Should urbanists be nervous about Vince Gray? Part 5: Who would Gray hire?
Adrian Fenty says he focuses on the big picure and hires "A+" people. I'd say some are A+, some A-, a few B- or C. Would Vince Gray hire A+ people? Would he keep some of Fenty's on? Would he hire even more A+ people than Fenty has?
I wish Gray would come up with a list of cabinet appointees now, because it would make the decision of who to vote for for Mayor much easier. Keep Harriet Tregoning, Gabe Klein and Michelle Rhee while sending Peter Nickles back to Great Falls? Skies are looking sunny with Gray!
But if they're all out and their successors lack the boldness and vision to really make DC better, choosing instead to always take the safe road, electing Gray would cast all the bright progress DC has made into shadow.
This is the real question which has been on many of our minds, including Dan Malouff's.
Gray has steadfastly refused to talk about appointments, except for assuring everyone that he would fire Peter Nickles. That's probably the smart move from his standpoint; Presidential candidates refuse to talk about Cabinet appointees too. However, it also complicates our task of choosing.
At least we have a pretty good idea of who would run departments if Adrian Fenty is reelected, though it's worth keeping in mind that we don't even know for sure that Fenty will keep all his people. Traditionally, all members of the cabinet resign after a mayor is reelected, so he can select his new cabinet members. We have no reason to think he'll replace anyone in particular, but he might.
Most discussion here has revolved around Harriet Tregoning, Gabe Klein, and Michelle Rhee. I'll try to read the tea leaves for you on all three.
When we spoke, Gray had glowing things to say about Harriet Tregoning. And no, I don't think he was just telling me what I want to hear, since Gray has said similar things in the Council. His description of Tregoning's strengths also resemble many of the qualities he's said he wants in a cabinet appointee, so there's a good hope he might try to keep her on.
In fact, maybe he could promote her. What if Gray made her the deputy mayor for planning and economic development? She's doing a great job with planning. Her agency already meets the gold standard on process, which Gray would insist upon, but they also still achieve tangible results like Fenty touts. I believe that results and inclusive, communicative process needn't be mutually exclusive; today's OP is living proof of that.
Gray has made positive comments about the work Michelle Rhee has done, though he's also said school reform has to be bigger than any one person. That's probably true, though changing horses could also introduce opportunities to derail reform. Gray might well ask Rhee to stay but only if she's willing to work a little on interactions with the public. Edited to add: Rhee has said she wouldn't stay if Gray were elected, but it's not clear whether that's just an empty threat meant to help Fenty, or not.
One Gray staffer familiar with the Fenty cabinet suggested that perhaps Rhee has learned some of her more controversial behaviors, like refusing to meet with people, from the Mayor himself. Rhee was new to high-level government work when she joined the Fenty Administration (as was Gabe Klein), and therefore, this person noted, she hasn't had other role models. Might Rhee (and maybe others) be becoming more arrogant than necessary under Fenty's tutelage?
Speaking of Gabe Klein, what about DDOT? There, we have less to know as Gray hasn't worked directly with Gabe Klein much. Commenter jeff worries that Sarah Campbell could become DDOT Director. She replied that she doesn't want the job.
Of course, even if she's not DDOT Director, she might end up with a role over budgets, like she has today, including over transportation. However, Gray is pretty unhappy with how the streetcar saga played out, which will hopefully influence that decision. Plus, she's not a one sided caricature; she's done some good work on the Council's budgets and pushed for some good outcomes along the way as well.
Others on Gray's staff, like legislative counsel Rob Miller who also represents Gray on NCPC, are excellent, and should be part of a possible Gray administration. Another official not affiliated with Gray pointed out to me that if Gray gets elected, people like Rob will also be in a position to mentor the new Council chairman's staff, most of whom will be new and might not see very strong leadership from the new chairman himself.
Unfortunately, the potential Gray appointments have to remain a big question mark. We know who we'll get with Fenty, some good, some not so much. We have a few hints about who we might get with Gray, but we'll have to vote without solid knowledge.
I titled this series, "Should urbanists be nervous about Vince Gray?" Ultimately, I would say we should not be. There are some unknowns, but there are also many promising signs. The race is very close, and if Gray should win, I am optimistic that he would continue the progress DC has made.
Therefore, we have two candidates who would maintain forward momentum. Which to vote for? Next week, I'll talk about Adrian Fenty and my conversation with our incumbent Mayor.
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