You thought the Vincent Gray era wasn’t going to start until he won the general election next week.
But it has started already.
First, Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee stepped aside after months of speculation about whether she and Gray could work together or whether either of them wanted to do so.
Then last week, Fire Chief Dennis Rubin announced his resignation as of Jan. 2 -- the day Gray officially becomes mayor. “My current plan is to provide consultant services until I find a full-time position that is a good fit for me,” Rubin said in an e-mail to associates. “What a great opportunity that Mayor Fenty has provided and I will leave this great city without a regret.”
Meanwhile, Police Chief Cathy Lanier told the WAMU “Politics Hour” that “I love my job” and is hoping to stay on as chief under Gray. Insiders say that’s a good possibility. While Gray steadfastly refused to discuss Rhee’s future during the campaign, he easily and quickly had nice things to say about Lanier.
The Washington City Paper is first out of the box to question Gray’s relationship with campaign fundraiser Reuben O. Charles III. While the Gray folks have trumpeted Charles’ ability to raise big bucks for the campaign, many see it as odd that Charles has known Gray only since May and has an unusual business past.
Charles is being rumored to be Gray’s pick as chief of staff in the new administration.
The Notebook last week asked the campaign for an interview with Charles, but we were told no.
• Collecting cash.
Another slippery slope for the presumptive mayor comes from his plans for transition expenses. Although the D.C. Council was ready to approve the use of public employees and facilities funds for the transitions of both Gray and presumptive chairman Kwame Brown, Gray turned it down.
Gray said he’d raise private funds and disclose the donors.
While that sounds transparent and open -- words Gray used often during the campaign -- it still allows for money to change hands without full public disclosure. It’s a scandal invitation from the start. We’ll see how it plays out.
• After Nov. 2.
Gray’s election is considered by most a foregone conclusion, although the pesky write-in campaign for Adrian Fenty could collect a lot more votes than many expect -- and certainly more than Gray hopes.
But watch for Gray to be ready right after Nov. 2 with his transition team. It will be announced quickly to show that Gray is not wasting time as he prepares to take office.
• Ward 3 surprise?
The Washington Post editorial page surprised many folks by declining to endorse Democrat Mary Cheh’s bid for re-election in Ward 3. The Post endorsed her Republican opponent, Dave Hedgepeth, a little-known politician making his first bid for the council.
The Post editors especially whacked Cheh for not being more supportive of Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. “Ms. Cheh was nowhere to be found, instead joining the choirs of criticism and micromanagement over teacher layoffs and the transfer of a middle school principal,” The Post opined. “Her graceless criticism of Ms. Rhee when the chancellor tendered her resignation was emblematic.”
During his little-noticed primary campaign for the Republican nomination, Hedgepeth captured some attention when he endorsed Democrat Fenty for mayor while Cheh was supporting Gray. Given that Ward 3 voted 80 percent for Fenty, it will be interesting to see how many of those voters decide to punish Cheh. It’s far from certain that will happen: Cheh has her own strong base of supporters in the ward regardless of the mayoral flap.
• More security?
The tragic shooting of a Department of Public Works employee on the job Oct. 13 has many people calling for more security at the city’s many work yards around town.
But there’s a cautionary note from Police Chief Cathy Lanier. She says good lighting, video cameras, secure fences and other details can help secure work sites. But she says it’s impractical to shut them all off from the public and placed under heavy guard.
On the WAMU “Politics Hour” Friday, Lanier said, "If you have somebody who is intent on committing a violent crime like that, and they are intent on carrying it out in a certain, particular place, it would be extremely difficult to make it completely inaccessible. I just don't think there is any foolproof plan you could put in place there."
Ward 1 D.C. Council member Jim Graham -- chair of the public works committee -- held a hearing on the shooting Friday, but he declined to call his inquiry an investigation.