For Mayor-elect Gray, pressure piles up even before he takes office

The Post's Jo-Ann Armao speaks with Vincent Gray, the presumptive mayor-elect of Washington, D.C., about what keeps him up at night and how he hopes to bring financial and education reform to the city.
By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 7, 2010; 7:10 PM

The head of the Dunbar High School Parents Teachers Association wants Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray to name a new principal and reduce class sizes.

District taxi drivers, key supporters of Gray (D) during the campaign, are demanding rule changes to make it easier for individuals to work for themselves.

And business leaders and advocates for public transportation are pressuring Gray to reappoint transportation chief Gabe Klein and retain the city's new bicycle and bus lanes.

Even before Gray is sworn in Jan. 2, pressure is mounting for him to deliver.

Not since Marion Barry won a third term after a bruising primary and general election contest in 1994, observers say, has an incoming mayor of the District faced so many immediate challenges that could further divide the city's electorate.

Gray, who toppled Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the September primary, now must decide whether to raise taxes, how to manage the new city-owned hospital and what level of social services the city can afford. In less affluent parts of the city, Gray's supporters are counting on him to make good on campaign promises by tackling chronic unemployment. Everyone is looking for a signal about how he plans to govern a city divided along racial and class lines.

His challenges are magnified by his showing in last week's general election, when nearly one out of four voters wrote in Fenty instead of casting their ballot for the D.C. Council chairman. In several precincts in Georgetown, Upper Northwest and Capitol Hill, more voters wrote in a candidate than supported Gray.

"He just has to hit the ground running," said council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), a close ally of Gray. "He gets no honeymoon, not even in the transition."

There already are signs of trouble. On the day after the general election, Gray met with the leaders of his transition team. Noticeably absent were representatives of organized labor, many of whom had urged Gray to challenge Fenty. Unions spent hundreds of thousands supporting his campaign.

"We are going to be having some discussions about that," Dwight R. Bowman, national vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents about 20,000 employees. "I was willing to give a honeymoon between the primary and the actual election Tuesday because he needed to be a politician. But now that the election is over, it's time to be an administrator and work with all segments of the city."

Thursday, Gray angered the leaders of the Fraternal of Police when he failed to show up at the funeral for Officer Paul M. Dittamo, who was killed Oct. 30 when his police cruiser struck a utility pole in Southeast. A Gray spokeswoman said he did not realize the funeral was taking place.

Gray also was scrutinized last week for deciding to hold his election night party at Love nightclub, which is owned by Marc Barnes. Barnes owes the city $860,000 in back in taxes, records show. And Gray faced questions about one of his top advisers, Reuben C. Charles II, who has a $236,000 tax debt in Illinois. Charles, widely viewed as a top contender to become the Gray's chief of staff, said the debt is related to a company with which he was formerly affiliated.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company