Mayor Vincent Gray is scheduled to deliver his annual State of the District speech Tuesday night. Let me guess: Our chief executive will say things are darn good, thanks to him, but we need to work harder to make the nation's capital "one city" for all.
That's not what we who walk the streets, talk to residents and drink at the local pubs hear. The general sense of Gray's first year in office is one of an inept, perhaps corrupt, certainly stodgy executive branch. Where former Mayor Adrian Fenty looked to the future so intently that he looked through and past the city's current residents, the book on Gray is that he looks back, rather than forward.
"Stuck in the 1990s," one activist tells me.
"Obstructionist!" says a council member. Another: "Total disaster."
"Bad for business," a developer offers.
Let's be fair. Gray's first year has not been a disaster, by far. But neither has he pushed his government forward in bold, new directions. My biggest criticism is that Gray has no vision. Zero. Nada. Slogans? Sure. "One City" is a slogan.
Mayor Tony Williams had a goal of adding 100,000 residents. They are coming.
Fenty took over the schools and set the city on a course of radical reform, like it or not. He pushed bikes over cars, housing all homeless, renovating all athletic fields. Those are goals.
Leaving goals aside -- and waiting for the feds to figure whether Gray's mayoral campaign was corrupt -- here's my take on the state of Vince Gray's district:
» Crime: Homicides are down, and that's a major improvement, but Gray can take little credit for a trend begun years ago. At the moment, the city is suffering a robbery epidemic. Stickup artists are placing gun barrels to heads of citizens from Kalorama to Shepherds Park, from Congress Heights and Hillcrest. Hard to tell from the Metropolitan Police Department website, since the department quit publishing crime stats. Beneath the stats, people feel less safe with Gray as mayor. Hire more cops!
» Public schools: Gray was smart enough to get out of the way and let Chancellor Kaya Henderson continue reforms begun under Fenty. His backbone will be tested when Henderson has to close as many as 20 schools. Will Gray back her or buckle to community pressure?
» Finances: Gray deserves credit for keeping spending under control and running a transparent budget process. Fenty depleted the rainy day fund; Gray is replenishing it.
» Public works: Color Gray lucky. He's had no snowstorms. True, the trash gets picked up. But the city is dirty, very dirty. Litter lines streets, from 14th and U to Good Hope Road. Not a good look.
Economic growth and development: Gray's team has done little to promote projects, but redevelopment is marching along because credit has freed up, and D.C. is in demand.
» Job growth: Despite Gray's sloganeering, his record on training and creating jobs is lousy.
So what's the state of the District? Improving on many fronts, but not because of any leadership from Vince Gray.
Harry Jaffe's column appears on Tuesday and Friday. He can be contacted at email@example.com.