Residents from the District’s eight wards spent Saturday telling Mayor Vincent Gray their vision for D.C.’s future at a daylong meeting that was part public forum, part administration update.
The One City Summit, which Gray long touted as a “frank and open conversation” about the state of the city, attracted more than 1,700 District residents, falling short of the 3,211 registrations or the projected attendance of 1,927.
Still, Gray hailed the gathering as a chance for residents to cross economic and racial barriers and offer unvarnished insights to D.C. leaders.
“We must take the opportunity to seize our future and harness all of the dramatic changes that we are experiencing for the maximum benefit of our entire city,” Gray said. “We are bound together in a single destiny as a city… What happens in Barry Farm and Deanwood affects what happens in Georgetown and Cleveland Park, and vice versa.”
Former Mayor Marion Barry, now a councilman representing Ward 8, said the summit was an updated version of the townhall meetings he held during his four terms as the city’s chief executive. “Each generation of mayors ought to be generating ideas that extend us from where we started,” Barry said. “I think it’s a fine idea to bring everyone together and try to define what One City is.”
But critics called the event a pricey political rally, funded by taxpayers.
The summit, which shared a name with Gray’s campaign platform, had an estimated cost of $600,000, of which only $50,000 was offset by private donations. The balance of roughly $550,000 was to be paid out of taxpayer funds, a mayoral spokesman acknowledged. Paul Craney, the executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee, previously slammed the event as “a big waste of money” and “a campaign slogan convention.”
But some participants, who received folders of Gray administration handouts and heard from District officials before sharing their views in groups and using electronic keypads, said they thought the summit was worthwhile.
“I think it’s great,” said Sheila Reid, a Columbia Heights resident. “The voices have been heard.”
A Ward 5 resident, Marvin E. Adams, said he wanted to see Gray stage additional meetings so more D.C. residents could participate.
“The concept is phenomenal,” Adams said. “I think they should be held in the evenings and at other times to incorporate others.”
The meeting attracted a broad sampling of District residents, according to a voluntary survey of participants: 44 percent of participants were African-American and 22 percent were Caucasian. Latino residents, who only comprise 9 percent of D.C., were 19 percent of the crowd on Saturday.
Women also had a notably large presence. Although women make up 53 percent of the District’s population, they were 61 percent of the participants on Saturday, according to the survey.