Vincent Gray: D.C. residents should rethink Maryland shore vacation plans


Fewer D.C. residents could be plying the Ocean City boardwalk, if Mayor Vincent C. Gray has his way. (Jeffrey MacMillan/The Washington Post)

Are you a District resident planning to vacation in the Maryland havens of Ocean City or St. Michaels this summer? Mayor Vincent C. Gray would prefer you thought about Rehoboth Beach, Del., or Chincoteague Island, Va., instead.

A week after Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) successfully attached an amendment to a House budget bill that would overturn the city’s marijuana decriminalization law, Gray said he thinks D.C. residents are better off vacationing somewhere besides Harris’s district, which includes all of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

“I don’t think we should support someone who doesn’t support us, who doesn’t support democracy, period,” the mayor said after a news conference Wednesday where he decried Harris’s actions as “hypocrisy at its worst.”

And those D.C. resident who do end up in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District in the coming months, Gray added, might consider activities beyond sunbathing or crab-picking: “If they happen to go there, and they happen to picket places that he may frequent or picket his office or whatever, I wouldn’t be averse to that at all.”

“I think people should do whatever action moves them, and that is to let him know how undemocratic this is and that he ought to work on the business of his district,” Gray added, responding to the suggestion that Eastern Shore business owners might take exception to Harris’s actions affecting District residents.

Responding to Gray’s comments, Harris spokesman Chris Meekins said: “I think D.C. voters showed on Election Day the value they place on what the mayor has to say. I only wish some D.C. politicians cared as much about providing a quality education to D.C. students as they do about decriminalizing marijuana.”

That prompted this retort from Gray’s spokesman, Pedro Ribeiro: “Those same D.C. voters prop up the Ocean City economy, so he should be very careful about insulting them.”

The Harris amendment would ban the District government from spending any funds on efforts to lessen penalties for Schedule I federal drug crimes, which would cover not only the decriminalization law, which is expected to take effect later this month, but also a possible legalization ballot initiative.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 28-21 to attach the Harris amendment to the appropriations bill now under consideration by the lower chamber. A Senate companion bill is unlikely to carry a similar restriction, and it will be up to conferees from each chamber to determine whether the amendment ends up in a compromise bill that could go into effect this fall.

Gray said he had no plans to personally picket or lobby in Harris’s district: “That’s a long trip. Probably would be better to visit his office here.”

One D.C. politician who has visited Harris’s office, D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate David A. Catania (I-At Large) said Tuesday that he, too, supports the notion of an Eastern Shore boycott.

“I’m not eager to see anyone’s livelihood harmed, but at the same time, I think it’s important for us to call attention that he’s trying to mind our business while neglecting his constituents on the Eastern Shore,” said Catania, who said he has not received a response to his Friday request for a meeting with Harris.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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