With jobs proposal, Gray opens up 'plan gap' over Fenty
Mayoral candidate Vincent Gray released his plan on jobs and economic development Wednesday morning. It's a 14-pager that, more than anything else, allows Gray to say that he has a plan.
That's not meant to denigrate what's in the document. It's full of calls for coordinated strategies and task forces and focus groups and advisory councils and other consensus-y whatnot -- you don't get to 14 pages without filler. It also levels some very specific, and legitimate, critiques of Mayor Adrian Fenty's regime and lays out things a Gray administration would do differently. But more than anything, the document allows Gray to take advantage of a "plan gap" between him and Fenty.
Put simply, Fenty has not been very good about saying what he would do in a second term aside from "more of the same" -- that is essentially what he told the hotel lobby last month: "You can expect what you've seen over the past four years. ... Getting things done." Problem for him is, too many people want something more.
In fact, this reporter got the best sense of what Fenty II would look like not from the half-dozen candidate forums he's attended or the many mailers he's been sent or even the Fenty Web site but from Sunday's Post endorsement:
He is unhappy that he didn't have time in his first term to do more on public housing, and he talks movingly about the need to fix a situation where people languish for years on housing waiting lists. As further evidence of his willingness to wade into rough political waters, Mr. Fenty says that he hopes to work with the governors of Virginia and Maryland to improve Metro management and service.
Well, OK! People love to hear about results, for sure, and Fenty has made that the cornerstone of his campaign push. But people also like to hear about what you're going to do. After the Washington Interfaith Network forum last week, Gray talked about his economic development plans while Fenty rattled off all of the projects he's delivered on. A lot of the political wags in attendance, including myself, thought Fenty turned in a virtuoso performance and that Gray was much too pie-in-the-sky. But I spoke to a half-dozen attendees afterward; five of the six said they were more impressed by Gray. They tended to like what Gray said about his jobs plan -- in other words, they were more interested in what Gray said he was going to do that what Fenty said he's done.
Getting back to the Gray plan:The most substantive part takes the form of a critique: Fenty, he says, has focused his economic development apparatus on real-estate development "with little, if any, attention being given to business development and jobs." In general, the main thrust of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development is to identify city properties that can be surplussed, issue a request for proposals, and award development rights -- regardless of whether the financial climate can support the project now or on the near future. (In a lot of cases, if you haven't noticed, it can't.) Gray is promising to put the focus on business development and job creation rather than property disposal.
Gray also pays the usual heed to "first source" agreements compelling city contractors to hire District residents, improving the small business climate and creating "green jobs" -- not a lot new there. But Gray does have a legitimate point in saying Fenty hasn't done enough to support the University of the District of Columbia or its new community college as potential drivers of workforce development. And, unsurprisingly, given the developments of recent days, Gray says he'll take the summer-jobs program from a bigger-is-better, take-all-comers deal to a small, more manageable program.
I'm still waiting for the official Fenty response to the Gray plan, but it's fair to guess that it will focus on what he's been able to accomplish. Question is, will he feel pressure to offer a more fully formed vision -- not only on jobs, but on the rest of his potential second term?
Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post
August 4, 2010; 3:13 PM ET
Categories: Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District , Vincent Gray
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