As a political junkie, I am always fascinated at how new administrations take shape. Whether it is a president, governor or mayor, the process is similar. Some chief executives are more public and float names around to get a response, or just to make people who were never under consideration for a position think they were. Others work less publicly.
But whatever the process the pundits who predicted a return to the old days of Marion Barry in D.C. are now eating their words. Mayor-elect Vincent Gray is remaining true to his word to appoint only competent people to his administration who will help move the District forward.
First, it was Allen Lew as city administrator. Lew is respected across the District as a can-do administrator open to input from the community. Since then Gray has added to his administration Cathy Lanier, who will continue as chief of police; Irvin Nathan the current general counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, as the next attorney general; and Paul A. Quander, Jr., the well respected head of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, as deputy mayor for public safety. Gray will keep Kaya Henderson as interim schools chancellor and as the administration is filled out we will continue to see qualified new people named. In addition, he is keeping the current leadership at the Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Public Works and Planning Office. By the time you read this we should know most of the rest of his administration.
Being a qualified person doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will approve the appointment. There are those in the LGBT community who have had issues with Chief Lanier. But it is important to recognize that above all Chief Lanier is dedicated to all the people of the District and the LGBT community has a commitment from Mayor-elect Gray to work with the Chief on issues of concern to us.
Also of note is that in the midst of preparing the budget and appointing his administration, Gray took the time to have his transition spokesperson issue the following statement on the charges against a police officer accused of attacking a member of the transgender community: “We’ve made inquiries about the incident, in light of the serious issues raised. Mayor-elect Gray is sensitive to the concerns of the LGBT community and is fully committed to ending sexual identity bias…”
In addition, Stephen Glaude, the newly appointed director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs in which the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs is located, was on top of this issue within hours and has said that this administration will be sensitive to and committed to working with all the diverse communities in the District.
Ronald Collins, a gay seasoned administrator, will head the Office of Boards and Commissions. This is an office he ran successfully during the Anthony Williams administration when he helped to ensure that qualified members of the LGBT community were well represented on boards and commissions in every area.
The District of Columbia is facing tough economic times as are all state and local governments. We must deal with the reality that not every wish will be granted — that when there is an economic impact to the things we ask for they will have to be weighed against other needs. But much of what our community needs doesn’t have a cost associated with it. As the Gray administration begins on Jan. 2, I am confident our community will be heard and our unique needs will be addressed.
As I write this column I have one eye on the TV where the United States Senate is debating repeal of DADT. As the vote tally is announced my eyes are welling with tears and I give silent thanks to so many who have fought for this over the years. I take a moment to remember my friends in the military today and those brave gay and lesbian men and women who have died for our country without the right to be open about who they really are.
I know that Congress would not vote in favor of another issue that is important to our community: marriage equality. We and our allies will have to be vigilant over the next few years to protect marriage equality in the District of Columbia. I am heartened that our next mayor is a committed ally. He and his administration will be standing with us, on the battle lines if necessary, to protect our rights and to fight for the rights of all the people of the District of Columbia for self-determination.