Should urbanists be nervous about Vince Gray? Part 1
Especially since the streetcar funding debacle, many urbanists have viewed Vincent Gray's candidacy for Mayor with some trepidation.
Certainly Adrian Fenty has his problems, but at the same time he's pushed hard for streetcars, bike lanes, and more housing (though not always affordable housing), and turned over planning and transportation to two excellent leaders. Plus, he's made education reform a priority. Would a Mayor Gray spoil that?
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Gray to discuss these issues, and also had a few conversations with his campaign manager, Adam Rubinson. Gray was able to address many of my concerns, though other questions remain. I may or may not make an endorsement in the Mayor's race, but many of you wouldn't simply vote based on my say-so alone in any case. Instead, I want to share with you what I learn as I consider whom to pick in this high-profile contest.
First, here are some questions that were on my mind before starting to speak to Gray and his people. Edited to add, since some have asked: These are not in priority order. Rather, I started with some issues where many readers here had been exposed to Gray, and worked around to other issues.
- What really happened with the streetcar funding?
- Gray says he supports streetcars. Does he "support streetcars" like the Committee of 100 and Phil Mendelson support streetcars (only if they have absolutely no impact on any views, anyone's parking, slow down any drivers, or annoy a single person), or does he really, actually support them?
- Gray has talked about wanting more planning. If he's Mayor, would Gray maintain the momentum toward projects like the streetcar and simply add some more public communication and/or creation of planning documents, or would the planning slow down the process?
- Would Gray have handled bike lanes differently? Would fewer have gone in because there would have had to be a longer and slower planning process? Or would stakeholders have been able to participate more in the design of lanes like the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lane?
- Would Gray have handled sidewalks differently? Would he have intervened in DDOT's decisions in cases like the sidewalks in North Portal Estates, where Fenty overruled DDOT for political reasons?
- Gray is from a fairly car-dependent part of Ward 7. Fenty is from a fairly car-dependent part of Ward 4. Both probably have neighbors whose reaction to bike lanes is to oppose anything that interferes with car flow. Is that Gray's view?
- Would Gray keep Harriet Tregoning? Or promote her? What about Gabe Klein?
- How supportive is Gray of Smart Growth? Would he push to add housing opportunities and retail around Metro stations? Would he stand firm despite opposition from the perennial opponents of such measures?
- Many groups and individuals who traditionally spend most of their effort opposing growth and change rather than supporting a certain vision for growth and change are supporting Gray. Will that support make him obligated to stop projects they don't like?
- Under Mayor Fenty, DMPED often pushes to get development projects done quickly, but often at the expense of getting a good project that will work with the long-term needs of DC. How would Gray balance the need to get development done with the fact that, once done, projects will be around for 50 years or more?
- Mayor Fenty is widely criticized for the way he makes appointments to board and commissions, selecting fellow triathletes and/or developers for zoning positions, for example. How would Gray approach appointments?
- Would OCTO under Gray keep getting small yet tangible projects completed which add value for people, like Where's My Bus and the open source feed of Circulator positions, which OCTO achieved with minimal time and resources?
- No discussion is complete without education. Many younger residents of DC feel that regardless of tone or appearances of impropriety, the Mayor's number one job is to improve the schools in time for their young children or future, unborn children to be able to get a good education in public schools. Would Gray put any of that momentum in jeopardy?
- If Gray becomes Mayor, what is his vision for how the District would be different in 20 years?
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- Muriel Bowser predicts DC holds 800,000 people in 20 years. That requires a lot of new housing.