The Morning After The Day Before In Washington, DC

September 15, 2010

Well, the District’s mayoral race is finally over. Thought it would never end.

So many rallies and what were billed as debates but turned out to be mainly speechifying and  mud-slinging.  A glut of news articles and campaign endorsements styled as news articles. (You know what paper I’m talking about.)

Knocks on doors from dutiful “volunteers.” Flyers through the mail slot and incessant robocalls.

Numerous voter guides, i.e., candidates’ responses to questions posed by diverse public interest organizations — or more often copy-paste from campaign materials. And who would blame those who sometimes decided to take a pass when there were so many?

And yet when I walked into the ballot booth, I still didn’t know what differentiated the candidates — except, of course, for personal style. I’m the last person to say that’s not important. But, in a way, I’d have welcomed a clearer choice on substantive policies and priorities.

Maybe differently-run campaigns would have surfaced clear, bright lines. More likely there weren’t any. And that, I think, is a good thing. Because it means we’re closer to being “one city” than the campaign coverage or ward-by-ward results would indicate.

True, there’s a deep economic fault that splits our community into haves and have-nots. There’s an aggrieved sense of neglect among the latter. There are still festering racial hostilities.

But, in general terms, we agree on what needs to get done. No Tea Party upsurge here.

So Vince Gray will face a lot of challenges. But I, for one, am glad that the choice was more on matters of style and judgment than radical policy differences. Because we’re going to face more difficult times and do need to pull together.

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At Least Would-Be Mayor Vincent Gray Is Honest

May 12, 2010

One thing I like about DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray. He’s honest when it comes to his mayoral campaign. Some months ago, I recall, he confessed he wasn’t sure he’d run because if he lost, he’d be out of a job.

Now another sterling instance of Gray’s candor. Feisty Save Our Safety Net volunteer Mike Wilson got in his face at a campaign event. Said he hoped the Chairman was with them on the proposed new top tax brackets. Gray said he shared some of their “sentiments.” But he wasn’t sure “the timing is the best.” Not because of the recession, but “well, the elections.”

Is he worried that a majority of D.C. residents would vote against him if he supported the tax increase? Only about 5% of them would have to pay more. A far larger percentage would be affected by the proposed cuts in safety net programs that the increase could avert.

Or is he afraid to get pounded with Mayor Fenty’s claim to have solved the budget gap without raising taxes? Gray has already said, in effect, that the mayor’s proposed budget is smoke and mirrors–putting himself forward as the leader who will, once again, produce a plan that “provides services in a fiscally responsible way.”

And he’s publicly stated his support for pre-K and child care programs for all D.C. infants and toddlers. This in contrast to the cuts the mayor has proposed.

So where will the revenues come from? Seems that Gray is still trying to figure that out. No harm there. But he’s had time enough to decide where he stands on a tax proposal that dates back to last year.

After all, he was quick to decide against one revenue-raising option. All it apparently took was a barrage of e-mails from riled-up health club members for him to announce that he wouldn’t be putting an expansion of the sales tax on the table.

I’ve admired Chairman Gray’s leadership, though I’ve not always agreed with the results. But now he seems preoccupied with how the political winds are blowing and keeping the people who fund campaigns happy–not to mention using the budget deliberations as an occasion for Fenty-bashing.

We need Councilmembers who will stand up for choices that serve the needs of our community as a whole. Will Gray measure up to the “character, integrity, leadership” he claims?