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Have faith in our ideas and vote Gray

This is the third of three personal endorsements on Fenty-Gray. See Dan's and Ken's.

I have confidence in the policies we advocate here on Greater Greater Washington. They're not helping one group at the expense of another, but best for DC as a whole. Vince Gray will thoughtfully listen to opinions and then pick the best course of action. Because I'm confident that will fit with our ideas when we can back them up, I'm voting for Vince Gray tomorrow.

Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

Gray has said he's for Smart Growth. He has made clear that he's for bike lanes, and his comments about the Pennsylvania Avenue lane were about process, not about the value of lanes. At Thursday's sustainability forum, he also confirmed that he supports bus lanes despite how he'd been quoted in the past. He's repeatedly insisted he's for streetcars.

He does want to roll back meter hours, though, but I believe after he learns more about parking he'd agree we should only roll them back in some areas and not others.

If he's elected mayor, I intend to hold him to these promises, and push him to make real progress. I'll organize people on the blog and in person to rally to continue the valuable Fenty initiatives and to engage on some of the necessary issues that the Fenty administration has neglected.

I'm sure I will disagree with some of his decisions. But I disagree with a lot of what Fenty does. If, and when, Gray does something I think is wrong, I'll say so. I'll push him to be the best possible Mayor, to hire A+ people just like some of Fenty's appointments, but without some of the C- people Fenty also has in the mix.

As Council Chair, Gray was always straightforward about his beliefs. He listened to everyone, often in many hearings, but then he took the position he thought was right. He didn't tell one group he agreed with them and then vote another way. If he says he's now thought about transportation and development issues and decided he supports bike lanes, streetcars and more, then I believe him.

I care about having an executive branch that actually respects the legislature and tries to follow laws. I care about sunshine and honesty in the government. And I care about not leaving groups of residents out of economic progress.

A friend recently encapsulated the race in a great way: Fenty and Gray both share a vision for a "world-class city," which has good schools, a strong tax base including more residents and more jobs besides the government, more transportation choices besides driving, and a healthy and prosperous populace. Fenty is focused on getting us there as fast as possible, and if some people are left behind, well, a rising tide lifts all boats. Gray, meanwhile, will focus a little bit more on getting us there together. And getting there together is important to me.

Gray will push early childhood education and community college education a little harder than Fenty has. When a piece of public property is being sold off for development, Gray will push a little more for a good project with meaningful community support instead of just getting a deal signed as fast as possible. That will mean fewer projects on public land, but it will also probably mean better projects.

I'm voting for Gray tomorrow because I believe Gray has been honest about supporting the policies we like, and will come to the right conclusions after listening to us and to everyone else as well. If he wins, I'll push him through insiders and from the blog to hire the best people and keep some of the best Fenty people on, and then keep pushing him as mayor to do the right thing for everyone in DC.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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"And getting there together is important to me."

Me too-it's why I voted Gray last week.

by gina a on Sep 13, 2010 12:51 pm • linkreport

(sarcastic monotone)

"I'm shocked, shocked at this turn of events. I never could have predicted it in multiple posts all last week. I was also shocked to hear there was gambling at Rick's place.

(end sarcastic monotone)

Why do I have the feeling when Klein, Rhee, etc...gets canned for the Committee of 100 types we'll get equivocation instead of "calls to action". When the street cars get studied to death we'll get the same. Yah.

by John on Sep 13, 2010 12:55 pm • linkreport

Grabbing popcorn, will be coming back periodically for what should be an entertaining comment stream. :)

by Steve on Sep 13, 2010 12:59 pm • linkreport


by Anon on Sep 13, 2010 1:01 pm • linkreport

I think one of Fenty's big problems is he came of age when the very model of a modern big city Mayor was someone like Bloomberg or Daley. Not sure if that is a repeatable process. In a small place like the district bruised egos linger.

Fenty still has a chance. My GF just voted for him; the Post's scare tactics have worked and she thinks the blacks will take over if Gray wins.

Tactically pretty week to have both a fenty and gray endorsement going on at the same time . If you can't reach consensus, don't endorse.

by charlie on Sep 13, 2010 1:04 pm • linkreport

I appreciate your quaint and earnest take on this election. It is something that can be appreciated by civics teachers everywhere.

DC is a place consumed by and damaged by its obsession with process and consensus. It comes through in the wasteful dominance of ANCs and proliferations of "voluntary agreements" everytime someone wants to open a coffee shop and every controversy ginned up because someone wants to open outdoor seating. Gray's "leadership style" is symptomatic of this DC dysfunction, and we need to discourage it, not elect them to high office: and certainly not as part of a tantrum-turned-political-campaign against the current mayor for "not being respectful" as its main platform.

by JustMe on Sep 13, 2010 1:13 pm • linkreport

+1 David. Well said, sir.

by Ward 1 Guy on Sep 13, 2010 1:14 pm • linkreport

Tactically pretty week to have both a fenty and gray endorsement going on at the same time . If you can't reach consensus, don't endorse.

@charlie - I disagree. A blog is not a democratic institution - David could have easily decided to assert his authority and use the power of his blog to endorse Gray unilaterally. However, he obviously cares about cultivating a more collaborative approach in the authorship of the material on the blog, and as such, he has pitted his endorsement and reasoning against two of his colleagues on the same footing (blog postings). I think that's a commendably honest and transparent way for a resource like GGW to publish about politics.

by Jeb on Sep 13, 2010 1:15 pm • linkreport

Raise your hand if your shocked by this?

Is anyone doing an over/under on how long Rhee and Klein stay in a Gray administration?

by Fritz on Sep 13, 2010 1:18 pm • linkreport

David, while I disagree with you, I certainly appreciate your motivation and the logic behind your stance. And if Mr. Gray does prevail, you are doing us a great service by trying to build a relationship between this constituency and Mr. Gray.

by darren on Sep 13, 2010 1:21 pm • linkreport

@JustMe - +1. "Process" and "inclusion" in this election have been code words with virtually no substantive explanation from Gray or his supporters. And isn't it funny that everyone's trying to hold the Mayor responsible for Ward-specific issues, not to mention budgeting, that fall within the Council's domain? It's as if certain politicians (*cough* Barry *cough*) are immune to responsibility for their own constituents' plight, but let's go nail the guy who actually improved the city for not paying enough lip service to everyone's "needs."

Anytime an election is decided by psychological comfort independent of assessment of each politician's actions (NOT words), you know we're in for a rocky road ahead. Isn't that exactly what the whole "beer with Bush" thing was all about?

by Jeb on Sep 13, 2010 1:23 pm • linkreport

All this race comes down to for me is that Fentys "fast" approach is actually "change you can SEE". Where as Grays approach will likely be "change you can dream about for a very long time until it comes to fruition years later after countless hours of pointless due process." I can hear the wheels of progress grinding to a halt while we examine and reexamine and then study and then pander and then examine some more. Goodbye street-scape projects. Goodbye parks and trails. Goodbye school modernization. Time to put the momentum on hold and go over these projects with a nice fine tooth comb and make sure nobodys had their feelings hurt.

by Anon on Sep 13, 2010 1:23 pm • linkreport


Just so I understand, are the whites in charge now?

by Jazzy on Sep 13, 2010 1:24 pm • linkreport

This endorsement shows exactly what's wrong with Gray supporters' thinking. They keep comparing what Fenty HAS done to what Gray SAYS he'll do. Or, worse still, to what they HOPE Gray will do. That's just not a fair comparison, nor is it a comparison that is likely to lead to a good decision about whom to support.

by Rob on Sep 13, 2010 1:28 pm • linkreport

Fritz- I'm sure that when Klein goes that job will be offered to Mr. David Alpert himself. Just a guess.

by Anon on Sep 13, 2010 1:30 pm • linkreport

@ Jeb; when, politics is politics. If you don't want to play, don't endorse. All I am saying is tactically it lessens any impact of the endorsement. DA's commitment to transparency may be good, but I have to question HOW it came out.

In the same way, perhaps endorsing Gray before the Wpost poll might have been a better move. However, in a close race every last vote counts so it might have been different.

That all being said, I think all of them were smart, well written endorsments and could serve as a model for everyone else. The Sierra club, one, contra, was very weak, and I think the two pro-fenty ones are piss-poor.

by charlie on Sep 13, 2010 1:31 pm • linkreport

None of the above seems like the best option in this election.

by Redline SOS on Sep 13, 2010 1:32 pm • linkreport

Anon: It's phenomenally unlikely anyone would offer me the job of DDOT Director since I have not managed a large organization. Also, I do not want the job. If they asked me who to hire, I would suggest Gabe Klein.

by David Alpert on Sep 13, 2010 1:38 pm • linkreport

I think David is being very optimistic about a Gray administration (of course, you kind of need to be optimistic to vote for the non incumbent). I think a lot of things that have not been enumerated by Gray will have to break urbanist's way for it to be an improvement over Fenty.

But what I think is most interesting here is what's between the lines of David's endorsement. I think there's a tacit acknowledgment that Gray will be influenced by the opinions of others and particularly groups of others (you could say "special interests" but really all public opinion in a collection of various special interests). I think after the streetcar issue, David sees this as not a bad thing as it now appears that urbanists are a force to be reckoned with. With a Gray administration, Smart Growthers will have greater influence than they would with Fenty.

by Steven Yates on Sep 13, 2010 1:38 pm • linkreport

I will agree with David, and I will carry this a step further. I have had the opportunity to meet with Vince Gray and hear him firsthand discuss the importance of neighborhood development on Georgia Avenue, Minnesota Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue. I have heard him firsthand discuss the importance of GOOD PLANNING (and extol Harriet Tregoning), with the overlap of preservation, transportation and other issues on what I think we would call "good urbanism".

Where I see the distinction is that we will see a more collaborative process, so you won't have school buildings being sold off to fraternity brothers, instead of being offered at market value to Charter Schools. You won't see $1 Million invested in structural enhancements to a library that will probably never have residences place on top of them. You won't see political interference at the installation of sidewalks, or the alteration of traffic patterns because there is a well thought out policy with certainty that the policy will be followed.

Instead, you will (hopefully) see more community engagement, more rational planning, and at the end of the day, a better city for all residents than what we have now. Granted, it is better than 4 years ago for many residents, but there significant animosity as many city residents have been precluded from having a voice in how their communities are being shaped. That is a recipe for disaster, as the Mayor is currently experiencing.

From my perspective, Mayor Fenty has been a good mayor on many fronts, but there are enough holes in his administration of government, of financial mismanagement and inappropriate use of government authority to warrant close scrutiny of money, people and power. For me, that closer scrutiny, as documented in The City Paper, The Hill and other publications is enough for me to say basta. We have a good and decent alternative, and for me, that is Vince Gray on Election Day.

by Andrew on Sep 13, 2010 1:44 pm • linkreport

Gray, meanwhile, will focus a little bit more on getting us there together. And getting there together is important to me.

See, my problem with this--and perhaps that's why you're a Gray supporter, and I'm not--is that it has absolutely zero objective content. It's the tired, "Fenty left some behind; Gray will make sure we all arrive together."

It's feel-good clap-trap that means nothing. Not trying to be sarcastic, but how will we know when we've all arrived together?

by oboe on Sep 13, 2010 1:46 pm • linkreport

@Steven: No, I think David mistakes a one time confluence of events for "influence", both personal and overall. In other words, contrary to his post, people will not leap through his blog to support or act on things at his direction. Folks were utterly outraged at the sleazy late nice try to kill streetcars. Didn't matter specifically that David, or GGW broke it...had it been the "Jimmy's Streetcar Shack" blog the same reaction would have occurred.

If he thinks that playing footsie and giving Gray mulligans for being "inclusive" (whatever that means in reality) will cause everyone to just follow along...ain't gonna happen. Nor does one event translate to "influence" overall...VG is winning on a whistle word campaign against most of this stuff, the old public "no, I'm for it...(wink, wink) game. You have to be delusional to look at the voting blocs going into this, and think VG will piss off his largest blocs for this one.

by John on Sep 13, 2010 1:46 pm • linkreport

@Rob - You hit the nail on the head.

It's one of the most bizarre things to read in David Alpert's previous postings building up to this endorsement:

* Sure Fenty's appointed all these good, pro-Smart Growth people and has been one of the most pro-urbanism mayors around. But Gray SAYS he'll appoint really good people too.

* And just ignore some of his flip flops on streetcars and bike lanes. He now SAYS he's all for it.

* And maybe Gray will keep Rhee and Klein and Tregoning and everyone else in Fenty's cabinet that have been great. Of course, why they would work in a Gray administration, rather than in a second Fenty administration is left unexplained.

* And sure Gray has promised rainbows and unicorns to everyone at every audience. But he has to say those things to get elected. Whereas when he says things to GGW, that's really what he means to do.

* And Gray's early education plans, and economic development plans, and jobs plans, and social safety net plans are all awesome! It's not important that he hasn't explained how he's going to pay for any of it without either massively raising taxes or cutting services.

Faith based voting. For usual details-oriented policy wonks. Does not compute.

by Fritz on Sep 13, 2010 1:48 pm • linkreport

"Vote Gray: We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom."

by oboe on Sep 13, 2010 1:52 pm • linkreport

Methinks Mr Alpert is endorsing the front runner to ensure access. I would have liked to have seen these endorsements a few weeks back when the race was still a race and not a crowning ceremony. This endorsement feels very forced. For someone with such intellect, I'm surprised to see you put forth an endorsement filled with the same old arguments in favor of Gray.

I, for one, am still supporting Fenty. He has proved himself time and time again to be on the side of smart growth and sustainable transportation, and has an excellent record to show for it. Gray has many strengths, but there are reasons the old guard in DC back him.

by Anne Capelli on Sep 13, 2010 2:00 pm • linkreport

Methinks Mr Alpert is endorsing the front runner to ensure access.

I can say with confidence that David is not influenced by whether posts jeopardize access. If he was, he probably wouldn't have let Dan and I offer personal endorsements of Fenty, which Dan and I would have completely understood if he had.

by Ken Archer on Sep 13, 2010 2:09 pm • linkreport

"Gray has many strengths, but there are reasons the old guard in DC back him."

Pretty much sums up my feelings to a T. I don't think Grays term will be disastrous for DC. More of a slow unremarkable term where DC puts back on some of the bloat Fenty farted out. The upside is that Fenty is young and will be able to return with plenty of I-told-you-so's about Grays inactive government.

by Anon on Sep 13, 2010 2:14 pm • linkreport

Really? You are buying Gray's dog and pony show? Do you think for a second that he is actually going to pick up the phone when you call? Gray has been circulating attack ads in his strongest neighborhoods (since we're all using euphemisms in this campaign) with bike lanes on them.

A politically expedient endorsement. Fenty had your back at least 85 percent of the time. With Gray, you'll get support whenever you start arguing for free parking downtown for anyone with DC plates. Having learned from the streetcar debacle (where was the transparency there?), he has given nothing but lip service to smart growth ideas to keep the criticism at bay.

I'm not surprised at this endorsement, but I am a little miffed that you couldn't come up with anything positive to say about him outside of the t-minus 24 hours narrative Gray has built for himself.

by JTS on Sep 13, 2010 2:18 pm • linkreport

Andrew, a good deal of those points you make in defense of Gray ate contradictory. For instance: more community engagement with more rational planning. In a dream world these are compatible, but in the real world community engagement means appeasing the squeakiest wheel by watering down rational plans. I've seen it happen time after time.

Why I am still not for Gray is simply because the reasons his core supporters are for him: to stop change in DC and rollback the clock. Gray may not personally share these views, but he'd be an idiot not to recognize that if he doesn't appease these core supporters, in four years there will be another great Gray hope promising to listen more to them. If you don't think that that will be his primary focus for the next four years, you're living in a fantasy world.

People laud Tony Williams, but they forget the long string of ineffectual empty suits he put in charge of failing agencies. No they weren't cronies, but there were almost monthly news reports of some boondoggle or wasteful office renovation. We turned around under his watch, but there was plenty to be unhappy about (not to mention his propensity to spend all of his time away fron the city). I know it's trendy to give all the credit of Fenty's successes to Williams, but I don't think his performance was adequate for a city changing at the pace it is today. I think Gray shares many of Williams tendencies. Which is not to say he'd be a terrible mayor, but not the right one for right now.

by Reid on Sep 13, 2010 2:21 pm • linkreport

The basic problem with Fenty was 'inexperience'. You can be a smart guy and have good ideas about where we should be heading, but without experience, you can't get us there because you don't have the experience to make it happen. Unfortunately, I think we're starting realize that we have a simiar problem brewing with Obama as president. Like the old saying goes 'The road to hell is paved with good intentions.'

by Lance on Sep 13, 2010 2:23 pm • linkreport


I would argue that many of the mistakes made by the Fenty Administration in the areas of "good urbanism" are due to either gross mismanagement (see the Tenley-Janney PPP) or lack of community buy-in.

I see it and live it all the time. It doesn't take much, but the "100 MPH" course by this Administration and the inability or unwillingness to listen, even to the good people who are working for you, has caused a harm in the community, low morale within the government (good people, not the so-called faceless bureaucrats) and s significant amount of wasted taxpayer dollars.

These are flaws that will not be corrected in a second term.

by Andrew on Sep 13, 2010 2:30 pm • linkreport

Nice work David, you've decided that Gray will probably win and want to secure your influence with the new administration, so you've endorsed him despite his terrible track record on the issues your readers care about. But the polls are a little too close to be sure, so you've hedged your bets by having another contributor write a Fenty endorsement. That way, in case of a surprise upset tomorrow you can still say that blog endorsed Fenty.

While you've ensured you can maintain connections and get appointed to advisory boards no matter what happens tomorrow, I think this little game has severely shaken many readers' confidence in you and dramatically diminished your credibility.

by Phil on Sep 13, 2010 2:33 pm • linkreport

@Ken: Unfortunately, your endorsements to be blunt don't matter from an overall standpoint. GGW is rightfully or not, viewed as the David A blog by the political media. Exhibit one, LL's latest update that quotes David's endorsement and ignores the two opposing it. Your actions jeopardize nothing...David's "Nixon goes to China" will get LL and Debonis' ink.

by John on Sep 13, 2010 2:35 pm • linkreport

It's too bad that GGW is using its influence to so strongly push Gray. For years DC stagnated under outdated thinking and obstruction of progress.

Our four years under Fenty have been the most progressive in half a century.

Vince Gray represents nothing other than halting progress for those to shortsighted to see this city can be better and long for the days of Marion Barry.

We will have no streetcars, no new bike lanes. Our schools will deteriorate and metro will languish. But at least there's a whole boatload of crappy teachers whose feelings won't be hurt!

Greater greater Washington indeed!

by DCBrad on Sep 13, 2010 2:36 pm • linkreport

Oh and don't forget Gray's promise on Sunday to reestablish the office of Religious Affairs. He wants to "strengthen the bond" between the city and the churches. I for one like that the bond between church and state has eroded under Fenty. Of course, like the anti-bike lanes mailer, this too is a dog whistle.

by Reid on Sep 13, 2010 2:36 pm • linkreport

How do you know that Harriet Tregoning, Gabe Klein or Michelle Rhee like Fenty in the first place? Sure he hired them; but that doesn't mean that after 3 1/2 years of working with the guy that they like him. Most people in DC Govt. that I know are scared to critize him or his way of doing things for fear of being sacked. Is that the kind of city government we want?

by JSC on Sep 13, 2010 2:40 pm • linkreport

Mayor Fenty's unlawful awarding of contracts to friends with few qualifications reeks of Barry-era cronyism.

That aside, I really admire Fenty's appointment of people willing to challenge the status quo in education, transportation and planning. In politics it's easier to do nothing than to do something since entrenched interests are always good at putting up a fight.

My fear is that Gray's appointments to these positions will be seat-warmers who will treat auto-dominance as the proper paradigm and who will prize the teachers' union endorsement more than accountability and each child's right to a decent public education.

The Fenty administration has paved bike lanes and installed new parks (including dog parks) even when such projects are unfairly derided as "anti-car" or "stuff white people like". When similar controversies arise in a potential Gray administration, I fear "listening" and "including" will mean scuttling these projects to appease a few vocal objectors.

Or maybe not. But why take the risk? That's why I prefer Fenty.

by Eric Fidler on Sep 13, 2010 2:41 pm • linkreport

This is a very weak endorsement. While I appreciate your intention to support a candidate campaigning to adopt more inclusive processes, you leave out or barely touch on any substantive policy considerations. I've read your endorsement twice over and the only real reason you seem to be voting for Gray is because he'll make you feel better.

First, as you've proven in your endorsement, Gray has not been an advocate for sustainable urbanism. He's either been indifferent or oppositional. Even if you believe differently, you fail to cite any examples of pro-sustainability policy positions he has adopted that could lead us to believe the contrary. I think you're kidding yourself if you honestly think that Gray will care half as much about supporting sustainable urbanism as Fenty.

Gray has made public no plan to improve our schools but has hinted that his major priority will be making sure less teachers are upset. Given the chance, he will roll back IMPACT, weaken the city's position on the new teachers' contract, and will cater to the AFT and NEA whenever it's politically expedient. It does not even seem like these considerations even factored into your decision to endorse Gray.

I don't think that Fenty is an angel or that you have hidden motives in writing this piece. But I do think that your priorities are misguided and need some more careful consideration.

by Brendan on Sep 13, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

Boo GGW! I used to think you were insightful.

It was great for our issues to receive some attention for four years.

Fun while it lasted.

by Brian on Sep 13, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

I think Eric F pretty much nails it.

by MLD on Sep 13, 2010 2:53 pm • linkreport

"How do you know that Harriet Tregoning, Gabe Klein or Michelle Rhee like Fenty in the first place? Sure he hired them; but that doesn't mean that after 3 1/2 years of working with the guy that they like him. Most people in DC Govt. that I know are scared to critize him or his way of doing things for fear of being sacked. Is that the kind of city government we want?"

After 3.5 years and her record in DC, Michelle Rhee will never be able to find a job. All of these competent people are hopelessly trapped, and have been for the last two years.

That bike lane flier would have made Karl Rove proud.

by rumpole on Sep 13, 2010 3:01 pm • linkreport

The Fenty administration has paved bike lanes and installed new parks (including dog parks) even when such projects are unfairly derided as "anti-car" or "stuff white people like".
I hate that line of argument. The reason this stuff shows up in White neighborhoods is because college educated, professional White people are good at getting the ears of people in power to put them there. ItÂ’s stuff everyone likes but only White people are able to get. The idea of having crappy transit, no bike lanes, and no grocery stores or urban economic development just to keep Whitey away is short sighted. There is nothing gained by biting your nose to spite your face.

by PJ on Sep 13, 2010 3:04 pm • linkreport

I figure Gray will switch out bike lanes for angled parking, turn the new parks into affordable housing, and divert money from childhood to adult education.
But he'll only do this after spending down what's left of our reserves on dozens of mediated studies that show this is, in fact, what a slight majority of the 35% of the 74% of people who vote in primaries actually want.

by downtown rez on Sep 13, 2010 3:08 pm • linkreport

After 3.5 years and her record in DC, Michelle Rhee will never be able to find a job.

This is so backwards, it's almost comical. If Fenty gets the boot, Rhee will be able to write her own ticket. Love her or hate her, she'll be going out at the top of the game, without any chance that the reforms she's already put in place will bite her in the ass.

With a second Fenty term, there's a chance DCPS will fizzle, and the narrative will turn on her, but right now, the only position she won't have first crack at is President of WTU or AFT.

by oboe on Sep 13, 2010 3:12 pm • linkreport

The idea of having crappy transit, no bike lanes, and no grocery stores or urban economic development just to keep Whitey away is short sighted. There is nothing gained by biting your nose to spite your face.

No, the idea is that, until we reach full employment, and everyone's got a middle-class job, it's urban blight for everyone. Otherwise we're just wasting money.

This is called "making sure no one gets left behind."

by oboe on Sep 13, 2010 3:14 pm • linkreport

I'm with Anne. Yes, two other bloggers endorse Fenty. But this way, David's hedging his bets, it seems. Between the two of them, they have 6 comments to David's 43, now 44 and counting.

Oh well, it's not such a big deal, just becoming a part of the fabric of political life in DC (or really anywhere).

by Jazzy on Sep 13, 2010 3:15 pm • linkreport

David --

While I respect your opinion, I think you're endorsing the front runner to gain access and favor with him. (I'm sure you'll deny it...but my mind is made up.)

I personally think that Gray will end up disappointing the entire city. He's promised to be all things to all people and the resources he has to provide these promises are finite.

Gray's defining moment for me, was when he had the chance to support Streetcar. He killed the deal citing lack of planning. Only to have reversed course hours later, blaming his staff for the error and not taking responsibility.

If Gray were this 'great communicator' that he claimed to be, wouldn't he have already had all the information related to streetcar before he made the decision to kill the program?!?! Wouldn't he have already spoken to the constituents who supported this program and those who opposed it? Wouldn't he have reached out to Mr. Alpert instead of suffering the wrath of hundreds of streetcar supporters who flooded his office lines? If he didn't have time or access to get this information as the Council Chair, should we now expect him to have this time and access as Mayor? To compound this flip flopping problem, Gray's solution to replenish the funds was to BORROW money thus pushing the District closer to the debt cap. So at the end of it all, the first phase of Streetcar will be MORE expensive to the District than it was before.

Here is Gray's strategy in a nutshell to me:

-I will scare all the minorities into thinking that Fenty doesn't care about them. (Even though Nikita Stewart's WaPo article indicated that Fenty has invested more capital budget dollars in Wards 7&8 than in any other Wards and that minorities and disproportionately benefitting from the improved Public Schools)

-Get people focused on how much we hate Fenty and hope no one really spot checks my shoddy record.

-Be all things to all people. Irrespective of your interest group, ethinicity, social status, you can have it all....until I get elected that is...then we can have a community meeting about it.

I will not act as if Fenty did everything right. To be honest, I don't like him either. But I respect him and his decisions. What is difficult to dispute is that his administration has made can argue the definition of progress all you want, but we are a better city than we were four years ago.

He deserves another term, especially since we have so much at risk. (e.g., Race to the Top $$$ to spend)Can you imagine how foolish the District will look if we're sitting on all this Federal cash and we're still trying to flesh out leadership and our new reform program???? We will be a national laughing stock.

If Kwame Brown is elected to Council Chair and Gray is elected to Mayor, sit back and watch cronyism in all its glory. These council members will be trading off pet projects, giving their friends sweetheart deals...we won't know about it until its too late. Let us also not forget that Marion Barry has all but promised that he will be at the front of the line if Gray is elected.

I would be more prone to vote for Gray had he provided plausible options to Fenty. Who's going to replace Rhee? Who's going to replace Klein or Tregoning? How do we get more officers to move back to the District? How do we make the teachers unions happy while maintaining reform? I have yet to get a solid answer on any of these questions.

Mr. Alpert makes mention of the C- staff that exists within his adminstration. He hasn't lived here long enough to witness the F- staff that long existed before Williams and Fenty were here. I'm sure the grade of a C- probably came at the expense of a cancelled meeting or a lost opportunity to feel important. How can we forget how bad government was years before???

I used to have a lot of respect for this blog, but I think Mr. Alpert is crossing the very dangerous line of being political. His ego and perception that he now has 'access' has frayed his ability to be objective. The access he's received should be considered a PRIVILEGE, not a RIGHT, and now you're using that privilege to jump on the bandwagon.

I'm still undecided, but I'm not drinking the Gray Kool-Aid. It still needs more sugar....

by Bartholemew on Sep 13, 2010 3:20 pm • linkreport

@ Jazzy; yes, exactly. And there is nothing wrong with that.

I'd say volume of comments is negative, and I also have to wonder how many campaign trolls are slipping in.

What about a poll!

by charlie on Sep 13, 2010 3:22 pm • linkreport

For anyone who is interested, I shall be releasing MY endorsement at COB today....

by MPC on Sep 13, 2010 3:24 pm • linkreport

The dog park phenomenon started under Mayor Williams tenure, but even with that I wouldn't give credit to Mayor Williams. These dog parks were the fruit of hard fought citizen efforts at the ANC level. Fenty had nothing to do with them.

by JSC on Sep 13, 2010 3:25 pm • linkreport

A poll would be pointless, in my opinion. Both campaigns would have their partisans interfere with it.

Does someone have a link to this newly-infamous Gray bike lanes flyer?

by Phil on Sep 13, 2010 3:25 pm • linkreport

Fenty is focused on getting us there as fast as possible, and if some people are left behind, well, a rising tide lifts all boats. Gray, meanwhile, will focus a little bit more on getting us there together. And getting there together is important to me.

David, I think you are entirely sincere. But I also think you are pretty naive. Making any kind of change is incredibly hard. President Obama had a top priority to "get us there together"---how did that work out? I don't think you can create any actual change without breaking a lot of eggs. And even making a lot of mistakes. Larry Page once said that if Google didn't fail a lot, then it wasn't trying hard enough and taking enough risks.

In practice, saying, "We are going to try harder to proceed only with consensus after engaging everyone," is a synonym for, "We're going to do very little because we are afraid to shake things up." I am willing to bet that that's what you'll see in a Gray administration---a dramatic reduction in the pace of change. I don't need to know anything about Gray to conclude that, I just have to know about politicians and politics. Gray would have never brought in someone like Michelle Rhee. That's what some people want---they would rather have minimal, slow, deliberate progress, than a real attempt to shake things up. If that's what you want, then this is a good endorsement. But it is entirely wishful thinking to think that you can have the same rate of change and yet do it in a way that everyone will be happy with and support. If that's what you expect, I'm betting on disappointment.

by David desJardins on Sep 13, 2010 3:33 pm • linkreport

I think that David is, at heart, an earnest goo-goo liberal, and Gray says all the right things and has the kind of temperament that David is drawn to. A Gray administration would be more gratifying to Alpert's beliefs about how he "thinks" government should be run, even though Fenty produced a bunch of policy victories that Alpert would have otherwise supported. Fenty's success, it could be said, is a minus for Alpert: the problem is that Fenty's success forces Alpert to confront the fact that the Gray style of government isn't going to work. But it's compelling to think that a friendly consensus-builder whose focus is making everyone happy is the way government runs best.

by JustMe on Sep 13, 2010 3:33 pm • linkreport

David's hedging his bet

I think you're endorsing the front runner to gain access and favor with him

You can think what you want, but the truth is that David actually wants people to vote for Gray because he thinks it's best for the city. If the thorough vetting that he aired through several posts doesn't convince you of his sincerity, then nothing will. If you don't agree with David's endorsement, then respond to his arguments.

by Ken Archer on Sep 13, 2010 3:33 pm • linkreport

Heh, having seen this before...where a blog lead confuses general support for issues with being a "movement leader" I feel the need to suggest some required blog lead reading...

by John on Sep 13, 2010 3:37 pm • linkreport

I thought long and hard about the choice before stepping into the early voting booth on Saturday evening, and ended up voting for Fenty. I don't think a Gray Administration would be as bad as many critics fear it will be, but I also don't think it will be as good as many supporters think it'll be. Despite his character flaws, Fenty is the stronger choice, IMHO.

So no endorsement in the Council Chair race? I voted for Kwame Brown.

by Malcolm Kenton on Sep 13, 2010 3:43 pm • linkreport

@Ken: The problem is there are no arguments ro respond to. How do you respond to "he says he's for it, so ignore his history"? It's a non-disputable argument, as it is based on nothing fact wise. You either buy it or you don't.

by John on Sep 13, 2010 3:51 pm • linkreport

Outside of the part where he thinks David wrote this for political purposes, I agree with what Bartholomew said. Gray's campaign strategy has just been to say "we are going to bring everyone together and make everyone happy!" It's a campaign that worked for Obama, but he had policy positions to back that up, which Gray lacks. I just don't know what his position is on the issues, outside of being for whatever I'm for, of course.

by Brian S. on Sep 13, 2010 4:02 pm • linkreport

The so-called anti-bike lane flyer is not really an attack on bike lanes. It is an attack on cronyism. The special lane for Fenty friends does not even look like a bike lane--and there is no way that the flyer is suggesting that cyclists are using bike lanes to get around the law.

by Jim on Sep 13, 2010 4:05 pm • linkreport

Fenty's success, it could be said, is a minus for Alpert: the problem is that Fenty's success forces Alpert to confront the fact that the Gray style of government isn't going to work. But it's compelling to think that a friendly consensus-builder whose focus is making everyone happy is the way government runs best.
In most cases it is exactly whatÂ’s necessary. It is specifically when youÂ’re on the cusp of big investments and major reforms, however, that you need a guy whose more about doing stuff than talking about it. The measure 100 times before cutting approach is nice when things are largely stable, but policy windows for enacting changes are very short and if you donÂ’t jump in and get them done theyÂ’ll end up being talked to death. At the end of the day, when a window opens up itÂ’s better to get something that makes a few people unhappy than maintain a status quo thatÂ’s not good for anyone until every little groupÂ’s qualifications are met.

by PJ on Sep 13, 2010 4:08 pm • linkreport

A lot of these comments remind me of Phil Mendelson on the streetcars. "There's no plan!" "Um, Mr. Mendelson, you just didn't read the plan."

I get the sense that some people think Gray has no positions because they haven't looked at his policy papers and haven't been to a town hall or debate where he talked about them.

The only information some folks have is a couple tweets they saw about thinks he said at a debate about bike lanes. Therefore, obviously he has no positions, just like the streetcar has no beginning and no end.

And then there is the exhaustive series of posts I did on his positions, only those don't count, because well, I must have had ulterior motives like endorsing him once he was the front-runner, except for the fact that I started the series when the latest polls still showed him trailing.

So Gray hasn't expressed any policy positions, except for the times he has, and then he must be just telling people what they want to hear, and I must be being opportunistic in waiting until the last minute, except all the articles long before the last minute were too numerous, and too full of details, except there are no details to be found about Gray.

Okay. Nobody is stopping you from voting for Fenty. Some people made up their minds long ago. I was pretty skeptical of Gray too, at the beginning.

by David Alpert on Sep 13, 2010 4:14 pm • linkreport

But PJ, what if you are jumping in and making the wrong decision that at the end of the day, costs taxpayers time and money? That is what has happened repeatedly with this Mayor. He can't complain that he hasn't the money for the DC Summer Youth Program while at the same time plopping extra monies into pet projects to attempt to get the right.

Also, as others have noted, can we afford a government that participates in this kind of activity:

This is Barry Politics - you know, the kind of activity that the Fenty people are trying to paint on Gray?

by Andrew on Sep 13, 2010 4:15 pm • linkreport

Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.

by charlie on Sep 13, 2010 4:16 pm • linkreport

Steve at 12:59 had the right idea. This is the most entertaining thread I've seen in a year of reading this blog. Anyway, you urbanites have fun re-enacting Bush/Gore '00, maybe with actual voting discrepancies. I'll be quietly voting for O'Malley-Brown.

by Mike on Sep 13, 2010 4:23 pm • linkreport

So Gray hasn't expressed any policy positions, except for the times he has...

Actually, that's a bit of a mischaracterization. We concede that he has expressed policy positions. Just that the positions he's expressed vary with his audience, and that they're contradictory.

by oboe on Sep 13, 2010 4:23 pm • linkreport

David, it's not that nobody read your posts about Gray. It that they were long on rhetoric from Gray and notably short of information on Gray's record. And what new information was there, was negative.

Example: the Gray staffer who masterminded the streetcar cuts is a member of the Committee of 100 and is still a trusted Gray advisor. That's an absolute bombshell revelation that should convince any smart growther to vote for Fenty.

by Phil on Sep 13, 2010 4:30 pm • linkreport

oboe: That's what you were saying, but I wasn't talking about you.

Phil: She's not a "trusted Gray advisor." She's a budget staffer. Do you have information verifying that she's advising on policy? Because I know who wrote the transportation policy paper, and she wasn't one of the people.

by David Alpert on Sep 13, 2010 4:33 pm • linkreport

David, if she has the power to zero out the streetcar budget it doesn't really matter where she sits on the org chart. And obviously, if Gray invests her with the power to do that, he must trust her.

by Phil on Sep 13, 2010 4:41 pm • linkreport

@oboe: Correct. You forgot the other contradictory theme, however. "Let's spend more money on it!...but we won't raise taxes...and I'll be fiscally responsible". Most of his policy papers end up on the "spend more money", at a time we are already doing cuts just to stay afloat.

@David: Phil didn't say "transportation policy paper". He said the street car cut...which from the info I've heard is an accurate statement. Also, as I've noted and Phil just said, it isn't that we haven't read your posts. It's that they entirely seem to be based on "he says it, and I believe it, so ignore actual policy history"...which is fine. But it's a "take it or leave it argument", not one someone can stand on as a debatable point or argue is exhaustive. It's just "I beleive his rhetoric" repeated over and over, with different wording.

by John on Sep 13, 2010 4:42 pm • linkreport

I've read Gray's policy papers, and I think that calling them policy papers is giving them too much credit. They are more like a set of vague principals, many of which are already concrete fact under this administration. Which is no surprise, given that Gray seems to think this administration is doing a good job on just about everything except tone.

by downtown rez on Sep 13, 2010 4:48 pm • linkreport

@David - as a mentor of mine once said, the budget is the most important policy document that is ever formulated.

You seem to think that authoring a white paper is more policy-relevant than programming funding. That is very unfortunate and misguided - the budgeting is far more consequential in actual outcomes, because the outcome (especially for high-capital infrastructure like streetcars) is far more sensitive to funding level than to policy design.

It's no comfort that Gray's right-hand Committee of 100 anti-streetcar staffer is budgeting but not writing white papers. Indeed, it is precisely what undermines the logic of your endorsement.

by Jeb on Sep 13, 2010 4:49 pm • linkreport

David: Do you have evidence that this "Trusted Gray Advisor", is NOT advising on policy? The person whom you're inferring heads up the development of the District's capital budget for Council. Please don't make it seem as if its some random peon. Don't you think that her opinions influence policy?

Your cryptic response however, is much appreciated.

by Bartholomew on Sep 13, 2010 4:51 pm • linkreport

It was obvious from the get go that Gray was willing to spend the time needed courting David and other would-be Fenty supporters. In the end he campaigned harder and his charisma seems to have won many over. I guess Fentys actual results and just about everyones approval of the direction the city is heading seems to only resonate with a minority for whom charisma and empty promises don't. Sadly I think the race is all but decided. I just hope David keeps his word and holds Gray accountable... (and isn't above begging forgiveness)

by Anon on Sep 13, 2010 5:16 pm • linkreport

I actually don't think a Gray victory is assured. Turnout will be key in this race and thankfully for Fenty, his core constituencies tend to be pretty high-turnout. I wouldn't be surprised if this one goes down to the wire.

by Phil on Sep 13, 2010 5:21 pm • linkreport

@Andrew: But PJ, what if you are jumping in and making the wrong decision that at the end of the day, costs taxpayers time and money?

That means you're doing it right. Here's a good quote from Peter Norvig about Google:

"If you're a politician, admitting you're wrong is a weakness, but if you're an engineer, you essentially want to be wrong half the time. If you do experiments and you're always right, then you aren't getting enough information out of those experiments. You want your experiment to be like the flip of a coin: You have no idea if it is going to come up heads or tails. You want to not know what the results are going to be."

What I find surprising is that David comes to GGW from Google and yet he seems much more sympathetic to the "avoid mistakes" philosophy. That's certainly not what I learned there.

by David desJardins on Sep 13, 2010 5:50 pm • linkreport

"That's certainly not what I learned there."

Hmm, maybe that's why engineers don't make good politicians? This isn't a system that needs to be optimized. You need leaders who can sell it, and what is painfully clear is Fenty isn't interested in doing retail anymore.

The real question is whether tying "urbanism" to one man means urbanism loses when Fenty loses. And I think DA has it right on that: these issues are bigger than one man.

by charlie on Sep 13, 2010 6:03 pm • linkreport

@charlie: You need leaders who can sell it, and what is painfully clear is Fenty isn't interested in doing retail anymore.

Doesn't that seem sort of circular? Of course, if Fenty loses the election, that means he wasn't effective in building the support that he needed to win the election.

But that's a different question than whether to vote for him. You should vote for him if you think he's doing a better job than the other guy would. Whether or not he's convincing other voters of that is pretty much irrelevant to your own voting decision, right?

Unless you're guilty of what some have accused Alpert of---supporting the likely winner just because he's the likely winner.

by David desJardins on Sep 13, 2010 6:21 pm • linkreport

@David desJardins

While I completely agree with you, it would be much easier to defend the Fenty administration if they would explicitly appeal to the ideas of "fail early, fail often" or "design/build" to explain their process and give it legitimacy. Instead, they say we're moving fast, and moving fast means people don't feel included sometimes. That poor explanation invites a Gray to say "we need to move a touch slower and move forward as one city".

by Ken Archer on Sep 13, 2010 6:23 pm • linkreport

I have deleted a comment by charlie that called another commenter an idiot.

Charlie, you are a regular commenter so you should know better. Please feel free to repost the rest of your comment, which made some interesting points. However, ad hominem attacks will lead to comments being deleted.

by David Alpert on Sep 13, 2010 6:45 pm • linkreport

@Dave, my apologies. I should know better, and I'm glad you found the second part of my posting interesting. However, I'm not sure I can repost it; being an idiot was directly related to where the commenter lived (his lack of direct knowledge of DC) and worked (Computer science vs political professional) and the interesting parts of my post. I saw an linkage there, but perhaps it was all in mind. In any case, I was trying to qualify it as I'm glad he was an idiot, but intent, as in many traffic accidents, isn't the issue here.

@Ken_Archer; your logic is equally faulty. Let me explain: politicians aren't concerned about "fail often" model. Failure is heavily punished. That is a feature, not a bug. The only way we can express our displeasure is to vote them out. They know that as well.

As I've said before, I often wonder how many GGW readers would be happy if DC was run by a board of commissioners. Arlington is a great example of that; the effective lack of democracy is related to the explosion of "smartGrowth." A really good politician could hold Arlington's hand for 20+ years -- but it isn't likely. And absent that electoral mandate, is "urbanism" best suited for the ballot box, or through "special interests"

by charlie on Sep 13, 2010 7:22 pm • linkreport

Gray's "position papers" read as if they were written by committee. Which they were since a friend of mine was involved in writing them.

And they're not position papers - they're a grab bag of all the wonderful things that will occur in a Gray administration. How will any of them be paid for? By reducing the costs of special education. Oh, well then.

It's a faith-based budget. Just like this is a faith-based endorsement. None of David A's previous postings leading up to this "shocking" endorsement were convincing. And the commentariat pointed that out rather forcefully.

I don't know what David A's motivations are, nor do I care. What is far more interesting is the large amount of unsupported assumptions and illogical conclusions on why Gray is better.

Ultimately, what turns me off to Gray is his fundamental dishonesty about what the next four years portend for the city if the economy continues in this "new normal" rather than rebounding:

* We're looking at continued low tax collections, meaning we're either going to need to raise taxes or cut services.
* We're looking at consolidation of government agencies and cutting of personnel.
* We're looking at literally hundreds of promises Gray has made to just about every audience, with no way to pay for them.

That's what bothers me most about Gray - even more than his subtle, but concerted effort at playing to racial tensions in the city.

He's simply been dishonest about what the city and its residents can expect from their government in a Gray administration.

And he's suckered in a large number of people by telling them what they want to hear - sure we can have everything and not have to worry about paying for it; sure we can move forward quickly while still doing extensive listening sessions; sure we can get everybody jobs and stop national economic realities without changing social realities.

I really wish this blog - and the media in general - had done a more thorough job researching Gray's performance on the Council and the people he hired to run various Council bodies (Office of the Council Secretary, Office of the Council Budget Director, Office of Policy Analysis, etc) and appointments he made to various District boards and commissions (for example, UDC).

But that didn't happen. Instead, we got a very shallow and perfunctory analysis of how Gray would make us feel better by listening to us and how all his past flip-flops are perfectly understandable and can be explained away.

by Fritz on Sep 13, 2010 7:40 pm • linkreport

Hmm, maybe that's why engineers don't make good politicians?

To wit, discounting the tinkering and surveying prevalent in the founding generation, the only two presidents with an engineering background are Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter.

by Kolohe on Sep 13, 2010 8:32 pm • linkreport


There was a great conversation on this topic following my post, "Design-Build may look like lack of planning, but isn't". The FTA is encouraging local transportation departments to adopt design-build and DDOT under Klein is a leader in this regard. David and I are really interested in this topic. Maybe you could continue the comment thread there.

This context provides, in the opinions of David and I, some helpful rationale for many (though not all) DDOT initiatives that have been criticized for lack of planning. That's why David expressed frustration that Fenty doesn't try to explain his bias for action as what it is, at least in the case of many DDOT projects, an intentional design-build process.

Saying that design-build is politically untenable, however more effective and efficient it may be, is certainly a fair position. But it seems to me that those crying foul on process are a small group of antis, such that it may be political tenable to say they are simply wrong, and here are the reasons why.

by Ken Archer on Sep 13, 2010 8:51 pm • linkreport

My observation over the past decade +....the virtual "tabula rasa" always wins in this town. Williams, Fenty, now Gray, although this could be the first successful "I'm Not Him" election -- not exactly a ringing endorsement of whatever policy papers may be written.

This city loves a "new face" and people project their own thoughts/feelings/neurotic needs/hopesdreams onto that new face, regardless of what the pesky facts may be. Most people I find are very ill-informed in general and have no clue about how policy/politics/government actually work, and, most notably, how to actually get anything done in a town known KNOWN for a historically recalcitrant, change adverse bureaucracy that is more than happy to punch the clock daily. I wish everyone good luck, as they will need it.

by Jeff on Sep 13, 2010 9:00 pm • linkreport

I'm finally back at a computer and wanted to follow up on David's comment about Google.

Software is different from other disciplines in that it's particularly easy to change things. Therefore, rapid prototyping and experimentation is the best approach.

As the product becomes more expensive, more long-lasting, and harder to change, you need to do more design and less experimentation. If you're a consumer electronics manufacturer, you need to put some more design work into each prototype you make, because it costs money.

And you don't want to launch a product without some testing, because if the speakers turn out to be bad, you can't just go swap in a new set of speakers on everyone's phone while you can change the algorithm on Web-based software.

I've encouraged DDOT to do experimentation in those areas where it's relatively easy to do it. For example, they can put in quick curbs/flexposts on intersections to try creating temporary bulbouts and see how it goes.

It's a little more expensive to put in a bike lane and then rip it out, or to move a bus line and then move it back, but not that expensive, and experimentation is a good approach in this case.

In fact, on the one bike lane I criticized, the Pennsylvania Avenue lane, my frustration was not that DDOT changed the design but that they never ran the experiment. They had a good experiment set up to see what would happen if they narrowed the road, but then suddenly punted on it without giving it a try. I just wanted to try it, then narrow it if it turned out to have problems.

It's like if you worked for a few months to set up an experiment with Google UI and then Marissa suddenly told you no at the last minute. Which happened to me a lot. Maybe that taught me that you need to do a bit of work to get buy-in even for more experimental ideas.

Moving up the spectrum, once you get to projects that are very long-lasting, you need to do more planning. Buildings last for 50-100 years. Therefore, you can't just throw up one kind of building and see if it works. Peter Norvig wouldn't want his experiments to fail half the time if each experiment had to stay on for 50 years.

One way you can experiment in planning and transportation is to try putting a design out there to get feedback. DDOT could be releasing the designs for bike lanes before they're totally final, for example. It's not as good as running the actual experiment, because often what people say they want and what they really want are different (as any good software company knows). But it's way cheaper, which is why Google showed products to other engineers internally (a very imperfect way of getting information, see Google Buzz) and ran usability tests on products in addition to 1% experiments on real users.

One approach doesn't fit all. You don't need to plan everything, but you can't plan nothing either. You need to plan more when the consequences of being wrong are more significant, and experiment more when the value of gaining information outweighs the cost of making changes.

by David Alpert on Sep 13, 2010 9:19 pm • linkreport

I'm not voting for Gray for a myriad of reasons, perhaps in large part because I think he is better suited to the job (I voted for Kathy but he's been pretty good, though not as god as I think she would have been) he already has rather than one that calls for leadership. DC used to be run by the Council alone, at least in reality (our picks of mayors has not been stellar over the years) and so the rise from Council to mayor is a pretty well-trodden path. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't. The executive as it should be is very different from the Council and I'm not sure Gray will work in that position.

That being said, this part of the comments really creeped me out though and I cannot fathom this at all. It made me shudder to think this is something that's completely OK to say or feel. It's not 1968 and the incredible viciousness of the statement and desperate attempt to link it to DC's darkest days is...I have no words for this.

My GF just voted for him[Fenty, my clarification]; the Post's scare tactics have worked and she thinks the blacks will take over if Gray wins.

by copperred on Sep 13, 2010 10:25 pm • linkreport

@Davis DesJardins:
"If you're a politician, admitting you're wrong is a weakness, but if you're an engineer, you essentially want to be wrong half the time.
Maybe of you're a computer engineer, and you also don't build things that go into systems that need to not fail, or fail rarely. Personally I would never want to hear that from an engineer. It's fine to fail in the lab, it is not fine to have your bridge crater during rush hour or your traffic light signaling software to turn all lights green.

by copperred on Sep 13, 2010 10:31 pm • linkreport

@David Alpert: One way you can experiment in planning and transportation is to try putting a design out there to get feedback. DDOT could be releasing the designs for bike lanes before they're totally final, for example.

Are you arguing that Fenty could do a better job? Sure. Of course. But we aren't comparing Fenty to uber-Fenty. We're comparing Fenty, with a track record of innovation and pushing boundaries (and sometimes making mistakes, but none that I can think of that are set in stone for the next 50 years), with someone who is running as the candidate of the political establishment, whose candidacy seems based primarily on criticism of Fenty for going too far, for trying too many things even when they encounter (expected) fierce resistance.

Vince Gray: "Mayor Fenty deserves tremendous credit for making education the highest priority of his administration and our city. Sadly, Mayor FentyÂ’s hands-off management style has resulted in a short-sighted, narrow, and clandestine approach to the education reform effort. Vince Gray understands that we must take a more holistic approach to education, and rebuild the public trust in our education system, if weÂ’re going to provide our children with the foundation they need to succeed. We need a mayor who will focus on the entire birth-to-24 education process. We need a mayor who understands the value of community buy-in. And most of all, we need a mayor who will take a more involved role in the decision making process if mayoral control is to translate into accountability."

Anyone who agree with this quote, should vote for Gray. Anyone who thinks that "rebuilding the public trust" is something that you only achieve by changing a broken public school system, who thinks that "community buy-in" is code for watering down any change to next to nothing, who thinks "hands-on management" is code for the mayor overruling the chancellor whenever some sufficiently influential group has their ox gored, should have serious doubts.

When you're trying to reform something as broken as DCPS, if there aren't a lot of people seriously unhappy with what you're doing, then you're doing too little. There are systemic reasons why things are the way they are. How do you make things better and keep everyone happy when the existing stakeholders mostly are invested in the status quo?

by David desJardins on Sep 13, 2010 10:43 pm • linkreport

Maybe the GF thing was in jest, and I guess I'm going to hope so, but yeah weird...

I've lived here long enough that I read the Post with a critical eye at least half the time, and I know, as most longtime residents know, that the Post has an agenda of its own and we all just make up our own minds because we are perfectly capable of doing so. I don't even see the need for endorsements or movie reviews for that matter, I can make up my own damn mind.

by copperred on Sep 13, 2010 10:45 pm • linkreport

So Fenty moves fast but occasionally screws up (deals to frat brothers, bowing to political pressure against good ideas). Gray moves slower and more deliberately. Both are moving in the same general direction.

So which is better: to go 50 mph but take a few wrong turns? Or to go 25 mph and never miss a turn?

by Jonah Nonimus on Sep 13, 2010 11:07 pm • linkreport

@Jonah: So which is better: to go 50 mph but take a few wrong turns? Or to go 25 mph and never miss a turn?

I'd probably vote for 25 mph if that were the choice.

But most local governments go zero mph, most of the time. After all, with average leadership, organizations generally revert to their long-term average. And systems have so much inertia, you have to press hard on the gas just to move at all.

by David desJardins on Sep 13, 2010 11:12 pm • linkreport

I am disappointed with the tone of too many of the comments that feel free to impugning D.Alpert's motives for endorsing Gray. I mean, you don't have to agree with him but give him he benefit of the doubt. After all, he started GGW and has allowed all sorts of voices that do not agree with DA's opinions both in the comments and as editorial writers. This race has gotten far too toxic and I will be glad when it is over.

by SJE on Sep 14, 2010 12:14 am • linkreport

Wow ... I can't believe I'm finding myself agreeing with what David has to say above. He's eloquently expressing that which the Committee of 100 and others have been trying to make understood now for a long long time. I.e., There's nothing wrong with the great ideas we've been hearing ... It's the lacking of planning and rush to implementation that is of concern.

Now ... a question to the 'David Alpert' above. Where's the real David ... and what did you do with him!?!


by Lance on Sep 14, 2010 12:30 am • linkreport

"Process" is a nihilistic formalism I've seen used to justify the most shameful anti-change arguments from NIMBYs across the country. It doesn't matter what is done, what the long-term consequences or meaningful adoption of a position is, just whether you followed the rules. If you can't win on values, win on process.

Bureaucracies are particularly keen on process - it's how they work fairly - and DC's lawyers and bureaucrats will admire the wet slop of Gray for his easy backbone of process, one he acquired secondhand from governmental institutions. But it means nothing in the lives of those who will live and work in the District.

by Neil Flanagan on Sep 14, 2010 3:13 am • linkreport

Lance: I have never really objected to the Committee of 100's professed belief in good planning. I like good planning. We are sort of a community of planners, here on the blog.

However, my first exposure to the Committee of 100 was in the zoning rewrite. And from the outset, it seemed pretty clear to me that at least the members participating (especially the late Barbara Zartman) were not interested in ensuring the rewrite was thoughtfully planned and not rushed, but rather in ensuring the rewrite changed as little as possible.

She and others in affiliated groups saw each prohibition as a hard-fought protection for a neighborhood, even prohibitions that made the existing houses in her own Georgetown illegal to rebuild if the whole neighborhood burned down. They didn't approach the rewrite with a list of significant improvements of their own and a few things they wanted to keep; they wanted to keep it all, with just a couple of very minor tweaks mostly to make even more things nonconforming.

There was only one area I remember agreeing with Ms. Zartman, and that was on curb cuts. I applaud her push to cut down on curb cuts. But this was also a recommendation to disallow something (albeit something I'd also disallow).

I'd love to work with a group dedicated to good planning. I just haven't seen that from the Committee so far. Does the Committee want to work on pushing bus lanes? Some kind of bicycle improvement it believes is best? Does it want to boulevardize any freeways which it opposed in the first place? Where is it on these and other issues?

by David Alpert on Sep 14, 2010 7:46 am • linkreport

On May 26th Gray and his Committee of 100 staffer cut David's favorite program in the middle of the night, then buckled under public pressured and borrowed money the money to restore it a few months later. Now, three and a half months later David endorses him.

I'm no fan of Gray, but I'll give him his due. He's clearly a skilled politician, and he knows how to romance a blogger. I suppose if you care more about that sort of thing than actual policy he's the guy to vote for.

It's telling that David's endorsement doesn't include a single policy difference between Fenty and Gray. David even thinks the best person to run DDOT is the person Fenty hired. The endorsement boils down to "Like Fenty, but nicer." I hope David's right, but if I were betting money, I'd wager against. Instead, I think I'll head to the polls and vote for the jerk who's made this a better city.

by jcm on Sep 14, 2010 9:26 am • linkreport

I thought long and hard about Alperts "faith-based" endorsement of Gray. The title of the endorsement post should have been "Have Faith That Gray Will Make Good on his Promises". We all believe in the ideas on this blog after all. No faith needed there. It's Gray you are asking us to take a leap of faith on. In the end I came to the conclusion that's a rational that would make more sense if Fenty was just a "good" mayor. Problem is by most measures he is a "very good" mayor. And very good mayors deserve another term. Time and time again the worst criticisms of Fenty seemed like positives to me anyway. I'm glad he has been going "100 miles per hour". Those of us who grew up here know we had some catching up to do after decades of do-nothing mayors that preceded him. I for one would rather have a mayor like Fenty who builds 20 things, 2 of which will be awful and 2 of which will be flawed. Than a Mayor like Gray. Who will build 4 things and study to death the rest.

by Anon on Sep 14, 2010 9:32 am • linkreport

Pretty shocking: The City Paper has actually come out with an endorsement in support of Fenty. I could have written it, since it pretty much nails every point of my own thinking about the Gray/Fenty race:

Building on Anthony WilliamsÂ’ efforts, Fenty has overseen a dramatically more professional D.C government. ThereÂ’s a reason that even polls predicting a lopsided Fenty loss reveal happiness with the general state of things. Thanks to appointees like Gabe Klein, Harriet Tregoning, and Cathy Lanier, the cityÂ’s agencies are more responsive to citizens than theyÂ’ve ever been.

With schools, Fenty’s been even more ambitious than his predecessor. Michelle Rhee’s assault on the D.C. Public Schools status quo will go down as a rare attempt to raise local institutions above the low standards Washingtonians once accepted. Rhee shares Fenty’s abrasive traits, but in her case, it’s easy to be more charitable: When it comes to reforming a failed school system, you either go monomaniacal or go home. It’s naïve to think that you can do it while simultaneously making nice with the old guard.

Making nice with the old guard, alas, is a key Gray tactic. He hasn’t argued that Fenty is a failure—to the contrary, he makes Fenty’s case by failing to criticize the mayor on substantive policy grounds. When we asked Gray to name three Fenty policies he’d overturn, he struggled to come up with one, dinging Fenty (politely) for giving short shrift to the University of the District of Columbia in his education efforts.

Instead, Gray’s message is about style, about how a mayor must be more “respectful.” What does that mean? A pretty good hint came in the form of an e-mail asking fired city employees to contact Gray’s campaign, presumably to testify about how disrespectful Fenty is. Gray distanced himself from the e-mail, but not from the idea that his election means bureaucratic job security will be a top priority again at the Wilson Building.

Polls have shown the courtly Gray benefiting from voters’ conclusion that Fenty is a jerk. Content with riding that into office, he’s settled—wisely—on a strategy of being all things to all people. Take transportation: He wants to get people out of their cars. But he wants cheaper parking, too! Or growth. Should a D.C. mayor push for new residents? “Yes, within limits,” he says. “I don’t know what those limits are at this stage.” Thanks for clearing that up.


by oboe on Sep 14, 2010 9:47 am • linkreport

It's actually really simple everyone.

Process kills innovation, but process is absolutely crucial to operations. Many of you are very smart and well intentioned, but have no idea what it takes to run a very large organization with all of the personalities, politics, financial challenges. As someone who has this experience, the work that the Fenty Administration has been able to do over the past 4 years is nothing short of jaw dropping in the face of all of the challenges. Gray is a very nice, and competent person, but it is very apparent that he does not have the force of personality, nor the strength to stare down special interests to affect real change.

The desire to include everyone in every major decision shows the inexperience and impracticality of many of the arguments here on GGW. You hire great people, vet their plans, let the public give feedback as appropriate, and you implement. Decision by committee is almost always a recipe for disaster. Trust an old timer who has see a lot in his storied life.

by OldTimer on Sep 14, 2010 9:49 am • linkreport

This race has gotten far too toxic and I will be glad when it is over.

Oh NOOO! People might actually DISAGREE with each other and ONE side might win over ANOTHER! NOOOO!!!!

It's this kind of non-confrontationalism and fear of actually doing something that is drawing people like Alpert to Gray's goo-goo platitudes.

Fenty has done a good job. Alpert's drawn to Gray based on a hope that Gray will "listen to all voices" but somehow be convinced of the strength of Alpert's arguments. I can see how this fantasy of what Alpert things the process might result in is a compelling one: instead of a sharp-elbowed Fenty promoting urbanism, we will have a consensus-building Gray who is swayed by the strength of Alpert's wonkish smart growth arguments. It's so flattering, so democratic, so committed to our ideals of how we were taught government should be run in high school civics class: and it is the absolute wrong thing to do under the circumstances.

Like many others here, I will concede to being impressed with Gray's ability to market himself to thought-leaders like Alpert who would otherwise be Fenty voters. Like Old Timer, I, too, am a bit too old to be impressed by Gray's marketing schemes: I know that running a city in changing times depends more on being a nice person who "listens."

by JustMe on Sep 14, 2010 10:24 am • linkreport

I have deleted your comment because it was solely an ad hominem attack. Feel free to discuss issues and other people's positions on the merits.

Thank you for understanding.

by Matt Johnson on Sep 14, 2010 11:51 am • linkreport

Has there been any talk of Fenty running as an Independent if he loses today? Is that even possible?

by Anon on Sep 14, 2010 12:35 pm • linkreport

@ Anon He can no longer run as an Independent. He *could* accept the republican nomination if enough republicans wrote him in - they didn't field a candidate, so only write ins are happening. Fenty has said he would not accept the republican nomination. It wouldn't surprise me if he changed his mind though, if he does lose today and gets republican write-in support. If today's vote is close, a rematch in November with republicans and independents voting would probably be a Fenty victory.

by jcm on Sep 14, 2010 12:43 pm • linkreport

@Anon; no, he can't run as an independent, he missed the filing deadline.

Some republicans want to write-in his name on the Republican ballot, and theoretically he could switch parties and accept. (assuming the write-in worked and he was nominated as a Republican) Fenty has said he won't do that.

by charlie on Sep 14, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

I believe Fenty (or anyone who should lose today's primary) can still run in the general election as an independent, but they will not be on the ballot and would have to organize a write-in campaign.

by Alex B. on Sep 14, 2010 12:51 pm • linkreport

"all Fenty cares about is putting in Streetcars/Dog parks for newcomer white folks".

The funniest thing about David's endorsment of Gray is some version of the above tagline is used by many of those who fell "left out" of Fenty's improvements.

Gray will wisely avoid Streetcars and similiar items to avoid falling prey to the next wannabe mayor who will charge him with the same thing if he caters to anything GGW is likely to advocate.

by LeeinDC on Sep 14, 2010 12:51 pm • linkreport

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