Mayor Adrian Fenty is facing a strong challenge in the September 14 Democratic Primary from DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray. The Gray campaign invited local bloggers to meet the candidate on Monday at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Dave Stroup covered the informal meeting for both We Love DC and Greater Greater Washington and he has some good insights on the meeting as does dcist. The District Curmudgeon was also there.
Gray is clearly a policy wonk and he has lots of ideas and plans as well as institutional knowledge from decades of being in and around the DC Government. Following are some highlights from the 90-minute meeting on Gray’s priorities, economic development, growing DC’s population, the small business climate, MPD Chief Cathy Lanier, crime legislation and education.
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Top three priorities. Gray said his top three priorities during the first year of a Gray administration would be:
(1) education, (2) implementing an economic development strategy and (3) workforce development.
Economic development and workforce development. Gray listed economic and business development for DC as one of his top priorities as mayor.
Gray listed the pillars of DC’s economy as government, health care, education and financial services.
Gray stressed that he believes DC could do much more to to attract financial services jobs and offered some specific ideas on how to do that. But, has DC missed the boat on that trend? When asked if the high-tech/creative services sector was now one of DC’s pillars, Gray said, “yes,” but did not list it until asked.
Attracting and keeping new residents. Gray was asked how DC can continue to attract, and keep, the large numbers of young college graduates who move to DC—this is actually a destination metro area, especially during these tough economic times.
Gray agreed that the young, educated people moving to the city is are important to DC’s future and its economy. His response on how to keep them in the city was “education” in the form of good public schools.
Small businesses / regulatory reform. Gray was asked what he would do to help small businesses in DC and make it easier for people to start and run them. Gray had plenty of ideas on how to address the issues facing small businesses in DC and he touted his Chamber of Commerce endorsement.
Gray said he was committed to regulatory reform and agreed that it was too difficult for small businesses to operate in DC. He cited the need to provide additional tax credits for small businesses and, in particular, to find ways to help small businesses owners provide additional benefits to employees.
Police Chief Cathy Lanier. Gray was asked to review MPD Chief Cathy Lanier’s performance in office, who was appointed by Mayor Adrian Fenty.
Of Lanier, Gray said, “I think she’s certainly done some good things. On the whole, I would critique her as doing a positive job.”
Gray said he is avoiding saying who he would keep or not keep from Fenty’s administration, especially in light of the recent statements by DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
Crime and civil gang injunctions bill. Gray opposed the bill introduced in the Council by Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans and Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham that would have given police greater powers to deal with criminal gangs in DC. The bill was easily defeated by the Council.
“I don’t like the gang injunctions bill because I think it leads to profiling. We’ve got to support more [programs] on the human services end” that take a long-term approach to combating gang crime.
On education. Education is a huge issue in the campaign between Fenty and Gray—especially in the personage of DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and the reforms she is implementing. During the meeting, Gray spent a great deal of time talking about education.
Of the mayor’s education reform efforts and Rhee, Gray said, “How do we institutionalize education reform so that it’s not about one person? It can’t be about one person. We will continue on the path we’re on.”
Gray noted his support for bringing “funding parity” to DC’s charter schools and said that “charter schools are here to stay.” He said that he supports the current system of school governance and does not support a return to having an elected Board of Education that has responsibility for running DC schools.