Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cincinnatus on Connecticut Avenue: Gray Sets Wrong Tone for the Next 4 Years

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by Peter Brusoe

Mayor Gray's inauguration speech was eponymous: The financial situation for the city is gray. The times ahead are gray. It's going to be hard to balance the budget. Include in there some typical toothless rhetoric about statehood, and the meaningless catch phrase "one city" and you have pretty much his entire speech. The one outstanding highlight was to hear him talk about his late mother and how she swept the street outside their apartment because we all have a stake in the city. This was truly a great piece of political rhetoric and a great idea. However, without action, they are mere words and the mayor missed several opportunities to take his mother's message of service and apply them.

I relished the opportunity to read about New York State's newest governor, the Honorable Andrew Cuomo, and how in recognition of his state's financial straits he opted not to have a fancy inauguration, and he eschewed the typical inauguration balls, saying “This is not a time for the grand and expensive celebrations of the recent past.” The inaugural entertainment featured local public school students performing and a small intimate affair recognizing the problems that New York faces. Other states toned down their own celebrations in light of the financial crises they face, including a people's inauguration ball where tickets were sold for $8. Or small meet-and-greets in various parts of Florida. These subdued festivities were a signal that those states were prepared to tackle the serious financial circumstances.

Yet, not for Washington, DC.

This would have been a perfect time for the new mayor to demonstrate that he is concerned about the financial well-being of the city and of our fellow Washingtonians. Mayor Gray could have saved money by going for a small, subdued ceremony in the Wilson building. The money used to pay for the publicly funded part of the event could have been better used paying for critical city services. The police time on crowd control could have been used to patrol and reduce crime. The Walter E. Washington Convention center could have been leased out to a private client and the proceeds gone to pay down our obligations on the building. Rather than pay for talent of Chuck Brown, Gray could have asked that one of the local public schools musical groups perform. Rather than giving away free tickets, he could have asked people to donate a canned food item for one of our depleted food banks. Rather than continue to hit up donors to pay for the private part of the inauguration, Gray could have encouraged donations to our social service providers, or used the opportunity to promote ethics reform in Washington, DC. Or Mayor Gray should have used the opportunity to announce a community service initiative. President-Elect Barack H. Obama used the opportunity of his inauguration to encourage a new spirit of cooperation and service to the community.

At the same time, Mayor Gray has been proclaiming "one city" and "coming together"; yet, he failed to incorporate the participation of the non-believers among us.The Secular Coalition for America asked repetadly to be included in the service, but as early as December 20, 2010 were blocked from participating. I may not personally agree with the atheists and secularists, but they are an important part of the fabric of Washington, DC and should have been included in some way.

There are still many great opportunities for Mayor Gray to improve Washington, DC through actions and words. Lets hope he takes advantage of them.


Salute to a Civil Servant 

Aristotle famously said that “Excellence is not an act, but a habit." Did Commander Matthew Klein ever have that habit! I remember vividly his first week on the job. The Woodley Park Community Association had lined up Commander Matt Carter to be our keynote speaker at our 2008 fall general membership meeting; it was going to be great. Three days before the meeting we received the email announcing the appointment of Acting Commander Matthew Klein. The emails that were sent around that day could be summarized as, “What are we going to do for a keynote now?” The head of our neighborhood watch contacted Commander Klein who responded that he would love to meet with our group. That meeting was probably the single best general membership meeting we’ve had in years. He talked with the residents and empowered the outstanding staff of the 2nd District to do their jobs. The past two years have been outstanding for police communication, police response time, community programs and so many other great things. Commander Klein epitomized the ideal for public servants.


Peter W. Brusoe is a PhD Candidate in the Political Science and adjunct lecturer at American University. Brusoe has a Masters in political science from the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy and a Bachelors in History and Political Science from the University at Albany. In his free time, Peter volunteers with the Woodley Park Community Association, plays tuba for the American University Pep Band, and enjoys watching Great Dane Basketball.

Peter welcomes your comments below. If you have a question or prefer a more immediate response please email him at peter(dot)brusoe(at)american(dot)edu


  1. We will iss his kind attention to the listserve and his excellent performance

  2. What a plenty plaint, and I find it amusing that it only took a week of the Gray Administration before a Ward 3 resident started to complain.

    That Vince just spends money like there is no tomorrow, not that Adrian knew anything about spending money as if it was going out of style.

  3. @Anonymous:
    Mayor Fenty's budget spending was also outrageous. If I had a column at the time I would have also criticized his spending and failure to serve "the least, the last and the lost" among us. But I can't go back in time.