Seeking to rebound from a scandal-plagued 2012, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray used his State of the District Address on Tuesday to chart an agenda that could help him reclaim some of the political ground he lost last year amid a massive corruption probe.
"We must seize this moment and do everything possible to secure the long-term health of our city," Gray said. "That means continuing to tackle the difficult challenges that are before us."
Gray's 61-minute speech, which did not mention long-running ethics issues, was designed to help shift the focus to his policy initiatives and bolster his re-election prospects should he run next year.
After attracting stinging criticism last week for refusing to spend any of the city's $417 million budget surplus, Gray proposed a $100 million plan to construct and maintain 10,000 affordable housing units using a "prosperity dividend" he is anticipating later this month.
"This investment, on top of our existing and other planned affordable housing investments, will go a long way toward ensuring we remain the type of compassionate, inclusive city we want to be," Gray said.
Legislators who assailed Gray for his stance last week cheered the move.
"We just need to know the definition of what's affordable and what income levels this is aimed at, but it's a very positive set of initiatives," said Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham.
And one day after the District and its police union asked mediators to intervene in a long-running contract dispute, Gray called for pay hikes for city employees.
"In most cases, the dedicated public servants who make up our workforce have not had raises in years," Gray said. "I am proposing that we make this right."
Gray didn't offer any specific proposal for the raises, and several labor leaders have questioned his administration's commitment to reaching new deals with rank-and-file workers.
Gray, who has said he expects economic development to be a signature of his mayoralty, also said he plans to travel to Qatar this year to promote "the flow of global capital into the District."