Housing Complex

Vince Gray Economic Plan Bullshit Detector

bio-portraitAs with many campaign platforms, Vince Gray's new economic development plan has both pablum and some actual ideas. Let's separate the wheat from the chaff.

Good news first!

  1. Enforce the District's First Source Law by charging the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development to create a tracking system for jobs that go to District residents: Yes. There is no oversight. Tools for oversight are necessary.
  2. Make all job training outfits go through an RFP process to get District contracts: Many grants are already awarded competitively, but making it standard operating procedure could spur some innovation and efficiency.
  3. Have kids interview for positions with the Summer Youth Employment Program: It definitely makes sense that the SYEP should be something you have to "get into," and the better positions within it be more competitive. People respond to selectivity, and will value a job more if they're not handed it as a matter of course.
  4. Fast-track the creation of healthcare exchanges for small businesses: This is a good thing that will be better if it happens faster.
  5. Create two new liaisons with the federal government to make sure the District competes hard for grants and jobs: if they can keep D.C. from losing things like the recent $25 million Federal Transportation Adminsitration grant, they'll pay their salaries many times over.
  6. Start a Home Performance with Energy Star program within the District Department of the Environment: It's crazy that we don't have one of these already!
  7. Make D.C. a tax shelter for insurance reserves: Has the potential to recapture all those jobs and dough from Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Truly bright and new idea that could make a difference.

Now for the bad news. First, it's important to mention that while Adrian Fenty hasn't officially rolled out an economic development campaign platform himself–his website doesn't even have an "issues" tab–his administration has all sorts of documents that serve that purpose. When Gray says we should "energize the District's Creative, Arts, and Entertainment Industries," there's already an "Action Agenda" to do that. When Gray says that Fenty has no economic development plan and wants to create a new one, well, the Washington D.C. Economic Partnership published one of those last month. The Comprehensive Plan gets evaluated and amended with Small Area Plans to address neighborhood issues. If there's one thing this administration lacks, it's not plans, agendas, and reports–perhaps Fenty's campaign should just put them all on one page.

As far as Gray's proposals, the bullshit tends to fall in a few general types: Fixes for nonexistent problems, recast versions of existing bodies, and new entities with no clear authority. Try to figure out which is which.

  1. Creating a D.C. Economic Development Task Force to come up with an "action plan": It seems somewhat strange to preface your economic development plan with the creation of a Task Force that will figure out an economic development plan. Do you know what you want to do, or don't you?
  2. Two new directors of Business Development and Real Estate Development under the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development: No further details on what they'll actually be responsible for, or why they're needed.
  3. The "small business expeditor" within DMPED: Sure, it might be nice to have an ombudsman or advocate to help small businesses get through the system. But why not lower the regulatory and financial hurdles in the first place, rather than paying someone to help people jump over them?
  4. A new "Workforce Intermediary" within the Community College of DC: It certainly makes sense to make CCDC as much of a job-generator as it can be, but how would this new body be different from the already-existing Center for Workforce Strategies?
  5. A new "Business One Stop" web portal within DCRA to help businesses get through the process: Wait, how's that different from the current "Business Resource Center" web portal within DCRA that helps businesses?
  6. The District Green Initiative to create green jobs: This seems like it straddles the functions of the Sustainable Energy Utility and the various existing and proposed bodies for workforce development. Could it not be folded into either of them?

Finally, a special mention for a huge missed opportunity: Transportation and infrastructure. In this section, Gray has zero ideas or vision except for assessing needs and tasking DDOT and other agencies with making transportation better for depressed areas and for tourists. He expresses support for "carefully designed, pedestrian-scale streets," but no thoughts on how they might be advanced. He says he'll provide incentives for people to buy electric cars, but makes no mention of bicycles. He says he'll "develop a comprehensive and thoughtful plan for the District's streetcar network"–as if one didn't already exist. There's no argument that things aren't going well already. If he thinks initiatives like Great Streets are working well and should be supported, he should say that. If not, he should tell us why.

Gray's plan has some good stuff in it, but I wish he'd spent more time refining and expanding on the good ideas, and less time throwing out vague promises in areas where good work is already being done.

  • Manor

    I'm sure the big difference is Gray and his cronies, if elected, will practice race based hiring to roll back the multiculturalism of Fenty. Its all about race, in case you ain't noticed yet.

