What can Gray do for you?

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -


Mayor Gray, you cam­paigned promis­ing a change in how the District govern­ment in­ter­acts with its cit­i­zens as it makes de­ci­sions. You promised an open and col­lab­o­ra­tive process, and keep­ing that prom­ise is the most im­por­tant thing you can do over the next four years.

Un­like Mayor Adrian Fenty’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, which ranged from im­pe­rial to merely au­to­cratic and in which com­mu­ni­ca­tion was a one-way street, you should present District res­i­dents with op­tions rather than de­ci­sions that are fait ac­com­pli. Af­ter all, we are adults, not chil­dren. Re­spect our views. Rec­og­nize that those who dis­agree with you are not your en­e­mies. Do not pit one group of cit­i­zens or neigh­bor­hoods against an­other. And above all, learn not just to tol­er­ate crit­i­cism but to treat it as a chance to learn and im­prove.

If you and your depart­ment and agency ap­pointees are straight with us and run a trans­par­ent, col­lab­o­ra­tive ad­min­is­tra­tion, not all the de­ci­sions may nec­es­sar­ily come out the way you an­tic­i­pated or hoped for. But your ad­min­is­tra­tion will run a lot bet­ter with the con­sent and as­sent of the cit­i­zens than it would with­out it.

— Dorothy Brizill, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, DCWatch.com

Go green.

You can boost em­ploy­ment, slash govern­ment spend­ing and re­duce the city’s car­bon foot­print all at once. Here’s how.

First, train and put the un­em­ployed to work weath­er­iz­ing low-in­come homes. Next, have this grow­ing work­force in­stall so­lar pan­els on City Hall, li­braries, fire­houses and schools through­out the city. “So­lar gar­den” laws that pro­mote shared so­lar in­stal­la­tions, along with other re­new­ableen­ergy in­cen­tives, would en­cour­age in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses to in­vest in re­new­able power sources and reap the div­i­dends via lower util­ity bills.

Fi­nally, you should re­place the ar­chaic in­can­des­cent lamps now found in 6,500 D.C. street­lights with LEDs, which use much less elec­tric­ity and last 16 years longer. Smart street­light­ing would im­prove pub­lic safety and save us mil­lions of dol­lars an­nu­ally.

The ever-greener City Coun­cil and the peo­ple of the District stand ready to sup­port you as you lead us into a green-en­ergy fu­ture.

— Jim Dougherty, con­ser­va­tion chair of the Sierra Club’s D.C. chap­ter

Put peo­ple to work.

The tools we’ve typ­i­cally used to com­bat pock­ets of high un­em­ploy­ment in the District — job train­ing, busi­nesses sub­si­dies, real es­tate devel­op­ment and lo­cal hir­ing re­quire­ments — will not cre­ate enough jobs (or the right ones) to get D.C.’s chron­i­cally un­em­ployed res­i­dents work­ing again. Your to-do list should in­clude rad­i­cally re­form­ing how D.C. ad­dresses job­less­ness.

Tak­ing a page from the “Hous­ing First” move­ment, which attacks home­less­ness by first giv­ing peo­ple a place to live and then tack­ling the is­sues that made them home­less, you should launch an “Every­bodyWorks” ef­fort, with a goal to get ev­ery job­less per­son work­ing — at any job — as a first step to ad­dress­ing the is­sues that make it dif­fi­cult for them to find or keep a job.

This doesn’t mean putting ev­ery­one on the city pay­roll. It means reimag­in­ing work as a goal rather than a byprod­uct of eco­nomic growth. Start by giv­ing ev­ery D.C. pub­lic high school stu­dent a work-study job, build­ing skills and pride. Sup­port ex­per­i­ments such as work co­op­er­a­tives, in which job­less mem­bers con­trib­ute la­bor (from babysit­ting to home re­pair) in ex­change for hous­ing and other ne­ces­si­ties while de­vel­op­ing work his­to­ries and habits.

Full em­ploy­ment is the key to cre­at­ing “One City.” The­way to get peo­ple work­ing is to put them to work.

— Joe Stern­lieb, vice pres­i­dent for ac­qui­si­tions, EastBanc

Grow smart.

You can build on the suc­cesses of May­ors Wil­liams and Fenty by cham­pi­oning the cre­ation of a net­work of walk­a­ble places linked by an ef­fi­cient re­gional tran­sit sys­tem.

To do so, you must con­tinue neigh­bor­hood­plan­ning ini­tia­tives, draw­ing the whole com­mu­nity into the process. Sup­port the on­go­ing re­vi­sion of the an­ti­quated zon­ing code to en­sure ur­ban, not sub­ur­ban, de­signs that en­hance walk­a­ble en­vi­ron­ments, cre­at­ing vi­brant streets and pub­lic spa­ces. You should also re­store fund­ing to the Hous­ing Pro­duc­tion Trust Fund and sus­tain af­ford­able­hous­ing pro­grams for the low-in­come res­i­dents most at risk amid D.C.’s ris­ing pros­per­ity.

Smarter trans­porta­tion is also es­sen­tial. Ac­cel­er­ate im­prove­ments to walk­ing and bi­cy­cling through­out the city, and ex­pand ac­cess to Cap­i­tal Bike­share in North­east and South­east Washington. You should ex­pe­dite bus ser­vice on ma­jor routes with ded­i­cated lanes that move more peo­ple more ef­fi­ciently. Work to meet Metro’s fund­ing needs and ap­point ef­fec­tiveMetro board mem­bers. Lever­age pri­vate and fed­eral fi­nanc­ing to move street­cars for­ward.

With smarter growth, you can help make the District one of the world’s most sus­tain­able and in­clu­sive cities.

— Ch­eryl Cort, pol­icy di­rec­tor,

Coali­tion for Smarter Growth

Read a book.

Washington should be a cul­tural cap­i­tal as well as a po­lit­i­cal one. The city’s mayor should be an arts ad­vo­cate — a per­son who un­der­stands that or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the D.C.Com­mis­sion on the Arts andHu­man­i­ties and theHu­man­i­ties Coun­cil ofWash­ing­ton, D.C. play a key role in shap­ing the qual­ity of life in our city.

As mayor, you should be seen walk­ing around not just with bud­get re­ports but with a book of po­ems or a novel as well. When you dis­cuss school re­form, you should em­pha­size the crit­i­cal role of arts ed­u­ca­tion. Young peo­ple in the District will de­velop a grow­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the arts if they see you as a vis­i­ble and vo­cal sup­porter. Find time to at­tend theater per­for­mances, gallery open­ings, con­certs and cul­tural fes­ti­vals. ( You’ll have fun, too.)

Peo­ple can come to­gether around song and dance and cel­e­brate our city’s di­ver­sity. Gov­ern like D.C. na­tive Duke Elling­ton and keep the big band happy.

— E. Ethel­bert Miller, poet, di­rec­tor of Howard Uni­ver­sity’s Afro-Amer­i­can Stud­ies Re­source Cen­ter

Say no to Wal-Mart.

In Novem­ber, Wal-Mart an­nounced plans to open four stores in Washington by 2012. This is not what our city needs.

As an in­de­pen­dent small-busi­ness owner, I am concerned about the District’s “ big box” ap­proach to eco­nomic devel­op­ment. This strat­egy — plant na­tional chains in gen­tri­fy­ing ar­eas, some of which are still re­cov­er­ing from 1968’s ri­ots — is un­sus­tain­able and un­wise. It’s eco­nomic crack.

You should take the long view and strive to at­tract small busi­nesses with tax in­cen­tives that level the play­ing field for those bat­tling the big-box bul­lies. Small busi­nesses give our neigh­bor­hoods — whether Mount Pleas­ant, Shaw or H Street — their unique char­ac­ter. (Re­mem­ber when Chi­na­town had some­thing more Chi­nese than Fud­druck­ers?)

Small busi­nesses cre­ate more lo­cal jobs, pay more taxes, keep more money in the com­mu­nity and are far less likely to close down when things get tough. And, if they go bust, they don’t leave an eco­nomic crater be­hind.

Learn from the mis­takes of your pre­de­ces­sor. In­stead of hop­ping a flight across the coun­try to en­tice For­tune 500 com­pa­nies, sup­port in­de­pen­dent lo­cal busi­nesses by tak­ing walks in our neigh­bor­hoods, din­ing at lo­cal restau­rants and shop­ping at lo­cal shoe stores. It will be money well spent.

— Andy Shal­lal, owner, Bus­boys and Po­ets and Ea­tonville res­tau­rant

Fo­cus on se­nior cit­i­zens.

Washington is on the verge of a se­nior pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion. Al­most 12 per­cent ofD.C.’s pop­u­la­tion was born be­fore 1945, and nearly 30 per­cent are baby boomers born be­tween 1946 and 1964. The D.C. Of­fice on Ag­ing (DCOA) projects that se­nior cit­i­zen num­bers will “in­crease ex­po­nen­tially by 2025” and calls the con­se­quent bud­get in­creases “a bomb wait­ing to ex­plode.”

You — a se­nior your­self — must defuse this bomb now. The DCOA has been spared the bru­tal cuts in­flicted on other so­cial ser­vice agen­cies, but it needs more re­sources and re­or­ga­ni­za­tion. As a start, you should find the fund­ing to con­duct the first com­pre­hen­sive se­nior-needs as­sess­ment since 1978, to be com­pleted by the end of 2011.

Mean­while, in­ex­pli­ca­ble de­lays in pro­cess­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for El­derly and Phys­i­cally Dis­abled Home-and-Com­mu­nity-Based Ser­vices Waivers cre­ate months-long gaps in crit­i­cal ser­vices such as home health care. Your ad­min­is­tra­tion must process these waivers more quickly or put many se­niors at risk of ex­pen­sive in­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion.

In ad­di­tion, a short­age of staff and other is­sues at Adult Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices have ren­dered that of­fice un­able to re­spond to se­nior abuse, self-ne­glect and other life-threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tions. This cru­cial agency must be fully funded and staffed.

— Mark Andersen, co-di­rec­tor, We Are Fam­ily

Re­form school ad­mis­sions.

Build­ing top schools that will at­tract and re­tain fam­i­lies is the un­fin­ished busi­ness of the past two Washington may­ors. Noth­ing should loom larger than fol­low­ing through on your prom­ises to ad­vance school re­form.

You should start by cen­tral­iz­ing school ad­mis­sions. Through the state ed­u­ca­tion of­fice, set up a clear­ing­house for par­ents to choose pub­lic schools — district or char­ter — through a sin­gle ap­pli­ca­tion and a sin­gle lot­tery, in­stead of our cur­rent patch­work of dozens of lot­ter­ies held at dif­fer­ent times with­out mean­ing­ful over­sight.

Un­der the cur­rent sys­tem, a frac­tion of the cov­eted slots at pop­u­lar schools are filled by lot­tery. The rest are filled by pre-and post-lot­tery ma­neu­ver­ing by savvy par­ents and school staff mem­bers, with de­serv­ing kids pos­si­bly left be­hind. The sys­tem bur­dens schools, whose ad­mit­ted ap­pli­cants may never en­roll be­cause they ap­plied to so many other schools, and par­ents, who can be over­whelmed by op­tions.

With one-stop shop­ping, par­ents can ap­ply once and rank their pre­ferred schools. They can mix out-of-bound­ary district schools with char­ter schools as they like, and of­fi­cials can use this in­for­ma­tion to run a su­per-lot­tery — with many more win­ners than the cur­rent sys­tem.

— Steven Glaz­er­man, a re­search econ­o­mist and a char­ter school co-founder.

The views here are his own.

Make the fed­eral govern­ment work for you.

Even though you have spo­ken of your vi­sion of “One City,” D.C.’smayor will in one sense al­ways be the mayor of two cities — the District it­self, with all the chal­lenges of any ur­ban area, and the nation’s cap­i­tal, with a dif­fer­ent set of chal­lenges.

Un­for­tu­nately, the District can­not af­ford the in­fra­struc­ture nec­es­sary to make Washington a great na­tional cap­i­tal, one with mod­ern pub­lic schools, tran­sit, roads and bridges, wa­ter sys­tems and pub­lic safety fa­cil­i­ties. (That is the find­ing of our re­cent re­port, “Build­ing the Best Cap­i­tal City in the World.”) This is due pri­mar­ily to the rev­enue lim­i­ta­tions that the fed­eral govern­ment im­poses on D.C., and be­cause the fed­eral govern­ment does not sup­port the District in the way that other coun­tries sup­port their cap­i­tals. As a re­sult, the Govern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice has es­ti­mated that the District has a built-in an­nual short­fall of up to $1 bil­lion.

You should ask the pres­i­dent and Congress to help ad­dress the District’s ur­gent in­fra­struc­ture needs. Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton worked with Congress to pass leg­is­la­tion that re­lieved D.C. of some of its ex­pen­sive state-like func­tions, such as fi­nanc­ing the courts and man­ag­ing the pris­ons. Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush worked with Congress to trans­fer fed­eral land to the District for use in eco­nomic devel­op­ment. You should work with Pres­i­den­tOba­maand the newCongress to con­tinue this tra­di­tion and make build­ing the best cap­i­tal city in the world part of their legacy.

— Wal­ter Smith, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor,

DC Ap­ple­seed

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