Loose Lips

Gray Spox: $5,000 Speech a “Friggin’ Bargain”

Does Mayor Vince Gray really need to hire outside help to write a speech? The answer, according to the Gray administration, is yes.

Last night's State of the District address was crafted with the help Alan Hermesch, a former spokesman for Howard University. The city's contract with Hermesch is not to exceed $5,000, according to mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro, who added that the final amount will likely come in slightly under that maximum. (Hermesch said he's not tallied up the total hours worked on the speech, but said it was "a lot.")

Ribeiro says the Gray administration has no in-house speech writer and he reached out to Hermesch for help because yesterday's speech was kind of a big deal. When LL noted that last year's State of the District speech was written without outside help (in part by a lower level staffer in the city administrator's office), Ribeiro responded: "But we had different staff last year."

This year's speech was certainly tighter and more concise than last year's drone fest, so maybe the $5,000 was worth it. Ribeiro suggested that if LL shopped around town, he'd be lucky to find a speech writer who could even come close to matching Hermesch's prices.

"Five thousand is a friggin' bargain," says Ribeiro.

Maybe, but LL can't help but think that a better bargain would be finding someone in the mayor's $626,000-a-year*communications shop who can write what amounted to a pretty standard policy speeches.

*Update. Ribeiro calls to tell LL that the mayor's communication's shop is short a person and is currently running well under its $626,000-a-year budget.

  • tony

    I hope that some black folks can now see what I have been saying all along. Mayor Vincent Gray speech was a very good speech. The man is doing all he can to make this city a good city. Yes, he has made some mistakes. Yes, he got off to a rough start. But, the man is trying his best to effect change for the benefit of all. But, just like Obama and other black pols in this city and country, no matter how hard they try, there are going to be people who questions their intentions and policies for no other reason than the color of their skin. Clearly, I understand that some black folks don't like Mayor Gray but the source of their dislike is more personal. Gray's real and potent enemies are not a few black folks from the fenty's administration; rather they are "others" who don't trust the man because they believe his policies are skewed towards black folks. So, people can sit here and pretend all they want. I am going to call a spade a spade. I said it before and I will say it again, white folks fear and distrust black governance. It's absolutely inconceivable that nearly every single freaky black politician and senior manager in this city have the heads on the chopping blocks. These are black folks who are well qualified and whose credentials far exceeds others yet they are given no more respect than any other blacks. Now, the onus is on the black professionals in this city who really knows that they are being mistreated and unfairly targeted to stand up and speak out. These black folks have gone through hell to acquire the education they have so that they could experience a better life than their parents. And now many of them are been dragged through the mud and their names, reputation and careers are being threatened. At some point, they must stand up and fight back. THIS IS THEIR FIGHT!

  • NE John

    speech $ is not an issue

  • Native

    Last time I checked, a whole lot of white people helped elect the first black president. I'm a native Washingtonian that has never used a racial pejorative on the street, but many times in black neighborhoods I've experienced nasty comments about being white. Black people can be racist too. The problems with the District's governance hasn't been about race. It's been about cronyism, fraud, diversion of funds and patronage. It should not be tolerated by any of us and has nothing to do with race.

  • http://btolson1@verizonnet.com Lifetime Movie

    A speech costing 5k and the location costing $600k is a big DEAL to those who are struggling to survive.

    Perhaps we should ask the sick what they could do with 605k?

  • tony

    @Native writes:...The problems with the District's governance hasn't been about race. It's been about cronyism, fraud, diversion of funds and patronage. It should not be tolerated by any of us and has nothing to do with race.

    I agree when you say it "SHOULD" not be about race. But, reality is that it is about race. SHOULD is conditional. I am talking about what is. Tell me what do you think the media would have said or done if Marion Barry did what Catania did by secretly taking 250,000.00 from a company that does big business with city. Tell me what would have been said if Muriel Bowser tried to shake down a corporate interest which netted her chief of staff a prison term. And, then be accused of using the city's lottery contract to win personal considerations from the parties involved. What would have happen to Mrs. Muriel Bowser?

  • Holdadice

    @MM: You've stated there is no censorship, but if my comment in the SODA blog has been censored, I certainly understand why.

  • Drez

    If the Feds could have nailed Graham they would have.
    They couldn't so try didn't. (yet).
    It's up to his voters to choose whether they want him to stay in office. It's not up to your version of "fairness", or whatever.
    By the way- the Feds tried to sting Bowser on the taxi issue too. She came out of that clean.

    IMO $5K for a speech is a deal. More interesting is the point Allen makes about why ~$600K per year can't buy the sort of in-house communications talent capeable of producing quality work.
    I mean, that's what a communication staff does.

  • Rob

    I wholeheartedly agree. It just seems that certain people want black leaders to have to struggle to accomplish even the basic things that will benefit all. Mayor Gray aspires to have "One City", meaning everyone in the District has the opportunity to have good lives. This contrasts with Adrian Fenty's "Two City" mandate that favored one demographic over another. A majority of us work hard to survive in this city and if there are those who think that we will sit by and continue to be disrespected, then they will have a rude awakening.

  • cutthecrap

    @Drez the talent is there in the Mayor's "in-house" communications staff. The Mayor is just a poor manager and does not know how to utilize them. Remember...he is the one always talking about the wealth of talent in DC and constantly speaking of "One City", but going out of the realm of this city to have someone write his speech. This is the thing that Gray supporters fail to understand. In house communications should have been working on a State of the District speech months ago. As far as this being a racial thing, all one has to do is look at the number of white men with key positions in his administration, and how he is always pandering to Wards 2, 3, and 6 to know that the Mayor prefers white over black. Question: Are any of you enlightened negroes that are defending him working at the Wilson Building? Do any of your well educated black family members or friends have jobs in this administration?

  • Peter Rosenstein

    The speech was well worth what was paid and I am always amazed at people who know nothing about either city budgeting or speech writing making nasty comments. Vince Gray has run a frugal government by all standards just look at the city's audit for confirmation. We are no longer a small town but a major city with a $10 billion budget. I for one applaud our mayor for recognizing that and also recognizing that members of Congress are also the audience for this speech and it makes sense to Pay for help to ensure it is well crafted. He also delivered it well to his credit.

  • Terry Miller

    Gray's speech was great.

  • cutthecrap

    @Rosenstein: I'm amazed that you and others like yourself often think that you know more about how a city operates than the rest of us. Elitism is always the first downfall of any administration. Are you saying that the Mayor has inept staff in his communication shop who can't write speeches? If you know something, tell us. Or, maybe we have a Mayor who still has issues hiring a qualified staff to do things, such as write speeches, that are not family members of his cronys. You also seem to be defensive and somewhat uptight. Could it be that you work for the Mayor and are getting paid the big bucks to be part of his staff and do nothing. Just as Gray and his lackeys found fault with the Fenty administration, now he knows what it is like to try and run a government such as the District while constantly being criticized. Grow up and grow a pair.

  • so now he has money to blow

    Thank you for saving me the time and energy to write what I was thinking @cutthecrap. Rosenstein is trying to ensure that he protects the weak "brand" he promoted and voted for in 2010. Peter, your mayor has weak staff and continues to stumble because of them. The key to leadership is building a strong team. Fenty had one, but lacked the grace that the city prefers. Gray doesn't have the skills, grace, intelligence or know how to do this job. PERIOD. Why? Because he can't build a team.

  • DCDem

    We need a new City Administrator, have you gotten a load of the mess he has made of the newly created Department of General Services (his brain child)?

  • drez

    Fenty got dinged for not having his EOM cabinette be black enough. Now Gray is getting dinged for the same thing?

    Sorry. I can't go along with it. Blacks are 50% of the city and hold far more than 50% of DC gov jobs, including management positions and top management positions. Think DPW, DDOT, DCPS, DCRA... Those agencies alone account for most of DC gov employment.

    That aside, what's up with the quota thing, anyway?

  • Holdadice

    Hey, Cutthecrap: Left a little sumpin', sumpin' for you on the SODA blog at #18. That is if MM takes it out of moderation. If not, how do you know the staff didn't write the speech? Has a speech writer's name been posted?
    You are so full of mis-information I just thought I'd ask.
    After all you obviously have not seen the beautiful dark complexioned Deputy Chief of Staff Mayor Gray hired. Oh yeah, and what about that plus sized beauty he hired to replace Michelle Rhee?

    One more thing: YOU'VE GROWN UP AND YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVEN'T "GROWN A PAIR". Those of us who have rarely find the need to discuss what comes naturally.

  • Holdadice


  • leeshato

    Please give the man a break presidents, governors,mayors hire speech writers what is the big deal. Damned if you do damned if you don't. Why are we comparing it to last years speech?It is just a speech. Please people get a life.

  • Sally

    Gray gave a good speech. Which was because he found someone outside his administration to write it. Irony.

  • http://btolson1@verizonnet.com Lifetime Movie

    No break given here!! Previous Mayors communication Directors wrote their speeches.

    The biggest problem with this Mayor is his ego is so BIG he refuses to hire staff that has a level of smartness about them.

    Gray likes to hire those that KISS up to him. It appears the dumber you are the better you fair off cause he loves to SAVE the DAY.

    Whats interesting is how fast this news got to the press. Mayor Gray is so arrogant he doesn't realize that the Fenty staff he refuses to fire are betraying him. Idiot!!