THE FINAL days of D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s tenure have seen legislative approval of a plan to build a soccer stadium, an end to the long-running court supervision over special education and a ribbon-cutting for a new high school. Mr. Gray is right to be proud of these and other accomplishments. In many ways — particularly the continuity he provided in key areas such as fiscal responsibility and school reform — Mr. Gray has been a good mayor.
Sadly, though, history will not be as willing as Mr. Gray has been to ignore the wrongdoing that shadowed him for four years and undoubtedly kept him from winning election to a second term. In a recent speech outlining his record, Mr. Gray did not mention the illegal campaign funds that fueled his first run for mayor or the aides who have since pleaded guilty. (Nor was the oversight in his speech due to lack of time; Mr. Gray went on for an impressive two hours.)
“It’s hard to say goodbye,” Mr. Gray said wistfully. He has made clear that he believes he deserves to be settling in for four more years. There is no question that he was a hardworking mayor, putting in many late nights at the Wilson Building. During his tenure, the District continued to perform well in managing its money, patrolling its streets and developing its neighborhoods. Its public schools, traditional and charter, continued to improve. “The District is stronger today than at any moment in our history,” said Mr. Gray.
He was fortunate in being able to build on a strong foundation laid by his predecessors and wise enough to do so, even if he was not always generous in giving them credit. As mayor, Anthony A. Williams started to upgrade D.C. government by introducing needed professionalism and discipline. Adrian M. Fenty continued that work, while taking on the challenge of school reform. Mr. Gray stayed on course in both areas, while making his own mark in expanding pre-kindergarten education and promoting the soccer stadium.
At the same time, the city suffered from the taint of the scandal that surrounded Mr. Gray’s 2010 campaign and the early days of his administration. Six people connected to Mr. Gray’s campaign pleaded guilty to federal charges in a probe in which prosecutors reportedly also offered a plea deal to the mayor. Mr. Gray has denied any wrongdoing, and his attorney is said to have rebuffed the offer. The probe is continuing. Whether he is indicted or not — and we hope U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. brings a timely conclusion to this matter — Mr. Gray never really owned up to his responsibilities or the damage done to the District.
It’s in some ways a confounding record for a man who has devoted so much of his life to public service. He says he hopes to continue helping others, so this is not the moment to award final grades. Perhaps the greatest tribute that can be paid at this moment is to note that his successor, Muriel E. Bowser, will enjoy the same advantage that he was given: inheriting a city with bright prospects for further growth and improvement.