March 17, 2011 | by Peter Rosenstein
A disappointing start for Mayor Gray

Disappointing is the word I use to describe the first months of the Gray administration. I recognize that some good things have happened. The mayor has appointed excellent deputy mayors, announced Kaya Henderson as D.C. Public Schools Chancellor, formed a new high level HIV/AIDS Commission and is moving forward on a slew of initiatives.

But all this is overshadowed by the unproven allegations of a losing minor mayoral candidate. What Gray has called missteps I consider accepting bad advice from erstwhile “friends.” I am not surprised, nor should he be, by how quickly some are willing to declare a “crisis” in government. But the “missteps” of giving jobs to employees’ children and raising salaries for some in his administration have only given ammunition to those that want to see a crisis.

Petula Dvorak in the Washington Post said, “tempting as it may be, this is not the time to buy that Fenty bumper sticker or get all nostalgic about the former mayor’s cute little Smart Car. Remember, Fenty had a Lincoln Navigator, too, and it was fully loaded with its own scandals. Maybe Gray is just front-loading his debacles, getting his screw-up’s out of the way in his first 100 days and moving on.” Consider also as some wax nostalgic that our former mayor has just gone on TV and endorsed the full substance and politics of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office must look at these allegations and do so quickly. If crimes occurred they need to be punished. Gray must shed some of the friends who appear more interested in their own gains than those of the city. We can’t be sidetracked from working on the crucial issues facing D.C. residents — moving forward on education reform, fighting HIV/AIDS and the right-sizing of our budget. Spending is out of whack and we have punted problems into the future instead of dealing with the reality of current revenue.

The city and the LGBT community need to move forward on a myriad of issues that require no new money but rather mayoral coordination. The director of the Mayor’s GLBT Office must work with GLOV on hate crimes, with the Rainbow Response Coalition on domestic violence, and with the MPD on strengthening the GLLU.

Gray has three years and 9 months to prove that he knows and can do better. Many voted for him understanding his commitment to balancing the budget in a way that will preserve the safety net for those most in need. They voted to continue education reform with community involvement and expect to see a steady improvement in our school system over the next four years. They voted for this mayor to work closely with Congress and our delegate for more independence and real home rule and to continue the improvement in city agency response to the public. They voted to treat both city employees and its residents with respect.

Ten weeks, and his first budget not submitted to the Council isn’t enough time to make judgments on where the city is headed. I understand some want to pounce all over the administration but when the Washington Post uses page one banner headlines to report unproven allegations the same weekend the first independent report on the takeover of the schools by the previous mayor appears below the fold in the Metro section, one must question motives. The Post writes an editorial criticizing Jack Evans for introducing a bill to politicize the school system and only mentions in the last line that the mayor has already said he would veto it.

Being in politics since the age of 12 and receiving my first “pay-off” for working in a campaign, getting to shake JFK’s hand in New York before the election, I know something about political patronage. I have absolutely no problem with patronage if those getting patronage jobs are qualified. After all, who should get first crack at jobs if not those who supported you? But everyone needs to be vetted and those who don’t meet the grade should be told with no uncertainty, no job!

But as the saying goes, let us not lose sight of the forest for the trees. We are facing difficult times at both the federal and the District level. Budgets will be cut and taxes and fees may be increased. Let’s keep our eyes on the big picture because that is what will impact our lives in the long run.

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