Gray says mea­sured pace as mayor is ‘by de­sign’

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - ROBERT MCCART­NEY

For all those crit­ics who say he’s too de­lib­er­a­tive and col­lab­o­ra­tive to get any­thing done, District Mayor Vince Gray has a one-word re­but­tal: “in­ten­tion­al­ity.”

He uses it to de­scribe how he tells his new cabi­net of­fi­cers and other top deputies what he wants them to do: Make sure kids in the sum­mer jobs pro­gram work a full day be­fore they get paid. “Fo­cus like a laser” on high-pro­file devel­op­ment projects that will re­vive neigh­bor­hoods. Rely on spend­ing cuts more than tax in­creases to bal­ance the bud­get.

In­ten­tion­al­ity means “ by de­sign,” said Gray (D). “I’ve in­di­cated to peo­ple these are ob­jec­tives. When I say in­ten­tion­al­ity, I want to do these things, and your job is to make sure they hap­pen.”

Gray’s com­ments, in a 40-minute tele­phone in­ter­view Fri­day, al­layed some ofmy con­cerns about his tran­si­tion and de­but since tak­ing of­fice Jan. 2. Like some oth­ers, I thought he was off to a slow start. He doesn’t yet have a per­ma­nent schools chan­cel­lor, and he hasn’t ap­pointed a deputymayor for eco­nomic devel­op­ment. I thought his inaugural speech re­lied too much on the ab­stract “One City” theme

from his cam­paign. Where were specifics to pro­vide sub­stance for his ide­al­is­tic vi­sion?

I felt bet­ter af­ter talk­ing to him. Im­por­tant tests are still in the fu­ture, es­pe­cially re­gard­ing the bud­get, schools and deal­ing with Congress. Still, Gray struck me as some­one who moves de­lib­er­ately, yes, but has a clear sense of where he’s go­ing and how he wants to get there.

For starters, Gray said there was no need to worry that Kaya Hen­der­son is only the in­terim schools chan­cel­lor, be­cause he’s al­ready put in place the city’s other two top ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials, Deputy Mayor for Ed­u­ca­tion De’Shawn Wright and State Su­per­in­ten­dent of Ed­u­ca­tion Hosanna Ma­ha­ley.

More im­por­tant, sources fa­mil­iar with Gray’s think­ing said he in­tends to nom­i­nate Hen­der­son for the per­ma­nent job. The de­lay in do­ing so partly re­flects a strat­egy of giv­ing Hen­der­son time to show the city that she has an in­clu­sive, col­lab­o­ra­tive style dis­tinct from that of her for­mer boss, the of­ten-abra­sive for­mer chan­cel­lor, Michelle Rhee.

“ This is not so much not mov­ing quickly, it’s frankly about mov­ing strate­gi­cally . . . to es­tab­lish that Kaya Hen­der­son is not a clone of Michelle Rhee,” a source said. The sources spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause Gray is hon­or­ing a 2007 law re­quir­ing con­sul­ta­tions with teach­ers, union rep­re­sen­ta­tives, par­ents and stu­dents be­fore nom­i­nat­ing a schools chan­cel­lor.

Gray said he ex­pects to an­nounce his deputymayor for eco­nomic devel­op­ment this week. He said it has taken a while partly be­cause it was crit­i­cal to have some­one with “ the re­spect of the devel­op­ment com­mu­nity.” He also wanted some­one who shared his strat­egy of cre­at­ing in­di­vid­ual en­ti­ties — sim­i­lar to the Ana­cos­tia Water­front Corp. — for projects such as the ones at the Wal­ter Reed and for­mer St. El­iz­a­beths hos­pi­tal sites. He hopes that they’ll gen­er­ate com­mer­cial and hous­ing devel­op­ment that will cre­ate jobs for District res­i­dents, as he promised in the cam­paign.

Along the same lines, Gray said he’s told Rochelle Webb, his pick to over­haul the city’s Depart­ment of Em­ploy­ment Ser­vices, that she is to cre­ate “a pipe­line through DOES that makes sure we’re train­ing peo­ple for those jobs— green jobs, fi­nan­cial ser­vices, health ser­vices con­struc­tion— that we know are grow­ing in the city, and do­ing that with in­ten­tion­al­ity.”

Webb also is sup­posed to fix the long-trou­bled sum­mer jobs pro­gram so youths “get paid to work, and they don’t get paid if they don’t work,” Gray said.

Gray was fuzzy about how he wants to close the deficit of more than $400 mil­lion in the bud­get he must pro­pose this spring. He’d say only that he ex­pects spend­ing cuts to ac­count for more than half of what’s re­quired. He wouldn’t even say flat-out that he thinks taxes need to rise— but he made pretty clear that’s what he an­tic­i­pates.

“Peo­ple are be­gin­ning to re­al­ize that if you do it all through cuts, it’s go­ing to have hor­rific con­se­quences on ser­vices in the city,” Gray said.

In the in­ter­view, Gray sounded testy only once— when I told him that some D.C. Coun­cil mem­bers and com­mu­nity ac­tivists expressed con­cern that some of his ap­point­ments were part of the “old guard” from when Mar­ion Barry (D), now the Ward 8 coun­cil mem­ber, was mayor. One is Mo­ham­mad Akhter, the new city health di­rec­tor.

Akhter is “an out­stand­ing pro­fes­sional,” Gray said. “I think it’s re­ally un­fair to la­bel some­one who worked at a par­tic­u­lar point in time as sym­bolic of any­thing.”

Gray just laughed when I asked him if he was hav­ing trou­ble ad­just­ing to be­ing an ex­ec­u­tive. A rap on him has been that he was ide­ally suited to chair the coun­cil, as he did for four years be­fore be­ing elected mayor, but he is too much of a con­sen­sus-builder to be ef­fec­tive as the man in charge.

“What’s hi­lar­i­ous about that is that is what I spent my life do­ing,” Gray said, re­fer­ring to pre-coun­cil jobs run­ning non­profit groups and the Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices. “ Those were all ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions.”

We’ll see if the “in­ten­tion­al­ity” he learned in those jobs can com­bine with the team-build­ing skills he honed on the coun­cil to make the next four years a suc­cess.

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