Politics isn’t for the faint of heart. There are often hurt feelings after elections, both those of the candidate and their supporters. But good politicians understand their egos matter less than what is done for the people they want to serve. The goal must always be a good and effective government that serves to protect its citizens, educate its children, and provide help for those who cannot speak for themselves and those our system may have failed in the past.
My support for Vince Gray in the Democratic primary was based on friendship and government doing a good job in those areas. While it was sad when he lost I felt 100 percent comfortable in supporting Muriel Bowser in the general election. Those of us who participate, the voters, make those decisions with every election.
My support for Bowser, a friend and a savvy and intelligent woman, thus far has proven right. She has recognized the good things that Vince Gray is leaving her and stepped up to the plate working with him to ensure that his legacy will include a new soccer stadium. She did it in a way that was honest and kept her commitment to those who elected her. She has made excellent appointments starting with Rashad Young as City Administrator. She followed that up naming Brenda Donald as Deputy Mayor for Human Services, Jennifer Niles as Deputy Mayor for Education and Polly Donaldson as Director of Housing and Community Development. She is surrounding herself with quality individuals like Beverly Perry as senior adviser and Michael Czin as communications director. She convinced John Falcicchio to become her chief of staff. He follows one of the best people ever to occupy that job, Christopher Murphy, chief of staff to Mayor Gray.
So on Jan. 2 when Gray’s term ends and Muriel Bowser takes the oath of office, she will be ready. Some wonder what kind of city she will inherit. From nearly every perspective the District of Columbia is a better place to live, work and play because Vince Gray was mayor.
The city’s finances are stable with a rainy day fund of more than $1.7 billion. We have bond ratings of AA — the best they have ever been, meaning lower borrowing costs. Bowser is keeping Chancellor Kaya Henderson, appointed by Gray, because she has done such a good job and the new mayor is committed to seeing that reform moves forward and student test scores continue to rise in every ward. She has reappointed Cathy Lanier as chief of police. Lanier has proven again and again that she is a leader and can work across all eight wards. Consequently she is the public official who gets the highest positive ratings from residents across the city. The delivery of services to our youth and seniors is being handled more efficiently than ever and thousands more are getting good healthcare for the first time ever.
Gray has worked 20 hours a day for the people of the District. He was out around the city more than any previous mayor visiting with constituents in all eight wards. He kept a schedule that would be tough for a man half his age. Watching him with constituents it was clear he gained energy from those contacts. He is what sometimes these days is too rare, a politician who really cares about the people he serves.
Vince Gray worked to make our city better for the LGBT community in many ways and did so not only because he knew intellectually it was right but because that is where his heart is. He ensured healthcare for transgender individuals; he fought against hate crimes and stood with the community at vigils when someone was hurt; he performed the first same-sex marriage at City Hall. His administration took on the fight against HIV/AIDS and we are seeing fewer new cases and those who are identified are getting immediate care.
As Bowser takes over, she is being handed a city in the best shape it has ever been in. She will make her mark by seeing it continue to grow and working to ensure those who benefitted the least from the renaissance of the city will now be able to fully participate. She will work to ensure that everyone, no matter the circumstance of their birth, has the tools they need to succeed.