Entering a Gray Area

Three months of mayoral transition ahead

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    Vincent Gray

    A soft fall red appeared around Washington this weekend, a sign that the days are getting shorter and autumn is upon us.
    Wait – those weren’t leaves. They were Carlos Allen signs.

    The lord of the “HushGalleria Mansion” and founder of an “internationally recognized humanitarian website” failed to get on the Democratic primary ballot for mayor, but he is pressing on as an independent, and somehow had enough resources to plaster his baseball capped visage all over D.C. this weekend.

    The signs for the alleged “third crasher” at the November 2009 White House state dinner made famous by the public debut of Tareq and Michaele Salahi call him the “first Afro-Latino in history” -- to run for D.C. mayor, I assume.

    They also state “More Jobs = Less Crime” -- not saying Allen would actually bring the city either, mind you, just making the equation.

    Allen’s presence, and that of bugle-blowin’ repeat candidate Faith, do remind us that Vincent Gray isn’t mayor yet. In fact, he’s not even mayor-elect yet. So what exactly should we call Gray until November 2? The Washington Post’s Jay Mathews and others settle for “presumptive mayor.” Of course, Adrian Fenty was the presumptive winner of a second term for a long time, and look how that turned out.

    Fenty got a nice morale boost with his write-in win in the D.C. Republican primary, but as expected, he turned down the nomination. (DCist reported that the Board of Elections and Ethics, in a revised opinion, determined Friday that Fenty could not have accepted the GOP nod even if he wanted to.) A Facebook page urging Fenty to run a write-in campaign has 1,250 “likes” so far -- that’s more support than three Democratic mayoral candidates got last week -- but Fenty seems to have made up his mind.

    So, whatever you want to call him for now, Mayor Gray seems to be a sure thing, and the world beyond the Beltway is taking notice.

    The New York Times uses Gray’s least-favorite word -- “deliberative” -- in a profile of the next mayor that contrasts Fenty, “the city’s youngest elected mayor” and one “often viewed as a get-things-done autocrat,” with Gray, “who will be the city’s oldest elected mayor” and who is seen “as an easy-does-it diplomat, always cordial and soft-spoken.”

    The Times calls Gray “patient,” “plodding,” “nonconfrontational.” But how will he act tomorrow, when he returns to one big chair in the D.C. Council chambers as he plans his move to another? The Washington Post says “many expect three months of unease” at the Wilson Building. Fenty and Gray, “who haven’t had a face-to-face meeting for nearly a year,” still need to patch up a massive budget deficit and take on other tough matters.

    Gray also has a lot of critics to win over. WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi wrote in the Post this weekend that “Gray’s election is a bold step backward.” Kojo said “the thrill of his not being Fenty will soon wear off,” and after a campaign that poked at the city’s racial wounds, “black and white residents will demand to know, without explicitly saying so, whose side he’s on.”

    Kojo’s erstwhile co-host Jonetta Rose Barras, in her Washington Examiner column, said we’ll start seeing what Gray is made of when the Council reconvenes tomorrow. “Cotton-candy words, camouflaged reality and misrepresented facts maybe the stuff of campaigns, but they do not comprise a praiseworthy chief executive,” she warns. “It’s truth-telling time.”

    A good place to start would be with some straight talk about the schools. It’s all but certain that Michelle Rhee is out -- an earthquake that is having national repercussions -- and, as the Examiner reported, a large chunk of promised teachers’ bonus funding could be withdrawn by its foundation backers if she goes. That would mean D.C. schools would start the post-Rhee era with an even bigger disadvantage than previously thought.

    The Post’s Fred Hiatt says that while “the biggest opponents of school reform won” last Tuesday, Gray could make good on his desire to continue reform, “only with more inclusiveness.” But Gray “will have to think twice, and twice again, before taking on the unions that gave him important campaign support.”

    In the Examiner, Michelle Bernard of the Independent Women’s Forum is more direct: “Some of these reforms took years to implement,” Bernard writes. “They will take but minutes to undo should Rhee leave.” The Georgetown Dish suggests Gray and Rhee appear together at Hyde-Addison Elementary to discuss the transition. It’s a good idea, and it would be a good place for Gray to speak up about the city’s most pressing concern.

    Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC