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Hundreds turn out at Gray's Ward 1 forum

Erica Johnston

Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, the Democratic nominee for mayor in the Nov. 2 election, continued his mass meet-and-greets with a stop in Ward 1's Carlos Rosario International Charter School.

Hundreds of residents turned out, causing organizers to initially fret about fire hazards as they scurried to move people out of the aisles of an auditorium that seats 450. Hundreds of other people were placed in chairs on the stage and in a spillover room.

Gray, considered the presumptive mayor in the overwhelmingly Democratic city, stuck to his script, beginning with his "One City" theme. He hit all his familiar notes -- he "heartily" supports education reform, backs charter schools, wants special-education students educated within the city's borders, pushes for the education of toddlers and infants, wants District jobs to go to residents and is willing to go to jail for statehood (with residents behind him).

Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) helped remind the audience that the town halls are as much about campaigning as getting to know Gray. "Mr. Gray, there are no write-ins in this room. Not one," he said, referring to the WriteFentyIn campaign that still hopes to elect the current mayor despite his support of Gray.

The council chairman fielded questions about everything from bullying to streetcars to homelessness. Specific to Ward 1, parents and students conitnued to lament the closing of Bruce Monroe Elementary School, which Gray said he would look into with Graham. He added that he did not believe the area could support both Bruce Monroe and Park View Elementary school where they've been moved.

When someone asked what would happen to the Summer Youth Employment Program, Gray explained to laughter and applause that students need a "real job" -- a veiled reference to criticism of the Fenty administration for giving some youths little to do for their pay and few learning experiences. Gray said the city does not have the money to continue an eight- or 10-week program. He said he will create a "good, solid six-week program."

-- Nikita Stewart

By Erica Johnston  | October 19, 2010; 9:21 PM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election  
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Of the elected officials since Home Rule, Vince Gray stands out as the most knowledgeable of our budget and and aware of just about every community's needs.

No better person to take charge as we face these tough times together.

Also, we are very fortunate to have a back-boned Vince Gray leading our charge for Statehood and holding ground against the forthcoming hostile Republican Congress.

Hey Barack: where's our Statehood? Talk is cheap. Did you make promises to the people of Altgeld Gardens that you did not keep?

Posted by: tcs1999 | October 20, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Vince Gray creating jobs??? He was a council man over a ward with the highest level of unemployment...But now he can create jobs??? Funny. And he cut the financing for the Summer Youth Employment Program. Gray is a pawn of the teachers union who will not get behind education reform. They poured millions into his campaign.

I'm an independent and I do count Gray...I'm Writing Fenty In. Sorry, I don't want to go back to the '80's..

Posted by: fred77004 | October 20, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Fred77004 he oversaw Ward 7 for two years! I don't think that anybody could put a dent in unemployment in two years.

Write-in anyone you want, but please stop with the fear tactics. And it's ok if you want to write-in someone who created a summer youth debacle (years 2007 -2010) and has overspent the program by $30 million in the last three yrs.

Posted by: thelildiva4u | October 20, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Vince Gray did a number of other things at this forum:

He told a Highschooler, when asked what he would do about bullying, to 'step to the bully' and that someone outside the school should 'take care' of the bully afterschool. As an educator for Ward 7, I thought that was exceptionally stupid.

He, additionally, took credit for many of the Rhee-Fenty innovations while simultaneously attempting to raise ire regarding their policies.

A few times he praised Fenty, but not often. He totally challenged the value of the Summer Youth Employment Program as it has been run. As a former employer of a random sampling of youth from Wards 5, 6, 7 and 8, his account of what the program can do and is doing was uninformed. That said, I support making it better and more significantly engaging for the youth.

He held his ground well against a number of challenges. Bruce Monroe, Convention Center Hotel, Streetcar and Parking among them.

Jim Graham was wrong when he said there were no Fenty write-ins in the room, as I left, I heard a number of them talking. I may still be one of them, should Gray not step up and make his case more reasonably.

I hope he does most of the things he says he will, I don't think he is acknowledging how challenging they are.

Posted by: Nathanial | October 20, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

And obviously, Fred77004, you don't do your District homework. The ward with the highest unemployment is in fact, Ward 8, not Ward 7. Yes, both happened to be East of the River but they shouldn't be lumped together. I don't hear anyone lumping Ward 2 and 5 together just because they share similar boundaries. That's just plain stupid.

Let's hear it for Chairman Gray who will take the city fully toward 21st century success. I look forward to an administration with higher levels of transparency, where the agency heads are uniquely qualified for their positions, with the right mix of education, job experience and background, and where the best are hired to do their best.

Chairman Gray was the only chairman in the history of this city to actually put cameras in all the council rooms, and had opened the council's deliberative proceedings to the TV. I look forward to more of this.

Posted by: TheDCWriter | October 20, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

But he won't comment on the Harry Thomas slush fund...Transparency huh???

Posted by: fred77004 | October 20, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

That still doesn't answer that fact that Gray has never created jobs before... If anything he took them away.

Posted by: fred77004 | October 20, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

@fred77004, Why dont you go find the rock that your negative a** crawled out from under and let this city move on to something fresh, instead of stagnating it with those same old fake boogey man scare tactics. I doubt you've been here a good five years cause you sound like a parrot, find something real to say with some signifacance.

Posted by: 4ourfuture | October 20, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Yes, there were write-in's in the room.. and probably more after the Ward 1 meeting.

Posted by: pdv1 | October 20, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

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