Fenty, Gray pledge a smooth D.C. mayoral transition
Monday, September 20, 2010
Two days after he won the Democratic nomination for mayor, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray and the man he will probably be replacing, Adrian M. Fenty, hugged at a party unity breakfast and raised their hands in a show of solidarity.
Fenty pledged his support for Gray at the event Thursday, and both men said they will work together to ensure a smooth transition after an election that exposed sharp differences among the city's voters on what they want from their government.
On Tuesday, the council is to return from a two-month recess. Fenty will remain in office until Jan. 2, and many expect three months of unease at the John A. Wilson Building as Gray begins planning his administration.
Fenty and Gray will have to work together to address a midyear budget deficit that some predict could approach $100 million. The men, who haven't had a face-to-face meeting for nearly a year, plan to sit down together this week. They must continue to run a city-owned hospital and determine the fate of dozens of appointees to boards and commissions who have not been confirmed.
"This will require a great deal of patience and goodwill on all sides," said David A. Catania (I-At Large), who has been on the council since 1997.
In the past, the lame-duck period has been an opportunity for mischief-making by the outgoing mayoral administrations, as they have pushed through last-minute contracts or moved political appointees into civil-service jobs.
But former Ward 6 council member Sharon Ambrose said she expects the next three months will be a period of stability and cooperation.
"It's an older and wiser group. Everybody understands that there is a lot of work to be done," said Ambrose, who was on the council in 2006 in the months before Fenty was elevated from council member to mayor. "I don't look for any sniping or bitterness to spill over" from the election.
'Potential for conflict'
Only twice before under Home Rule has a sitting mayor been defeated in an election, the last of whom was Sharon Pratt 16 years ago. Gray would be the first sitting council chairman ever elected mayor. Council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) won the Democratic nomination to replace him.
Both men must face voters in the Nov. 2 general election, but their election is all but a certainty in a city where three out of four voters are Democrats.
Gray and Brown live in Hillcrest in Ward 7, marking the first time that both the mayor and council chairman have lived east of the Anacostia River.
Their ascendance represents a historic shift in influence, crossing the river's cultural and economic divide. Unemployment east of the river is at least three times higher than in other parts of the city.