit a budget to close that gap without proposing tax increases, and that is bound to be an ugly thing, indeed. What’s likely to make the experience particularly painful is that it’s coming after a period of lean times to begin with.” But the Sun says the legislature “appears willing to start grappling with that problem in a serious way, thanks in no small part to Republicans in the House and Senate who have been offering increasingly specific ideas about how to realign state spending.”
* The Examiner reports that the Prince George’s County Government Accountability, Compliance, and Integrity task force “will meet soon, to examine ways to root out corruption from within the county government.” Good luck with that.
* The Frederick News-Post reports newly elected Maryland legislator Kelly Schulz plans to press “a litany of anti-immigration ideas” in Annapolis.
* The Post reports newly elected Maryland Republican Party chairman Alex Mooney “did not rule out a future run for Congress in a wide-ranging interview but brushed off his critics in jovial fashion.” Mooney said, “As long as you do a good job in the job you’re doing, it’s a good thing. I don’t know what the future holds for me.”
* The Examiner reports Virginia Del. Jim LeMunyon “filed legislation that would require any future fare increases on the Dulles Toll Road to be approved by the Fairfax and Loudoun county supervisors.” The toll at the main plaza jumped 25 percent to $1.25 on New Year’s Day. But some caution that LeMunyon’s bill “could threaten the multibillion-dollar extension of Metro service” to Dulles Airport.
* The Culpeper Star-Exponent reports the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors will elect a new chairman Tuesday.
* DCist reports that “following Giant’s bah humbug decision to severely limit the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle bell ringers time outside of their grocery stores, the charity has seen a significant drop in donations this holiday season” -- a decline of 59.5 percent.
* Urban revitalization expert Richard Layman has a bunch of New Year’s posts on ideas for the region on his blog.
* The Post’s “Dr. Gridlock,” Robert Thomson, defends his critique of the “climate of fear” on Metro and other transit systems.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC