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Amid scandal, don't lose sight of Gray's policy achievements

The charges filed yesterday against Vincent Gray's former assistant campaign treasurer will surely reinforce the image in many voters' minds of a scandal-plagued mayor who has accomplished nothing for the District. The scandals may be real, but his administration has also racked up some important achievements across the government.


Photo by DDOTDC on Flickr.

Instead of halting progress or even reversing course on bicycle infrastructure, streetcars, and education reform, the Gray administration is strengthening DC's commitment to these innovations. It has set clear priorities for traffic safety, performance parking, and sustainability, helped unem­ployed residents get jobs, and restored the rainy-day fund instead of spending it down.

None of this justifies any of the alleged illegal acts that happened in the campaign, but neither is this unimportant.

Ultimately, Gray's mayoralty will leave a lasting effect on the budget and city services, and residents, whether they voted for and endorsed Adrian Fenty (as I did) or Gray, should care a great deal about what the capable people in the administration, unconnected to the campaign or any campaign finance, are doing.

We've also yet to find out whether the mayor himself was part of any illegal activity or knew about it. Based on what we know thus far, it appears that Gray made some very poor choices about whom to trust early on. Since then, he's replaced most of these poor hires with better staff, who are better at sharing the administration's positive accomplishments, such as:

One City One Hire

The administration's program to help unemployed residents find jobs has now suc­cee­ded in getting employers to hire 3,000 unemployed District residents in the past year.

There are numerous obstacles to getting people into jobs, but employers' lack of trust in DC's jobless has been among the most intractable. One City One Hire officials work to restore this trust by personally vetting resumes of unemployed DC residents and asking employers to consider a couple of handpicked resumes for each opening.

Some feel that this is what the Department of Employment Services (DOES) was supposed to be doing all along. This is technically true. It's also true that DC Public Schools are supposed to be properly educating our children. We shouldn't withhold credit where credit is due when DCPS or DOES fulfills its mission.

Sector-specific economic development

Under previous administrations, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development was concerned almost exclusively with real estate deals. Although targeted real estate deals are important, only Mayor Gray has really invested in developing other sectors that are strategically important to the city.

The Mayor's broader focus has produced new positions critical to the city's economy, even if the officers filling those positions often operate behind the scenes. For example, newly hired DMPED officials regularly meet with leaders of the technology, government contractor, and health care communities to align identify ways DC can support these strategically important sectors.

A newly reconstituted Workforce Investment Council, whose executive director Alison Gerber was recruited from the Aspen Institute, has made it clear that workforce development dollars must be targeted to high demand sectors. As a result, for the first time, workforce development in DC is no longer scattershot, with the Gray Administration targeting key sectors.

DOES has cut off funding to several training providers whose training wasn't aligned with these sectors. A new Workforce Intermediary will ensure that the needs of hospitality and construction employers are addressed by training providers.

Continued capital investments without raiding city's reserves

DC residents were aware of the many capital improvements made under former Mayor Fenty, but fewer were aware that Fenty drew down the "rainy day" fund of $700 million to pay for some of these improvements.

Mayor Gray has continued the pace of capital improvements, with renovations of Takoma Education Campus and Woodson, Cardozo and Anacostia High Schools. While maintaining the pace of the previous Administration, Mayor Gray has managed to replenish our reserve fund, bringing it up to $1.1 billion.

Sustainability plan

If you haven't seen the objectives Mayor Gray set for 2032 in his Sustainable DC plan, then you should take a look. These objectives should provide the basis for numerous DC government initiatives over the next two decades covering issues as diverse as our food supply and obesity, along with transportation, tree canopy, and waste.

For some these strategic plans and objectives may seem mere feel-good talk, but these objectives matter. Historically, DC government has looked to such comprehensive plans and small area plans in designing legislation and framing countless policy debates in subsequent years.

Cameras and parking

Study after study proves that traffic cameras save lives. Mayor Gray significantly expanded traffic cameras in this year's budget, a politically courageous move that will continue DC's trend of lower and lower traffic fatalities.

While the DC Council created visionary pilots in performance parking, the previous administration never made it much of a priority to adjust meter rates to manage curbside space effectively. The Gray administration has expanded performance parking and made it clear this is a priority.

Continued momentum in education reform, streetcars and bike lanes

Some predicted that education reform, the streetcar and bike lanes would stop under Mayor Gray. Let's be clear: that hasn't happened. Mayor Gray has increased the investment in streetcars, pledging $100 million in capital funds starting last year.

The pace of bike lane construction slowed a bit at first, but DDOT is now putting in bike lanes on many streets throughout the city, and is on track to build the L Street track this summer and M street soon after. He even vociferously defended Capital Bikeshare over Twitter to skeptical New York reporters.

Finally, Mayor Gray has continued the process of education reform, despite the fears of many DC residents. Teachers are still being evaluated and sometimes fired based on performance, not on seniority.

The Gray administration's education reforms have included important initiatives which haven't received the same attention and publicity accorded the teacher firings. The administration has already made strides toward improving our special education system and opened multiple Early Stages centers aimed at early identification of kids with special needs. These investments have reduced by 20% the number of children bused, at DC's expense, to non-public special education, saving significant money.

I'm not nominating Mayor Gray for sainthood, but residents need to reexamine the fairly widespread belief that the administration is not getting anything done. While Adrian Fenty was very good at getting press attention for his actions, this administration is acting more quietly.

We should condemn any illegal behavior from the campaign, but we must also give the mayor and his staff credit for the ways the administration is making DC greater for the long term.

Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son. Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. 

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Amazing spin job here. The Gray campaign broke the law, and the Gray administration has slowed down progress on a whole bunch of fronts. But progress hasn't stopped entirely, and so you're playing up the limited progress that has been made.

by Rob on May 22, 2012 11:18 am • linkreport

Really? In my neck of the woods (Hill East), everything moving forward under Fenty got slowed down or even stopped. Reservation 13 development, never fast tracked in the first place, ground to a complete halt until the Mayor's half-baked scheme to attempt to lure the Redskins inadvertently lurched it forward a foot or two. The plan to change 17th/19th to two way from one way as a traffic calming measure has apparently been lost and know needs to be reviewed. Education reform has continued, but I haven't exactly seen the mayor's office leading the charge in that. Parents, principals, teachers, and community participants have all been very visible and active though.

Mayor Gray: "He didn't really break anything when he took over"

by Tim Krepp on May 22, 2012 11:21 am • linkreport

Mayor Gray: "He didn't really break anything when he took over"

Honestly, it is a point in his favor. Had he not run against Fenty, someone else possibly more destructive would have. He was definitely the least incompetent of the anti-Fenty faction.

by JustMe on May 22, 2012 11:27 am • linkreport

Come on, the 2032 plan is totally bogus. It's a compilation of ideas with no real means to implement them.

Also, as I've commented on here before, I take issue with over-the-top praise for One City One Hire. I agree with its mission, but no one has answered my big question: has hiring of DC residents increased overall?? OCOH is taking credit for 3,000 new hires, but is that above pace for hiring without OCOH?

And I have to agree with Rob: nice spin job.

by MJ on May 22, 2012 11:31 am • linkreport

Teachers are still being evaluated and sometimes fired based on performance, not on seniority.

Yes this is an improvement over NOT being evaluated and NEVER fired at all.

And it's nice that he's "pledged" a hundred mil for streetcars. Get back to me when he actually spends it. Whoops! Whaddaya know? That money's gone. At least most of it anyway. Turns out it went to urban Streetcar Solutions, LLC, located in a culvert off Euclid Avenue. The owners have not been located, but an adminstration spokeszombie is quoted as saying they're "spending more money than ever tracking down contractors who vanish without a trace and leave taxpayers holding a bill for the month's rent."

Flush twice.

by monkeyrotica on May 22, 2012 11:32 am • linkreport

@JustMe A fair point. Not breaking anything is not to be undervalued.

What if's are always tough, but I don't think a more destructive candidate could have won though, even with the Great Fenty Implosion of 2010. Mayor Gray did a decent job of selling himself as a competent, workmanlike candidate.

by Tim Krepp on May 22, 2012 11:34 am • linkreport

I agree a couple of those listings are nice, but I actually see a few of the listed achievements instead as strikes against him- simply because I approach the subject with a different viewpoint and opinion. But weighed against the things that have slowed, ceased, or many other policies and actions which I find myself in opposition to: none of these achievements tip the scales of my opinion. It's not that I'm necessarily against him at this point; I just think it's time for someone different.

by Bossi on May 22, 2012 11:34 am • linkreport

I'll believe the effort to adjust parking meter rates according to measured demand is real when I see it.

Currently, we're in May 2012 waiting until Fall 2012 for the report of measured demand for 2011. In the same time period, San Francisco will measure data and adjust meter rates at least three times.

by Michael Perkins on May 22, 2012 11:34 am • linkreport

I think mayor grays support of the 2032 plan is huge, even if it doesnt lead directly to one iota of tangible anything. Its broken the split on change - all the folks who voted against Fenty for pushing change to fast, now have Gray telling them that change will come, even if differently. It impacts the dialog. Its going to be harder and harder for an antichange candidate.

And the glass half full points - the continued support for CaBi and bike lanes, the continued advancing of the first street car route, ARE tangible things.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 22, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

I think some of the commenters here are missing the point. The article says that we shouldn't let the scandals make us think that the Gray administration is doing absolutely nothing while breaking all sorts of laws.

Did the Gray administration screw up in the campaign and early on? Yes. Is Gray less-aggressive than Fenty on some issues? Yes. Is he still doing good things for DC? Yes. The point of this article is not to say that Gray hasn't done anything wrong or slowed some things down. The point of the article is to say that Gray has continued to do some good things for the city and we should not let scandals overshadow that.

Part of the problem of politics is that we are too quick to focus on the negative. I have some serious reservations about things that happened during the Gray campaign. But we also should give credit where credit is due and recognize that some good things have happened under Gray's leadership.

by Jamie Scott on May 22, 2012 12:02 pm • linkreport

Some predicted that education reform, the streetcar and bike lanes would stop under Mayor Gray. Let's be clear: that hasn't happened.

I'd be curious to know in what ways the author believes that streetcar progress has not stopped (or at least not been severely hampered) under the Gray administration. In my opinion, his administration has completely bungled nearly every aspect of the streetcar since he took office. As I see it, throwing money at a project with no real sense of direction, as Gray has done, is not an example of effective leadership.

In addition, Gray has always stated that he would seek to continue transportation projects initiated under Fenty. The author notes this in his own endorsement of Gray on 9/23/2010. Those who thought that Gray would reverse Fenty's transportation policies were simply misinformed about Gray's own unequivocally clear platform. So really the question becomes not whether Gray has lived up to his campaign promise, but whether he's actually doing a more effective job than his predecessor, or the next best alternative.

I very much appreciate Gray's vociferous twitter-based defense of CaBi and bike lanes, but these projects had a lot of momentum well before Gray took office. By some accounts, their momentum has been slowed under the Gray administration following Klein's removal.

But most of all, with respect to transportation and development projects, I really question Gray's commitment to local and small businesses and the kind of livable communities this city needs more of. Gray seems to pander to giant, multinational shopping mall tenants like Costco, Wal Mart, etc, and unpopular sports franchises that have no interest in the success of this city's neighborhoods.

by Scoot on May 22, 2012 12:11 pm • linkreport

Scoot: You seem to be confused about who the author is of this post. I am editor-in-chief, but please note the bylines on individual posts.

That said, I agree with what Ken says here.

As for the streetcar, these f**kups long preceded Gray. They just weren't being reported yet. Fenty just wasn't around long enough for the streetcar project to get snafu'ed under his watch.

by David Alpert on May 22, 2012 12:14 pm • linkreport

@Rob, care to name a few big ticket items that have been slowed down thanks to Gray? Thanks.

@Tim Kreep, you're much more familiar than I am, but where did Fenty leave off w/the Res13 issue and what was left for Gray to do that he hasn't yet done. I'm not sure how anyone can reasonably think that turning two streets into one-ways is a relevant example on which to judge an adminstration's success..or lack thereof. Susbtituting fact over opinion, Gray seems to be handling education in a similar manner as Fenty. That is, he has offered full-throated support for all of her recommendations. If there's any difference of note, I would assume you're really saying that education is not as political and not in every topic of discussion as it was during the Fenty years. That's not Gray's fault.

I welcome anyone else to cite a few substantive examples of things the administration has done to slow or stop progress. Something beyond making two--way streets.

by HogWash on May 22, 2012 12:15 pm • linkreport

@Jamie, The point of the article is to say that Gray has continued to do some good things for the city and we should not let scandals overshadow that.

Part of the problem of politics is that we are too quick to focus on the negative.

You get the "You Should BE President" award! I 10000% agree.

@scoot, In my opinion, his administration has completely bungled nearly every aspect of the streetcar since he took office. Can you provide a few specifics demonstrating how he's bungled every aspect of the streetcar.

FWIW, this could be a great intellectual argument debating fact vs. fiction.

by HogWash on May 22, 2012 12:20 pm • linkreport

Thanks, I was confused. I thought David was the author of this post.

by Scoot on May 22, 2012 12:23 pm • linkreport

The Reservation 13 thing is really frustrating. I vehemently disagree with Gray on that one, and I can understand how Hill East residents would feel Gray has not had their interests at heart.

But more broadly, for me, the thing is that when each Gray budget comes out, it seems to be a lot better — for transportation and also for the city overall — than the Fenty budgets I saw.

I also think people are confusing speed of implementation with speed of press conferences. Fenty certainly talked more about what he was doing all the time. That may make it seem like he was doing more, but I don't think it was the case.

by David Alpert on May 22, 2012 12:24 pm • linkreport

I would like to hear more about OCOH's impact relative to the prior job placement programs, as MJ alludes to, but regardless, it does appear that the program is helping those in struggling Wards get employed and contributing to the District's declining unemployment rate (10.8% when Gray was sworn in to 8.3% now). Reducing economic inequality was a key pledge in Gray's campaign and certainly something for which he must be held accountable.
Otherwise, the responsible budgeting, continued support for education reform (noteably the mayor's effort to deal with costly special education placements), and his vocal support for DC statehood, marriage equality, sustainability, and improvements in public transportation have all been encouraging signs that his agenda is on the right track.
I am concerned that illegal acts that may have occurred during the campaign have the potential to impede the mayor's work going forward, but up to now, that hasn't seemed to have been the case.

by DCster on May 22, 2012 12:28 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash,

I'm not about to tout Mayor Fenty as Res 13 hero, but when he left, bids had been taken for two parcels. The process, slow and painful as it was, was grinding along.

And then with Mayor Grey, nothing. Until the Redskins thing popped up where he told all of us "there is no plan". Repeatedly and defensively. We were (are) quite angry, as there IS a master plan for the site.

Now we're being told that it's out of date and has to be rebid. Well no kidding! Because you sat on it forever!

And yeah, 17th/19th is a major quality of life/safety/transportation issue for us. We were told in meetings that it would happen after the 11th Street bridge project takes the pressure of commuters off of our street. Now DDOT is saying they will have to "study" that again.

This isn't a Fenty vs. Gray post for me. This is simply another failed mayor to me. We've replaced Fenty's lack of attention to detail and sloppiness with Gray's lack of urgency on quite a few issues.

And honestly, after he yelled at us in the most condescending manner possible at the Res 13 meeting, i've given up on him.

by Tim Krepp on May 22, 2012 12:32 pm • linkreport

The progress on bike lanes is really the rub in my opinion. The drop-off in miles per year installed after Fenty still astonishes me. We've gotten a few lanes built, and a plan for the L St cycletrack, but nothing like the dedication we got under Fenty.

by Andrew on May 22, 2012 12:49 pm • linkreport

@Tim, And honestly, after he yelled at us in the most condescending manner possible at the Res 13 meeting, i've given up on him.

This seems to frame your arguments "against" him.

But back to res13, so after the bids (Fenty years) what were the necessary/next steps required to break ground on the development? Also, what about district policy requires the bids to be rebidded? As part of the master plan, what was the proposed completion date?

And yeah, 17th/19th is a major quality of life/safety/transportation issue for us.

I agree that it might be a QOL issue for some. My point was that in the scheme of things, not making a one-lane a two'fer seems like very unstable grounds on which to make an argument arguing against Gray's inattention or work stoppage orders.

by HogWash on May 22, 2012 12:52 pm • linkreport

Can you provide a few specifics demonstrating how he's bungled every aspect of the streetcar.

Sure, I'll provide 3 specifics:

1) Cutting the DDOT Unified Fund

2) Failing to give DDOT clear direction on the Union Station/Hopscotch Bridge connection after nearly a year of study

3) Bungling a $9 million manufacturing contract, wasting 6 months in the process

4) (Honorable Mention) -- Trying to cut $200 million in streetcar funding at the 11th hour as Council Chairman

With respect to the streetcar, I'll believe in Gray's leadership on the issue when I can hop onto the "One City" line and swipe my Smartrip card. Until then, I applaud Gray's promotion of the streetcar idea, yet I question just how effectively he has led DDOT into positive action. I'm not really here to vilify the man, but I'm not sure if I'd vote for him if he runs again if things continue at this pace into 2013.

by Scoot on May 22, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

I think the problem with Gray is that these are his big accomplishments. Maybe that's unfair since he still has a considerable amount of time left in office. But the list strikes me as a combination of a few marginal improvements and things he didn't screw up. They're aren't any big home runs here (the biggest achievements are probably in DOES). And he's also done things that many on this blog would find objectionable aside from ethics, such as getting the Redskins to come to Res 13, his inability to get anyone on the ethics board, or his failure to keep top talent at DDOT.

by Steven Yates on May 22, 2012 1:02 pm • linkreport

Amazing spin job here...He didn't really break anything when he took over

There seems to be a real reticence to acknowledge anything new that Mayor Gray has accomplished. I've listed several specific accomplishments, and the response seems to be that, because Gray hasn't done everything that everyone wanted him to do, he is "another failed mayor" and anyone who says different is offering "spin".

I came to this conclusion reluctantly, having endorsed Fenty in 2010. But the reality is that funding for job training is finally being aligned with labor market needs, over objections of entrenched job training interests. That has never happened. Special education students are finally being identified early and educated in DC public facilities, instead of being bused to the suburbs. These are difficult, but critically important priorities.

The point isn't that Mayor Gray has done everything everyone wanted - the point is that he is not a do-nothing mayor who is paralyzed by scandal. The facts simply do not support that narrative, no matter how many times it is repeated.

by Ken Archer on May 22, 2012 1:06 pm • linkreport

@Andrew:

I absolutely agree with you about the lack of progress on the bike lanes. The 2009 Glover Park transportation study called for bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue and Tunlaw Road. It is three years later and there hasn't been any progress on either of these.

Additionally, there hasn't been any leadership or vision for the WMATA bus garage in Friendship Heights. This is a large parcel and WMATA could swap land with PEPCO and do something work on a deal to make sure either piece of land right off of Wisconsin Avenue, next to the Friendship Heights metro station isn't a loss for smart growth and transit-oriented development.

by Ben on May 22, 2012 1:14 pm • linkreport

I agree that not everything Vince Gray has done is terrible but given what Fenty accomplished during his term and what Antonio Villaraigosa is doing right now provides quite a contrast to what we could be doing.

by Ben on May 22, 2012 1:18 pm • linkreport

Wll Gray start to work on DC pension reform, TANF limits, and a possible middle class tax cut at anytime?

by Jo on May 22, 2012 1:27 pm • linkreport

I'm not as fervent a Gray basher as a lot of people here, but this is most certainly a spin job for no apparent reason.

Few of anything listed is unique to his administration. The sustainability plan, education, parking, and street reform was all started under Fenty. As for not raiding the capital budget, didn't Gray vote for the baseball stadium? If memory serves correct, Fenty was the only hold out of that boondoggle.

by jeff on May 22, 2012 1:30 pm • linkreport

I absolutely agree with you about the lack of progress on the bike lanes. The 2009 Glover Park transportation study called for bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue and Tunlaw Road.

Ben,

This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Right now your neighbors are going ballistic over DDOT's traffic calming work on Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park, and many of them have complained directly to the mayor. And yet it's happening anyway. But somehow that doesn't matter because something that was in a 2009 study hasn't happened yet.

We really do have to be careful not to interpret events through the lens of a simplistic narrative of a do-nothing mayor - reality is a little more complicated than that.

by Ken Archer on May 22, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

Why do people get so caught up on Reservation 13 when larger parcels like Poplar Point are doing so well?

by selxic on May 22, 2012 1:35 pm • linkreport

Cutting the DDOT Unified Fund

According to reports:

1)Funds for the H St/Benning line was approved even while the DDOT UF was eliminated. What particular portion of the streetcar project has been bungled as a result?

2)Wasn't the issue w/the Union Station deal that there wasn't an agreement between Amtrak and the District as well as some affected residents objected to the rerouting. It's off to offer that as a criticism for Gray.

3)The Czech company who made the lower bid appealed to the Contract Appeals Board..which then took the issue of out Gray's hand. The believed that the winning company's technical score was lower than their own. This is after Mary Cheh filed a disapproval resolution..citing the number of cars and questioning the approval process. Here, you've failed to demonstrate how Gray is responsible. Should he have bypassed the Contract Appeals project?

Trying to cut $200 million in streetcar funding at the 11th hour

100% irrelevant.

by HogWash on May 22, 2012 1:51 pm • linkreport

"The scandals may be real, but his administration has also racked up some important achievements across the government."
Maybe I am living in some sad delusional world, but I voted for Vincent Gray with the expectaiton that we would see real achievements and progress WITHOUT scandals. Why is that too much to ask? Why should it be delusional to expect this city to have a functional and honest political class? I suppose I applaud the mayor's ability to function amidst the successive scandals - I guess it's lucky for us he's able to run the city in spite of the multiple investigations, but imagine how efective a mayor he could have been without the distractions of the scandals. In the next election I will once again be looking for the candidate who appears to be the most likely to be scandal-free; at this point it seems very unlikely that it will be Mr Gray.

by Anon20009 on May 22, 2012 1:59 pm • linkreport

About the best thing one can say for the Gray administration is that it hasn't been as big a disaster as some had feared. Pretty close, but not quite.

by Crickey7 on May 22, 2012 2:30 pm • linkreport

Funds for the H St/Benning line was approved even while the DDOT UF was eliminated. What particular portion of the streetcar project has been bungled as a result?

Ha, well, it's hard to arrive at what particular portion of the project has been bungled, seeing as so many current problems plague the single line that is nearing completion, but in my opinion, cutting the fund was an ideological regression. Gabe Klein used the word "demoralizing" to describe the effect on DDOT, and that was right around the time he was fired.

Wasn't the issue w/the Union Station deal that there wasn't an agreement between Amtrak and the District as well as some affected residents objected to the rerouting. It's off to offer that as a criticism for Gray.

DDOT prematurely planned (and assured residents of) the connection beneath the rail yard without really following through on negotiations with Amtrak until it became too little, too late for DDOT. This was a major stumble and delaying factor for the project. Amtrak expressed a lack of confidence in the new mayor's ability to complete the project based on his proposal to cut the project's funding as Council Chairman. So actually, yes, those proposed cuts are very much relevant to the situation the mayor and DDOT finds themselves in today. In the end, Gray appeared to adamantly support routing the line to the Hopscotch Bridge, which was pitched as a last-resort just six months earlier.

Should he have bypassed the Contract Appeals project?

No, he should not have, but DDOT should not have let the contract be awarded to an ineligible bidder. If direct evidence of Gray's personal involvement is the only thing that will satisfy you, I'm afraid I'm at a loss. Yet the real issue, as I see it, is that he ultimately bears responsibility for the actions of his staff, as well as for their inaction. This is simply my opinion but also that of the Council.

by Scoot on May 22, 2012 2:51 pm • linkreport

@DCster

[I]t does appear that the program is helping those in struggling Wards get employed and contributing to the District's declining unemployment rate (10.8% when Gray was sworn in to 8.3% now).

Not particularly better than the "background" unemployment rate. I'd be interested in what the unemployment rate for W7 & W8 is.

http://bit.ly/K9rJWj

by oboe on May 22, 2012 2:52 pm • linkreport

@selxic:

Why do people get so caught up on Reservation 13 when larger parcels like Poplar Point are doing so well?

Why do people get so hung up on DCPS school quality when my kid's school is awesome?

by oboe on May 22, 2012 2:55 pm • linkreport

Ha, well, it's hard to arrive at what particular portion of the project has been bungled, seeing as so many current problems plague the single line that is nearing completion,

Wait, let me get this straight. I asked you to cite how Gray has bungled the streetcar project. You respond with an indictment based on him cutting the DDOT fund. I point out to you that the FUNDING (the issue @hand) was approved. Then you respond that it's hard to figure out what portion of the project was bundled because so much of it was?

So you don't know what part of it was bungled. However, you do know that it was bungled? I don't believe these meshes well w/the thought of having an intellectual debate on the merits.

DDOT prematurely planned (and assured residents of) the connection beneath the rail yard without really following through on negotiations with Amtrak until it became too little, too late for DDOT. This was a major stumble and delaying factor for the project.

The article you linked (that I previously read) was from July 2011. Are you suggesting that between Jan '11 and July '11, Gray's administration prematurely planned for this project? That's odd because I didn't realize that his administration did that. Can anyone verify this?

Also, I find the claims by Amtrak highly dubious and reminds me of the Wall Street who have consistently (since before and during his entire term) railed against Obama citing "uncertainty." This is after they've consistently made record profits but claim they're sitting on their "job creation money" wondering what Obama's gonna do.

No, he should not have, but DDOT should not have let the contract be awarded to an ineligible bidder. Yet the real issue, as I see it, is that he ultimately bears responsibility for the actions of his staff, as well as for their inaction. This is simply my opinion but also that of the Council.

Oh I get it. DDOT made an error so Gray, as the mayor, must be directly blamed.

BTW, the article you link citing the council's concerns had nothing to do w/streetcars or DDOT but the initial hiring/nepotism brouhaha that essentially handicapped the Gray Administration from the start.

Again, I like coming here for the intellectual debate. I'm not sure why those who normally do...are uninterested and incapable of having them wrt to Gray.

by HogWash on May 22, 2012 3:28 pm • linkreport

I have some serious reservations about things that happened during the Gray campaign. But we also should give credit where credit is due and recognize that some good things have happened under Gray's leadership.

Well said. In my view, the allegations/indictment made against the Gray campaign are among the most serious public corruption charges that can be leveled. More than run of the mill graft (a la Harry Thomas), they attack the electoral process, and impair the ability of the electorate to choose their representatives in a fair election - in essence, they undermine the democratic process itself. (And, I tend to believe there is SOME truth to the allegations, although that's just based on media reports.)

But it does no one any good to pretend that a possibly corrupt politician is also de facto incompetent. Except for Marion Barry. (That was for you, HogWash.)

:)

by dcd on May 22, 2012 4:07 pm • linkreport

I respect Ken and David very much but I feel like they are living in a bubble, or don't remember the pace of progress under Fenty and Williams. The bar seems to be so low for Gray that if he releases one plan for sustainability it's a big win. Under Fenty plans were released in much higher numbers but more importantly there was action to back it up.

I have always thought that his biggest flaw was surrounding himself with people that are out to make a buck.

by Stan B on May 22, 2012 5:59 pm • linkreport

Have you been by Poplar Point recently, oboe?

by selxic on May 22, 2012 6:43 pm • linkreport

@Stan, don't remember the pace of progress under Fenty and Williams.

I think you might be confusing the pace of "actual" progress with pace of "perceived" progress.

by HogWash on May 22, 2012 7:09 pm • linkreport

I agree with Ken on this one. I supported Fenty but have to admit that Gray has been better than anticipated, save for the scandals. If he is able to move the District towards a more diversified economy and a more sustainable environment, it will be a long-lasting legacy. On the other hand, if the corruption charges eventually reach all the way to the mayor, it will be an ugly ordeal for the whole city. Here's hoping that at the very least, those dissatisfied with the his performance have the opportunity to vote him out of office in 2014 rather than seeing him resign.

by D on May 22, 2012 8:02 pm • linkreport

Good post Ken A. I was also very anti Gray but dude has pleasantly surprised me. The nearly quarter billion in the budget (for the next 6 years) for streetcars, the awesome sustainability plan and his defense of bikeshare have been impressive.

Not sure if he is gonna make through his term, though. I would definitely vote for his re-election, while last time I thought he was dog doo doo.

by H Street Landlord on May 22, 2012 8:31 pm • linkreport

I asked you to cite how Gray has bungled the streetcar project. You respond with an indictment based on him cutting the DDOT fund. I point out to you that the FUNDING (the issue @hand) was approved.

"Indictment" is rather severe -- it was merely an opinion that the decision represented an ideological regression. I had already stated my belief that throwing money at a project without a clear sense of direction -- what Gray appears to be doing -- is ineffective. I believe cutting the fund is but one part of a body of evidence pointing to a lack of direction begun under Fenty and continued under Gray.

Are you suggesting that between Jan '11 and July '11, Gray's administration prematurely planned for this project? That's odd because I didn't realize that his administration did that. Can anyone verify this?

Actually, the timeline would be Jan to Dec, not Jan to July. Amtrak's negotiation had expired in July, but Gray's final decision did not come til December. TBD, CityPaper and WaPo have plenty of great coverage on this issue if you are seeking verification. GGW's coverage is valuable too.

Also, I find the claims by Amtrak highly dubious

That is your opinion. On the contrary, I provided evidence -- a direct quote from Amtrak -- in response to your claim that Gray's decisions as Chair were "100% irrelevant". They appear to have been quite relevant indeed. If you believe Amtrak's claims are dubious, then you believe Amtrak must be lying. I can't say for sure if they are, I can only go by the evidence in front of me.

DDOT made an error so Gray, as the mayor, must be directly blamed. BTW, the article you link citing the council's concerns had nothing to do w/streetcars or DDOT

I stated previously my belief that Gray shoulders the responsibility for the actions and inactions of his administration. The article I linked cited the Council's official position (see page 3), which is of the same view.

Again, I like coming here for the intellectual debate. I'm not sure why those who normally do...are uninterested and incapable of having them wrt to Gray.

I like it too, but I don't like being accused of intellectual dishonesty. I made a position, which you asked that I clarify (twice), and I did (twice, diligently, without obligation, using facts and evidence). Your response was one of general skepticism and disagreement based on incomplete understanding of some basic issues -- and in my view, an increasingly strident requirement that anyone who disagrees with you bring forth the "smoking gun" of Gray's unequivocal guilt, or else, be cast off as intellectually dishonest.

I've been very patient with addressing your opinions and selective attention to my posts even as you have implied that I am incapable of intellectual thought. Fortunately, I don't need to keep answering to anyone -- I can make my voice heard with my vote. :-)

by Scoot on May 22, 2012 9:21 pm • linkreport

Let's face it, everyone who posted loves Washington and wants what's best for us. We also are disappointed and understandably trying to defend prior beliefs and decisions.

The facts are the facts and they will play out over the next few months. I think it's going to be a slow and sad tale. Another council indictment and likely the Mayor in deeper trouble than we would imagine now.

Let's separate the Fenty vs. Gray vs. whatever and worry about how to hold on to the last decades progress in what I fear is going to be a debilitating scandal for the District.

To a "real" one DC. Peace

by Moxie32 on May 22, 2012 9:39 pm • linkreport

@jeff: "As for not raiding the capital budget, didn't Gray vote for the baseball stadium? If memory serves correct, Fenty was the only hold out of that boondoggle."

This comment is wrong on three counts. First of all, Fenty spent down hundreds of millions of dollars in our reserve fund because he couldn't balance his OPERATIONAL budget at the start of every year, and he overspent his operational budget by the end of every year, causing him to raid the fund -- while claiming to balance the budget. Also I don't believe he used the fund to build schools and parks, which are funded by capital dollars (i.e., bonds).

Second, the comment is also factually inaccurate to say that any DC "budget was raided" to fund the stadium. Not a single dollar from our General Fund or our reserve fund or any other pot of pre-existing budget was spent on the stadium. Nor were our income, sales, or property taxes raised or used to fund the stadium. The stadium was funded by a new bond issue, which was financed completely by: 1) taxes on baseball tickets and concessions at the stadium; 2) rent paid by the team owners; and 3) a temporary fee (tax) charged to relatively high-revenue companies and law firms in the District -- and there is an annual ceiling on what any company has to pay (and most businesses and some key trade groups testified to the Council that they favored getting baseball and were ok with paying the tax -- Nieman Marcus was a notable exception).

Finally, and I realize this is more subjective, but how can any objective observer call the stadium a boondoggle? Not a penny from our budget. No raised income or property or sales tax. And we get a new stadium, a baseball team, a great cultural and quality-of-life addition to our city, lots of new mixed-use development and a complete makeover to a formerly blighted neighborhood, tons of new jobs, and increased revenue from new businesses created or located in the baseball district, and from VA and MD residents coming into DC and paying that baseball tickets and concessions tax (essentially our first successful commuter tax). Doesn't sound like a "boondoggle" to me. It was shameful of Fenty to play that for political gain, very smart of Mayor Williams to champion this, and courageous for then Ward 7 Councilmember Gray to support this even though it was seen as unpopular among many of his constituents.

by Adam on May 22, 2012 11:00 pm • linkreport

Jeff - I must challenge you on giving any credit to Fenty for sustainability planning. His Green DC, was just a list of things the city had done on their own buildings. There was no plan done by his admin, except the Climate Action Plan, that got released despite him just after or right as he lost the primary. After George Hawkins, he had multiple interim directors and no focus for this key agency that spent multiple summers as the chief babysitters for the summer job cost overrun fiasco's that his admin was well known for creating. The Sustainability Plan put forward by Mayor Gray, actually sets goals and will by this Fall, outline actions that are designed to achieve those goals. Gray's plan is in line with other national plans like what NYC, Philadelphia and Portland have that are attracting outside investment, that Fenty supposedly was emulating.

by Another view on May 23, 2012 6:00 am • linkreport

As much distaste as I have for Gray as a result of seeing him crawl into corrupt pockets as soon as he was elected as Ward 7 councilmember, I have to agree with Moxie32:

'Let's separate the Fenty vs. Gray vs. whatever and worry about how to hold on to the last decades progress in what I fear is going to be a debilitating scandal for the District.'

by Ronnie on May 23, 2012 9:33 am • linkreport

it was merely an opinion that the decision represented an ideological regression. I had already stated my belief that throwing money at a project without a clear sense of direction --

And that opinion is what I questioned. You introduced the idea of Gray bungling the project in response to Ken's suggestion that there was progress being made. There is a difference between a person's ideological position (Pre-Obama Anti-Gay Marriage position) and whether the person has been progressive wrt to legislation.

Actually, the timeline would be Jan to Dec, not Jan to July. Amtrak's negotiation had expired in July,

As further evidence that Gray bungled the project, you brought up the Amtrak negotiations. According to your linked article, (WCP 7/11) DDOT had been awaiting an answer from Amtrak. In 2/11, (not a full month into Gray's term) Amtrak rep expressed concerns about Gray's (as chair) streetcar cut.

You are correct, DDOT did attempt to plan/assure that there would be a connection beneath the railyard. Unfortunately, Amtrak began to argue they wanted to "preserve space for high-speed rail infrastructure in its long-range master plan". Even Lydia agrees that had Amtrak said no during Fenty's term, DDOT could've made other arrangements. She personally believed that the Amtrak reps February statement re: Gray's Councilchair position was part of the reason for Amtrak's lukewarmness.

That is your opinion. On the contrary, I provided evidence -- a direct quote from Amtrak -- in response to your claim that Gray's decisions as Chair were "100% irrelevant".

I also provided Amtrak's reported rationale for not moving forward which didn't have any relevance to his previous reveral as council chair. Could they have been leery about Gray's position before he added another 100million? Sure. Then months later decide that it was really about preserving space? No. I made the Wall Street analogy because I believe Amtrak was being as disingenous as they were w/this notion that "uncertainity" keeps them from investing...as they continue to reap record profits. So no, I just don't believe it.

but I don't like being accused of intellectual dishonesty.

No one does.

and in my view, an increasingly strident requirement that anyone who disagrees with you bring forth the "smoking gun" of Gray's unequivocal guilt, or else, be cast off as intellectually dishonest.

Is that different than any other discussion? If I (as many did) posited that Fenty was ineffective because he only cared about white people. Then after questioning, was only able to say, "he built bike lanes and dog parks"...that he was ideological predisposition to doing things which benefit white people was really of the city's ideological regression, I would expect that you'd think I was making an intellectually dishonest argument.

I've never suggested that you were incapable of intellectual thought. Quite contrary, I often chide people here for having the capacity to have intellectual/honest debate about issues EXCEPT ones like this.

by HogWash on May 23, 2012 10:33 am • linkreport

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