    Its funny how so much attention is lavished on job training. I wonder what training centers all our Latino immigrants attended in their home countries? Boy, those must have been effective!

  • downtown rez

    The plan isn't so much of a plan as it is a retread of existing policies and programs, and a rehashing of ongoing concerns.

  • Rick Mangus

    To quote one of my favorite charaters (Big Daddy) in the movie, 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof', "You smell that Brick, that powerful odor of mendacity", thats what we have here, mendacity!

  • Indeed

    What are Fenty's policies again? I actually hadn't noticed that Gray's campaign was all about race, Manor. What am I missing?

    Also, Lydia, I would just point out, that the street car plan isn't well thought out. there's a plan. but it sucks. and as stands cannot be implemented.

  • DCGuy

    "I’m sure the big difference is Gray and his cronies, if elected, will practice race based hiring to roll back the multiculturalism of Fenty. Its all about race, in case you ain’t noticed yet."

    Isn't this dandy. Another imbecile who will credit the Fenty Administration with drafting the original US Constitution if they could.

    Wasn't it during the Anthony Williams administration that DC became more "multicultural." Or do you contend that it was during the last 4 years that revitalization of areas around Gallery Place/U Street? Of course you would.

    Hey, Fenty built the new convention center too didn't he?

  • Manor

    Indeed, Gray's inner campaign circle, a cast of Barry-ites, is intent on keeping DC majority black at all costs. They grew up in DC over the last 40 years or so, and don't know anything but a black DC. Newcomers to DC scare them, reference talk of The Plan, the thinly veiled racism of anti-gentrification talk, and the same not so thinly veiled racism of the Rhee hatred. That's my opinion and I am sticking to it.

  • Manor

    Note I am not necessarily supporting Fenty by the way. More precisely, I don't think any single person, mayor or otherwise, can overcome the utterly dysfunction culture of DC. Barry and his ilk left a legacy that will extend the poverty of slavery for generations to come.

  • Indeed


    You must be brain dead. There is no point in continuing a conversation with you.

  • Manor

    Fine, time will tell, in 20 years when DC blacks still live largely in crapulence, maybe you'll think about this. That will be at least 2000 black-on-black murders from now, so depending on your skin color watch your back. Since your head is stuck in the sand you probably won't see it coming.

  • DCguy

    Gee, considering that the US averages about 16k homicides per year, I hope and PRAY that there are only 2000 black on black murders over the next 20 years.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    You make a brotha say Amen!

  • downtown rez

    Homicides are down to the lowest rate in the past 60 years.

  • LOL

    I know that we all go for funny and sometimes provocative comments. Yet, most of us find some kind of factual information to base our humor on. Just a thought.

  • Manor

    I was referring specifically to DC murders. That assumes a reduction from our current level of about 145 by a theoretically possible amount yearly for twenty years. Apologies for not f'ing spelling it out for you simpletons.

  • noodlez

    "...Newcomers to DC scare them, reference talk of The Plan, the thinly veiled racism of anti-gentrification talk, and the same not so thinly veiled racism of the Rhee hatred...."



  • Facts

    Two more things that are already in place...

    1. The Summer Youth Employment Program already requires youth to "interview" for jobs that require more specialized skills (particularly for private sector, federal government, and some DC government positions). It wouldn't make sense or be even be possible to interview every applicant (there were well over 21,000 applicants this year event though that's the number that actually got jobs).

    2. There is already an Energy Star Program sponsored by DDOE. Check their website.

    My issue with Gray is that I see no legitimate platform for what he will do if elected.

  • DC-er

    The Summer Youth Employment Program does not require interviews, especially for DC government jobs. As a worksite supervisor, I am positive that youth are placed, in a very un-selective manner, essentially randomly. The only trace of selectivity exists in youth who exress interest in certain worksites; a root cause of the inefficiency and trouble of the program. However, i agree that it would be very hard to interview over 20K kids.

    @Manor: Vince Gray's campaign staff is about equal black and white. I cite his campaign manager as a prime example of this. I am also baffled by your characterization of his campaign staff as "Barry-ites;" In case you didn't know, Chairman Gray never even worked under Mayor Barry, so I find it hard to find any evidence of "Barry-esque" cronyism. The man basically neutralized Councilmember Barry after putting a big fat censure on him. The sweeping label is misplaced, and frankly, dumb.

