Loose Lips

Vince Gray Wants (Someone Else) To Start A Revolution

Government Shutdown, D.C. Mayor Vince Gray

Mayor Vince Gray might not be as profane as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, but he's just as pissed about this government shutdown business as she is. At a meeting of the D.C. Affairs section of the D.C. Bar yesterday, Gray kicked off his remarks with a tirade about the District's continuing disenfranchisement.

"This is an outrage!" he shouted. "O-U-T-R-A-G-E!" Loss of services due to the shutdown, he said, was "the worst kind of hypocrisy."

But Gray sees something of a silver lining in the closure of the National Zoo, the (almost) cancellation of the Cherry Blossom parade, the cessation of trash pickup, the inability of District residents to get business licenses and permits. Maybe, just maybe, it'll finally push District residents over the edge.

"When will we wake up?" he asked. "It will never change until people are insulted enough to say enough is enough...I think this is a seminal moment. I think it is the opportunity for this city to stand up and say, enough is enough."

But who is to lead this groundswell? Can Facebook actually get people on the ground? Organizations like D.C. Vote have run spirited mini-protests, but nothing big enough for Congress to really notice. The D.C. Council might rename streets—but that could just serve to remind District residents how little power their elected leaders actually have.

Gray wants somebody—anybody, really—to stand up and lead, because he says he can't do it himself.

"Movements never come from the government. They just don't," he said. "Movements typically start in two places. They start in houses of worship. And they start in universities. Because students are smart enough and young enough to not give a damn."

True enough, historically speaking (though I wonder if we might now add "social media"). But the problems in D.C., from a movement-starting standpoint, are deep and structural: You've got part of the population that has been here forever and seen so many attempts at statehood launch and fail that they figure trying to change it is just a waste of energy. And then you've got another part of the population that thinks it has no long-term stake in D.C., because they came from elsewhere for a job in the federal government, and feel like they'll eventually leave (even if they then end up staying for 20 years). Meanwhile, to the extent that students are involved city-wide, it's to get more representation for themselves, not District residents generally.

"They don’t think of themselves as of the District, and that’s a big problem," says Garry Young, a professor at George Washington University's Center for Washington Area Studies, who has looked extensively at the negative impacts of non-representation on District residents. "You have this same group of people, year after year, who complain about this treatment. And the public interest has always been kind of, meh."

So at this point, I'm wondering: Who will foment this insurrection, if not the elected leader of D.C.? If Gray called a mass protest around the Capitol, would more people show up than the number that took buses to D.C. for any of the Tea Party's dozens of rallies?

They might, for a popular mayor. But Vince Gray is not a popular mayor right now. In fact, he's so not popular that his outrage over representation—where he is always at his rhetorical best—starts to look like an attempt to distract people from the steady trickle of mini-scandals that have plagued the administration.

The outrage is justified, sure. But at this point, it's still just all talk.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • TheAngryVoter

    Hopefully its a wake-up call for the citizens of DC & especially the Democrats because this just proves the Republicans will go completely numb to the progressions to prove they can't stand Dems and how much leverage they have to dismantle the governement.

    The gov't is pretty much having a bitch-fit.

    People take accountability and take out your trash or take it to a dump thats all I hope. The services will be missed for the time, but no need to be lazy or act like idiots to push the envelope further as to how bad it really is.


  • Ward Cl3aver

    From Ken Burns' Civil War Documentary:

    When recently freed slaves asked Frederick Douglas what they should do now, he responded with just one word.


  • Rake

    "Gray wants somebody—anybody, really—to stand up and lead, because he says he can't do it himself"

    HA! This statement sums up Vince in a nutshell. Maybe Lorraine Green will organize something and slap Vince's name on it.

    ONE CITY, fast becoming a punchline.

  • Just the facts, ma’am

    There is one reason and one reason only why the District is powerless in this train wreck and will be unable to provide services: Eleanor Holmes Norton couldn't get Congress to pass legislation to allow the District to have autonomous budget powers when the Democrats controlled both House of Congress and the White House. Fenty and Gray didn't say word one and she didn't deliver.

    Gray and Holmes Norton can scream and yell all they want. But they better own up to the fact that they were either asleep at the switch or unable to get things done when they had the chance.

    They can agitate and bitch about Statehood all they want. It ain't happenin' anytime soon. The weather is getting warmer and I want my garbage picked up next week.

  • hymesb

    Oh the faux outrage. Gray's go to move. Fresh victim mentality a platter.

  • Drez

    Excuse me, but am I late for the "celebrate the problem" party?
    You know, the one where all the old time civil rights leaders who are now heavily invested in the system and work for the man (or, in Vince's case, is the man ) bitch and moan about how gosh darn go to hell unfair

  • Sally

    One City. Fifth Amendment. Zero Standards.

  • John

    No, the problem is that this City is not viable as a State for any number of practical reasons. It isn't financially capable of independence. It's too interleaved with the Fedgov in land, as well as Fedgov related things like foreign embassies, etc... It can't support both State and City level governments, and the two would so incestuous it wouldn't allow for the independent value of having both.

    Meanwhile, we have activists who won't accept anything but that. We have people drawing paycheck based on that activism. So any other more viable options, like retrocession are ignored. Because we are so liberal, the other tack of demanding territorial treatment, aka "no fed tax" is also ignored.

    So we will continue to place all effort into demanding what won't help from a good govt. standpoint, and can work anyway from a practical standpoint.

  • John

    "can't work anyway"

  • deedle

    I nominate Catania. Outrage, he's got. Plus, he's Republican.

    Expecting the Mayor to lead the insurrection is impractical. I can't imagine the last 4 mayors playing this role.

  • kob

    Who decided the DC's trash won't be picked up for a week? I don't know. And why is the District going along with it. If Mayor Gray wants a protest, he can start it by ensuring that the trash is picked up on schedule. The ball is in his court.

  • Drez

    @John: Yes. There is an entire paid infrastructure based on celebrating the problem.
    People earn their livelihoods solely based on this dysfunction. Solving it isn't their goal. Being paid to perpetuate their self indulgent faux- outrage is.
    Fuck them. Change the game.

  • http://citypaper Tony

    Vincent Gray's type do not rock the boat. Don't tell me about his courageous effort to intergrate the fraternity at G.W.

  • DC Elected Official Crap

    What is happening with native washingtonians in elected office in this city? Sharon Pratt-native washingtonian,
    Adrian Fenty-native washingtonian, Vincent Gray-native washingtonian and last but not of the bottom of the barrel native washingtonians, Kwame Brown. We need more intelligent and knowledgeable citizens from other states to lead and guide this city forward.

  • Drez

    No. Lots of failed DC politicians are not native
    Let's keep it local. But lets do it better if we can.

  • Joad

    I think Gray has conveniently omitted one other group that starts revolutions: labor unions.

    The revolutions in both Egypt and Tunisia were organized and lead by labor groups; sectors of the labor movement played a pivotal roll in the civil rights movement and labor also brought us the only 30 year period of Shared Prosperity that the US has ever known (1945-1973).

    I hope the mayor remebers who provided the juice for his One City campaign, and who continues to advocate on behalf of the poor and the working class, even as politicians in the District go gaga over checks from developers.

  • StrangeFruit


    You are correct, and one of the largest labor groups in DC, the Teachers' Union, that endorsed Mayor Gray is now organizing a protest against him and the Washington Post on April 15 in front of the Wash Post building on 15ht St, N.W.

  • tired

    I have had it with both parties. they all lie cheat and steal. We need to throw most of those bums out. No one seems to care they keep saying social security is an entitlement it is not it is our money we earned it. People you better wake up they don't don't give a damn about us.

  • tired

    I am sorry about the extra don't but I am beyond pissed.

  • kachonka

    Ah, he is just a Mayor. What do they really do besides beg for more subsidies, grants and programs while they live it up breaking laws. Look at that liberal infested crap hole called Portland Oregon. The elected a Gay mayor even after he was caught molesting a 17 year old of the same sex. He is still in that festering pool swimming around bankrupting that city further.

    As far as the garbage pick up???? I do not get it. You either pay for trash removal or you do not. Is DC one of those places where all the services are subsidized from federal money so all the bottom feeders can exist for free? Recycle and flush your toilet. Who needs a trash can. I would trhink greenie long legged mack daddy would explain this to the rest of the greenies. Greenies always claim to have no trash and if DC is as liberal as reports state, they do not need trash service, as they recycle 100 percent.

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