For D.C. Council Chairman

Saturday, September 2, 2006

THE ROLE OF D.C. Council chairman has experienced uneven but steady growth in importance since the inception of home rule. Most notably, under the stewardship of the city's first elected council chairman, Sterling Tucker, the late John Wilson and current chairman Linda W. Cropp, the council has taken major strides toward becoming an effective, equal branch of the District government.

In January, the city will inaugurate a new mayor and welcome three new ward members and a new chairman to the council. The city needs a top legislator capable of leading the council and providing keen oversight of the executive branch. Voters in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary have a choice between two excellent candidates for council chairman: Ward 3 council member Kathy Patterson and Ward 7 council member Vincent C. Gray. Both have a deep understanding of the city and its diverse population; both can point to many accomplishments in public service. But we believe Vincent Gray is better suited to forge a consensus from among competing interests, provide direction to the council and work with a new mayor to continue moving the city forward.

When we endorsed Mr. Gray in the 2004 general election, we said that former D.C. Department of Human Services cabinet officer would bring knowledge and experience to the job along with a well-established dedication to public service. In his two years on the council, Mr. Gray has proven to be the thoughtful legislator and able consensus builder we hoped he would be. Through his hard work, keen knowledge of D.C. government agencies and his ability to bring together diverse interests, Mr. Gray has earned the respect and support of many of his colleagues. He earned the same measure of respect in his work in the nonprofit sector earlier in his career. We have not agreed with him on some issues: for example, Klingle Road should be open, and we hope he will become a more forceful advocate of open-government legislation. Mr. Gray's strengths, however, are in those qualities most needed in a council chairman: respect for colleagues and an ability to provide vision, direction and motivation.

Our support for Vincent Gray takes nothing away from Kathy Patterson, whom we have been pleased to endorse in each of her Ward 3 council races since her first contest in 1994. She has established an outstanding legislative record during her successive chairmanships of three important committees: government operations, judiciary and education. A smart and highly skilled representative with a reformer's instincts, Mrs. Patterson nonetheless is not known as a coalition builder or as an inspiring council leader. Her service to Ward 3 and the city will be missed if she is unsuccessful on Sept. 12. At this time, however, what the council and the District need most are Mr. Gray's inclusiveness and leadership skills.

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