City Desk

City Paper’s Schaffer: “Gray Never Promised Dramatic Change”

Well, well, a familiar name—in red type, even!—was below the fold of the Sunday Outlook section in the Post. City Paper's brilliant and fearless leader Michael Schaffer wrote an essay arguing that Mayor Vince Gray has done exactly what he promised: Very little.

“Measure us on the things I said we were going to do,” Gray said at the beginning of January. The problem: For all the bullet-pointed plans that any competently managed campaign can produce, he never announced some broad governing agenda. Instead, his victory was based on an implicit political promise. Unlike his polarizing predecessor, he would treat with appropriate deference the institutions and individuals — unions, clergy, longtime pols, neighborhood activists — who have dominated local politics in 30-plus years of home rule. And, by doing so, he would express appropriate humility to the largely African American, middle- and working-class voters who identify with those figures, and who remain the largest chunk of the electorate.

If that agenda was enough to defeat a shockingly tone-deaf incumbent, it hasn’t been much to govern on. In the District, like other places, most successful leaders have a goal that can be boiled down to a single sentence. Marion Barry was going to make government serve a long-neglected majority. Tony Williams was going to tidy up the city’s books. [Adrian] Fenty was going to improve its schools.

Gray, by contrast, conveyed no similar, singular passion. (Even if he had, the budget deficit that Fenty left behind would have crimped most ambitions.) “There is far more that brings us together than there is that drives us apart,” Gray said on inauguration day. “Whether we get around by car, bus, train, foot or bike, this is one city — our city.” See anything in there to disagree with?

Read the rest; and as our commentariat is far more knowledgeable about D.C. than the Post's, weigh in below.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Peter Orvetti

    It was a good piece, but I'm wondering why Schaffer wrote it for the Post. Aren't they the competition?

  • Bert

    The piece was quite good, and confirms what people have been thinking about our "Ol' Gray May'r." Every since he yawned his way into the mayor's office a year ago, a sleepy summer torpor seems to have enveloped the DC government. Gone is the vision and service culture of the Williams years, the sometimes frantic "do it now" culture of the Fenty administration. Everything about the Gray administration seems to be in slow-mo -- with few strategic goals in mind either.

  • IMGoph

    Peter's question is worth answering, Shani. Could you find us an answer?

  • Mike Madden

    @ Peter, IMGoph:

    The Post contacted Schaffer and asked if he'd write it for them. You'd have to ask them why they wanted the City Paper editor to do this piece, instead of one of the various people who work for the Post.

  • IMGoph

    Mike: Thanks. I guess this is a case of 'don't look a gift horse in the mouth' then, eh?