Friday Question of the Day – Grading Mayor Gray?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Phil

From the Mayor’s office:

“Two websites went online today to chronicle the work of the Administration of Mayor Vincent C. Gray. Both websites – and – give visitors access to a plethora of information related to the accomplishments and progress made during Gray’s term. They include links to key mayor’s orders, legislation, speeches, and action plans.”

So at the end of the day – what do you think of Mayor Gray’s performance? What was his greatest accomplishment? Where did he fail? Is the District (are you) better off than it was four years ago?

36 Comment

  • Greatest accomplishment: keeping the District on reasonably sound financial footing.
    Greatest failure: streetcar implementation, lack of attention to persistent crime, lack of reform of DCRA

    Overall Grey wan’t a bad mayor, but he certainly wasn’t transformative. The best aspects of his administration were held over from Williams and Fenty. On his own, I honestly can’t think of anything he accomplished.

    Despite the changing demographics of DC, most new residents don’t bother to vote in local elections. As long as that’s true, we will continue to elect candidates that view the DC government primarily as a jobs program, rather than as a vehicle for delivering services to citizens.

  • A-

    The minus is due to his legal problems. Otherwise he was a fine mayor. Now we have Mure. Would have preferred Catania.

  • A-
    Leaving aside his possible ethical failings. He had a lot of energy, was pragmatic, and knew how to appeal to folks across the city. On the rare occasion I disagreed with him policy-wise, I could still respect his position. My only complaint is that, with a few notable exceptions, he settled for mediocrity in key administration positions. That had a real negative affect on the quality and timeliness of city services.

    • west_egg

      Agreed on your last point; overall responsiveness from various agencies just isn’t what it used to be. Not to mention our roads, which are in terrible shape. I’d give him a B- for letting city services atrophy; there’s no excuse for it when your city is running a surplus.

      • Yeah, I guess I was grading on a curve and for long-term impact, but you’re right, an A- is too generous given the importance of city services. I think coddling the city’s inept bureaucracy was the one fear of Fenty voters that bore out (again, possible ethical failings aside). It also probably drove off a lot of the more capable managers in city government. His long-term vision and city-wide appeal were great though, and I gave that heavy weight, especially in a city that can be so divided.
        Bowser is supposedly reinstating some of the Fenty-era accountability standards/metrics. I guess we’ll see if that improves the bureaucracy.

  • C- and had he been charged while in office, I would have flunked him.

    City services/responsiveness are slipping, infrastructure isn’t improving fast enough, the tax rate is too high, there’s still too much waste and corruption, and all 8 wards deserve better.

  • A non grade-inflated C. He was a terrible administrator although he kept mostly competent holdover appointees from the Fenty years. Thankfully, Rhee departed–I spotted her as a phony, corporaqte hac whose policies would breed corruption long before those things were obvious to others–her lack of real progress in the school remains invisible to many.Otherwise, he was someone who constantly watched where the wind was blowing before making decisions. He was surrounded by corrupt people and didn’t do much about it. Basically, he repeated his ineffectual performance as an administrator that occurred in the Sharon Pratt Kelly years. Could have been worse–lacked the high handed arrogance of Fenty, the drug problems of Barry, and the globe trotting inattention of Williams’ later years. Bowser probably will be similar. Catania would have been worse–erratic guy who alienated all his Council colleagues–he would have been an erratic petty tyrant. DC leadership sucks, but it doesn’t take much time to see that most other jurisdictions here lack visionary competent leadership right now.

  • Ugh. If you had asked me a year ago I would have said C. But unfortunately A compared to this maniac Bowser. It’s been downhill since Fenty and Williams. Congratulations on picking a winner DC, get ready for regular shootings in broad daylight!

    • You’re comparing him to someone who hasn’t taken office yet? You think Bowser’s time as mayor-elect has been maniacal?

      • Accountering

        I feel pretty confident when I say I know what to expect from Bowser. So far she has surprised to the upside on a few things (Appointing Tommy Wells) but she has also been WILDLY disappointing so far (forcing us to borrow an extra $100 million, and hold a useless asset – Reeves Center) as opposed to just trading away Reeves, as well as her water-carrying for the Olympics.
        I don’t think most educated people realistically expects her to be an excellent mayor, or even a good one at that.

        • Ha, I would point to her handling of the soccer deal as a plus. The deal as originally structured was a probably* giant giveway to Akridge. Why on earth would the city be better off trading and then leasing back the Reeves Center, rather than just paying cash? Calling the Reeves Center a useless asset is pretty rich though, so thanks for the laugh. I wish I had a few useless assets like that.
          *I say probably, because what could be more opaque than a government no-bid sale and leaseback? That’s the kind of deal that’s just ripe for exploitation. But it’s so opaque that it’s difficult to prove, at least unless (until?) the city sells the Reeves at auction or issues an RFP for redevelopment.

          • Accountering

            Have you read about Reeves? I don’t think you know much about how this deal happened. Currently we have a HUGE property, that costs a ton of money to maintain, and is VERY functionally obsolete. It is also woefully underused.
            It would have gone to the private sector, where they would have added office space, and residential units, and put it back to productive use housing tax paying residents and office workers.
            Maybe Akridge was underpaying by say $10,000,000. So she saved the city $10,000,000 in lost value. She cost us all the interest on the 100,000,000 in borrowing, as well as the additional cost of maintaining reeves, and the opportunity cost of losing a huge brand new office/residential building. I think those costs add up WELL beyond $10,000,000.

          • Why does the Reeves Center have to be a part of this deal? Why not just sell it at auction and allow someone to redevelop it? When you buy a car, do you feel that you have to trade your old one in, or you’ll be stuck with it forever?
            Incidentally, if you want to have a pleasant discussion, you ought to drop the “most educated people think” this, and ” I don’t think you know much about” that business.

        • If you can see into the next four years of Bowser’s term, I’d like you to also tell me how to invest my money.

          And just because you oppose Bowser doesn’t make you more educated or smarter than someone who supports Bowser as mayor.

  • jim_ed

    B+. I think Mayor Gray did an excellent job balancing the very different visions of DC people have, which is no small task. With the exception of Fire Chief, I think he generally made great hires to run departments, came up with a reasonable school boundary re-alignment, committed to new bike infrastructure, and artfully balanced new development with city needs. I actually think he was a much more effective mayor than Fenty. I also think in four years we’ll all look back wistfully at his term as mayor.

    • I agree with Jim. But that’s a performance rating. If we’re including some sort of ethics component it’d be lower. I wrote him in in the last election. Which saddens me, but I’d probably do it again today.

  • I am shockingly disappointed that the demographic of Popville, which skews to the highly educated well to do crowd, can be no accommodating (A-…really?) to this man.

    This man was elected to his office on the biggest shadow campaign, for any public office in the history of the United States. Then he foisted Sulaimon Brown on us, paying him, and agreeing to give him a six figure city job he was no where near qualified for, for continuing to attack Fenty. We know Gray was on board with this because of the texts from Gray on Brown’s phone. He and his campaign then gave more than 30 “patronage” jobs (ala Barry) to friends and children of the campaign, again none of them remotely qualified for their new six figure positions.

    He handpicked (as he described them) life long friends to run his campaign, all of them were indicted, most them got time (although not nearly enough). They all said Gray was aware of what was going on.

    There are two choices…either he was aware of the shadow campaign, which makes him a felon of the likes of Marion Barry, or he didn’t, which means he had no idea what his handpicked, life long friends were doing on a daily basis to get him elected, which makes him the worst manager in the history of the word “MANAGER”.

    As far as “how DC has been functioning”. Gray gets to claim zero percent of that (neither does Fenty). DC’s boomtown status was thanks to the worlds worst recession since the great depression, and DC being the only place in the nation where there were jobs. There were already 1200 new residents a month moving to DC before Gray was elected (its now down to just over a 1,000/month).

    Mayor’s Williams and Fenty completely gutted and remade DC’s Government, from DPW to DCRA. Gray simply didn’t meddle with what had been changed, but he certainly doesn’t get credit for it.

    This man has subjected the city to international ridicule for 4 years. DC residents deserved much, much better. Grade F+ (Machen doing the Perp Walk with Gray would have earned Gray a F-)

    • You’re not as smart as you think you are.

      Gray had huge ethical problems. I can understand if people give him an F on that basis alone, arguing that he could have avoided WW2 and would still receive an F. I get that stance.

      But there’s a perfectly valid competing argument that says “holding his ethical lapses aside, he was actually a pretty good mayor.” Not great — the Fire Chief seems particularly problematic, but pretty good. The school reform is a massive success. It’s far from perfect, but he actually got something done for the first time since 1968. You callously ignore that. Next, Lanier seems to be a real success. Whatever credit you want to withhold from him for bringing her here, he deserves credit for keeping her. That matters, and it’s not trivial.

      It seems like most of the posters here are taking the second line of argumentation.

      • Lanier? The same Lanier appointed by Fenty 3 years before Gray was elected? How exactly can Gray take credit for her?

        And DC schools have been a national ridicule for “test answer change-gate” that the Gray appointed Chancellor has purposely not investigated, and tried to sweep under the rug with Grays complicity. 103 DCPS schools caught in a scandal and what has Gray done? Whatever change you think Gray has made to DCPS is minimal at best

        • While I agree that Henderson’s “investigation” into the whole erasure-gate fiasco left something to be desired, the actual cheating happened on Rhee’s watch. Not only that, she repeatedly touted the school’s (fake) achievements and awarded large bonuses to the (cheaters) on staff. How is that Gray’s fault?

