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Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 01/ 3/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: Jan. 3, 2010

By Mike DeBonis


Welcome to Vincent Gray's Washington. The 68-year-old D.C. native became the city's sixth elected mayor shortly before noon yesterday, in a swearing-in ceremony heavy on the "one city" rhetoric but light on news. The biggest scoops of the day: (a) Gray sharpened prospects of a tax hike at his first news conference, calling them "pretty close to the table, maybe close to the tabletop"; and (b) D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown announced in his inauguration address that he would create an ethics committee for the council; and (c) David Catania is growing a beard. Last night, the cavernous exhibition hall at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center was flooded with thousands of residents who enjoyed what appeared to this reporter to be a well-organized affair, with plenty of food and drinks and great bands headlined by the godfather of go-go himself, Chuck Brown. Hizzoner hit the stage shortly before 10 p.m. to introduce the headliner: "Wind me up, Chuck!" Gray told the crowd.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Full inaugural aggregation! - Is Gray being a little too Fenty with his early moves? Or he is being a little too Gray? -- 2010 murder total lowest since 1963 -- How far will "one city" get Gray?


'ONE CITY -- OUR CITY' - From The Post's inauguration lead-all, by Nikita Stewart, Tim Craig and myself: "In a city rived with economic, racial and class divisions, Gray's campaign emphasized a message of unity. He acknowledged such divides in his inaugural address but said, 'There is far more that brings us together than there is that drives us apart. 'Whether we get around by car, bus, train, foot or bike, this is one city, our city,' Gray said, putting a twist on his 'One City' campaign slogan. ... From the prayers that started the festivities to the walls above the ceremonial dais to the culmination of Gray's address, the theme was 'one city.' In the invocation and benediction, Cardinal Donald Wuerl carried on Gray's united-city theme by recognizing the District's divisions. 'We are a people who come together out of multiple backgrounds -- ethnic, racial and religious, cultural and social -- with varying interests, occupations and manners of living,' he said. 'We ask that you continue to bless our community as we seek always to respect one another.' Former mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), who has assisted Gray's transition, said Gray should be unafraid to make difficult and potentially alienating decisions early in his mayoralty. 'This is the high point here; you never have more political capital,' Williams said. 'It's all downhill from here.' Gray's campaign has emphasized education, unemployment, crime and fiscal health. Like his predecessors, he said he plans to pursue statehood for the District."

GALA REPORT -- "Thousands of revelers -- many in black tie -- gathered in the convention center's exhibition hall for an inaugural gala. More than 7,500 free tickets were distributed to the ball, which was financed through private fundraising. Guests, after passing through metal detectors, dined on butternut squash risotto and warm artichoke dip, and also lined up at more than two dozen cash bars. Gray, wearing a regular suit at the black-tie event, hit the stage about 9:40 p.m., introducing other city elected officials. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) received the loudest applause. Go-go legend Chuck Brown headlined the evening's entertainment with Raheem DeVaughn, with whom Brown was recently nominated for a Grammy. DeVaughn rocked the crowd, at one point jumping off the stage to shake hands with screaming women. Tuxedoed when he began his set, he ended up in a T-shirt and jokingly said he knew his usual call for undergarments was inappropriate for the event."

NEWSMAKER -- From Kwame Brown's inauguration speech: "In the weeks ahead, I will begin to unveil some bold change in the Council's technology services. We will strengthen our Budget Office and begin to upgrade the Council's internal processes so they help us legislate better and effectively. I will work with my colleagues to create an Ethics Committee for the Council. Taken together, this will allow us to be more transparent and make it easier for public to engage in our work." For a parsing of Brown's climactic line -- "since we all live in one place and share in one banquet hall called Washington, D.C., let us leave this room and commit to use our long-handled spoons to serve and feed each other" -- do read our lede-all.

MORE -- Top Maryland officials were in attendance at the swearing-in, including Gov. Martin O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, plus Prince George's Executive Rushern Baker and Montgomery County Council President Valerie Ervin. But no Virginia dignitaries attended, including Gov. Bob McDonnell. Read the full text of Gray's speech. Watch a video narrated by Nikita; City Paper's Matt Dunn has some photos of the gala, and the Georgetown Dish has pix from after the swearing-in. Also WaTimes, the Examiner, WUSA-TV, WTOP, WJLA-TV/TBD, Informer, Patch.