  • Brahmin


    I have to question a few of your points. And somewhat your credentials.

    1. Washington D.C. Economic Partnership published one of those last month. The Comprehensive Plan gets evaluated and amended with Small Area Plans to address neighborhood issues. If there’s one thing this administration lacks, it’s not plans, agendas, and reports–perhaps Fenty’s campaign should just put them all on one page.

    The Washington DC Economic Partnership is a nonprofit although it receives DC fund is not part of the Mayor Cabinet--in fact they can and sometimes do have different interest. So it would have been odd to link it as part of the administration.

    A new “Workforce Intermediary” within the Community College of DC: It certainly makes sense to make CCDC as much of a job-generator as it can be, but how would this new body be different from the already-existing Center for Workforce Strategies

    If you worked in business you would understand we are a Federal, nonprofit, technology city---so for a small business or medium enterprise life sustaining contracts can come from these organizations and having someone to help navigate through that maze of regulations is helpful. In regards to the US and DC rules ...they cannot be "simplified" as you mentioned because rules on procurement are based on Congressional laws based on fairness.

    And the Green Jobs initiative is the biggest thing globally that is the new engine of growth around the world. And on a practical sense their is investments grants and money to go green enterprise. Left under Energy it is all about getting you to change your type of bulb. But brought into an arena of investment then its about getting the small business in DC to make the bulbs. There are federal, nonprofit and global dollars for the best ideas and their implementation. DC should be a Green capitol and we have taken steps to do so already but having a qualified individual to coordinate and push for our economic growth to have a Green focus takes more than putting it in the light bulb office.

    I am usually not this rude but these are standard understandings for anyone who actually works in economic development. Do you have an economic development credential? I googled you and I see you have written on housing but if you are going to write on business I would like to see your credentials.


    I didn't even read other comments or pick through other points I was so shocked by the over simplification in your article.

  • Lydia DePillis


    Thanks for your comments. A few points.

    1. I'm aware that the WDCEP is an independent entity, but that economic plan was created in close collaboration with DMPED, and submitted with a letter of support from Valerie Santos. So I think you can credit it at least in part to the administration.

    2. As for the Workforce Intermediary and the District Green Initiative: I'm not saying that their functions aren't valuable and necessary, just that the creation of new bodies to handle them may be duplicative. You're right, green jobs represent tremendous potential, but if workforce development organizations such as those Gray proposes can't handle the task, what's the point of having them?

    3. You're right to question my credentials. I have none, except for living and breathing this stuff every day now for a while. So I try to do the best I can with research, inquiry, and analysis.

    You're quite welcome to disagree.

    All best,


  • DCDem

    Homicides are down nationwide. Including Detroit, MI. It is called a national trend.

  • Brahmin

    Thank you for the reply. And because you were so honest and direct I cannot help but understand how you made your assessment but not the merits of the assesstment.

    Well welcome to business writing. The business journalism community is a lot harsher, and tend to drill down in the details. And when business meets politics get ready to be volatile. IE it is hard stretch to call the Washington Economic Partnership part of the administrations plan because they consulted and edited a few details. If that were so...

    But more no Sustainable Energy Utility has nothing to do with Green Business Enterprise. Conservation of energy is not the same as building innovation that focuses on developming new industries and creating a new labor market. Possibly one that can not be outsourced oversees bring critical jobs to DC and local ares. The first is asking you to save energy. The other could focus on building a textile plant in Anacostia that is made of organic fibers both providing jobs and reducing the carbon foot print.

    But if you are going to call someone to the carpet--please do your due delligence to be above reproach yourself--I and others rely on your power of journalist to serve the public good by being a unflapable source for good information.

  • Lydia DePillis


    Thanks for the warning. For the record, though, the Sustainable Energy Utility RFP contains as one of its six benchmarks "creating green jobs"--hundreds of them within the next few years.

    As for developing new industries, Gray's plan also calls CCDC to start new business incubators; surely one of these could be focused on specifically green businesses.

    We need to strongly encourage green jobs in a variety of ways--I'm just very wary of creating new entities as solutions in themselves.