      • Exactly what has Lanier done that qualifies as success???? Keeping her in office was one of Gray’s major mistakes. Any “chief” that would lie to the press, withhold from the press, keep cheating and beating and sleeping officers on the payroll even after multiple instances of photographic evidence… She’s the worst.

    • No offense but if there was an F what would Barry have been. Gray may not have been an A but F? I don’t think so. I put him at a C. We gave definitely had worse but things aren’t so bad for DC.

  • Accountering

    I will give him a solid B. He ran the shadow campaign, but the fact he hasn’t been indicted yet speaks a lot. I think he did a competent job, and kept the city moving forward.
    If Bowser manages to do as well as Gray did, we will all be better for it, but I highly doubt it.

  • I think they are waiting for him to leave office before indicting like they did with McDonnell. Look for a big announcement in about six weeks.

  • I give Gray a lot of credit. I think the idea that a government functions based on a bunch of left overs is a bit of a fallacy. He ran the city for 4 years. For me, one of Gray’s biggest accomplishments has been the early childhood education system in DC. He started on the council and then made a priority as Mayor. It is really effective and while it impacts aren’t apparent yet, early childhood education is one of the only ways that has shown to be effective in helping to close the achievement gap.

    Overall, I think he did a good job as mayor. And while everyone is talking about the shadow campaign, my question is: where are the charges? It feels like the Attorney General felt the need to muck around in the DC elections but if what he did was so bad and the AG can prove it, why hasn’t he had his day in court?

  • I’d give him a B. One of my big memories from when he was elected was someone from Ward 7 on the news saying that now it was going to be about east of the river and no more bike lanes. However, I think he did better on this then i expected and I had my road and alley redone during his tenure. It seems to me that public safety in increased police presence are better in Mt. Pleasant. The city is on better financial footing but that may be more due to luck in that property values have gone way up in the last 4 years after the 2008 problems. I would have voted for him again had it not been for the sleazy way he was elected. That said something about the man or his evaluation of people that I couldn’t abide by.

  • Because a guy doesn’t burn a city down, we completely excuse him from his ethical and moral “lapses”? By that justification, Hitler would have been given a high “B” grade. Ethical lapses aside, he was an incredible successful government leader and administrator. The German government functioned like a Swiss clock under his rule.

    What has happened to us? Why has it become ok to shoot for the lowest common denominator?

    • jim_ed

      Here I was thinking that Mayor Gray was alright. But now that you’ve made the totally logical and apt comparison between his campaign finance issues and Hitler’s genocide of 6 million Jews, I stand corrected. Thanks for clearing that up for all of us.

    • Seems to me a high B is too generous if your term ends with unconditional surrender and occupation by foreign powers. I mean that alone has to put you in C+/B- territory, right?

    • clevelanddave

      Beyond what jim_ed said, Hitler did, um, burn the city down, as it were.

  • Maybe a C? It’s hard to argue that Gray was that great as mayor, with all of the corruption going on during his watch. But I did get a kick out of him nudging Congess during the shutdown. He did a good job of delineating the real world consequences of their stupid games, especially in funding the National Park garbage collection and refusing to label any DC government functions as not “essential.”

  • Running the city: A

    Picking his campaign staff: F

  • He did better than I expected him to. I voted for Fenty, and thought Gray would be terrible. Setting aside the corrupt campaign and looking just at his performance as mayor, I think he did okay. Bad stuff: The fire department was a wreck, and DDOT seems to have gone downhill. The implementation of the new trash cans was lousy, and I’m no fan of the soccer stadium. Good stuff: He seems to have done a good job keeping the budget under control. Most city services work well for me. He appears to genuinely care about affordable housing, and has devoted a bunch of money to it. I like his transportation plan, even though I think DDOT has bungled the execution. I like his sustainability plan. I like the way he stood up to Congress during the shutdown.
    If it weren’t for the campaign corruption, I probably would have voted for him this time around. Instead, I find myself feeling a little sad that he’s going to cap off his long career with an indictment.

  • I’d give him a C, or maybe a C+. I think things have stayed relatively static under Gray.

  • D-

    Fire Dept and EMS is a joke, City Services gone backwards, his appointments were political favors not solid leaders, DDoT is useless, DYRS is still run by a crony, DHHS is a joke, no plan to house the homeless besides millions for motels and DC General still sits there collapsing… and Ward 8 has not 1 single economic improvement to date.

    Oh, and then there is the whole “he cheated to get into office”.. which no, he doesn’t get a pass on.

    He was exactly what I thought he’d be: a man who listens to all comers, cares a great deal and gets nothing accomplished.

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