INCIPIENT FENTYITIS? -- For all the "one-city" talk on Sunday, Nikita reported Saturday that Gray "has revealed himself to be a lot like Adrian Fenty -- but with a smile and genial disposition," citing the way he's run his transition and handled his personnel moves. "Fenty, 39, was often criticized for keeping a counsel of one. Gray's circle of influence is also small -- a handful of friends, family and supporters. Close advisers say the new mayor is also known for looking inward. ... The [Cabinet] selections were shrouded in secrecy, similar to Fenty's top picks. The initial falling-out between the two men, in fact, traces to the 2007 appointment of Michelle A. Rhee as chancellor. Gray found out around midnight, just hours before her introduction. In similar fashion, two days before Gray announced that he would retain [Police Chief Cathy Lanier], he dined at Morton's steakhouse with Kris Baumann, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, which has criticized Lanier's tenure. Gray didn't say a word. Similar points have been raised by the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance and the local firefighters union, which said they were not consulted, as promised, about the selection of the head of the Office of Human Rights or the new fire chief. 'Not only is he operating like Fenty, this is the kind of behavior he criticized Fenty for,' Baumann said. 'It's not just about feelings and making people feel good. What happened to all the promises?' "

'MOLASSESLIKE' -- Jonetta Rose Barras knocks Gray in her Examiner column for his "molasseslike approach to building his administration. ... The new mayor clearly is not a farther-faster kind of executive, as was his predecessor. Even as he took the oath of office, Gray's Cabinet remained incomplete. ... Gray has chosen several managers, but it appears he hasn't formally named directors for key city agencies," including DDOT and DMPED. And where's the plans? "Gray has yet to specifically tell citizens where he wants to lead them. Unlike his predecessors, who released plans for their first 100 days, he has not published or distributed such a report. ... That 100-day plan is a critical tool residents will need to effectively evaluate the District's new mayor. Surely Gray understands that. Perhaps he intends to complete his appointments and roll out a detailed road map Monday, or Tuesday ... or someday soon -- I hope."

THE FUTURE OF 'ONE CITY' -- The Post editorial board expresses some skepticism about how far the "one city" rhetoric will get Gray, noting that he "takes over at time of enormous challenges for the city, and it remains to be seen how effective this slogan will be as a governing tool. ... It was as if Mr. Gray wanted his powerful life narrative -- the journey from a childhood in a one-bedroom Northeast apartment, raised by parents who never attended high school, to the District's highest office -- to serve as a metaphor for overcoming hardships." But Gray "gave no clue as to the specifics of how he would deal with the fiscal issues" and it is "too soon to judge how school reform will fare now that Mr. Fenty, unstinting with both his support and resources, is out of the picture." But the editorial has kind words for Gray's "impressive" education appointments, while raising other questions: "Will there be sufficient funds to maintain the gleaming new projects completed during the Fenty administration's building spree? Is it wise, fiscally and otherwise, for the city to continue ownership of United Medical Center in Southeast? What steps are needed to stop the free-fall of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services? Mr. Gray will need more than words to confront these issues; but if he succeeds in uniting the city and its government, he will be off to a good start."

BULLPEN BUSTED -- The sixth floor of the John A. Wilson Building, home to the formal mayoral office suite, is back in business, Ann Marimow writes in today's Post -- 'cause Gray just ain't a bullpen kind of guy. "The space was so underused that when Gray walked in for the first time three weeks ago, he encountered dead plants and, in the coat closet, a jacket inscribed with the name of another former mayor, Anthony A. Williams. ... In returning to the sixth-floor suite Sunday during a public reception, Gray (D) signaled an immediate stylistic departure from Fenty, suggesting he will be a more traditional, formal mayor. But by inviting residents to tour the office on his first day as mayor, Gray said he was trying to foster a sense of openness and warmth in what one of his aides called 'the people's office.' Gray's decision to forgo the bullpen, he said, was a matter of comfort, and one that seems to match the deliberative, consultative approach he employed as a mayoral candidate and chairman of the D.C. Council. ... 'It has nothing to do with transparency. It just has everything to do with giving people the comfort level to be able to speak freely and openly and, frankly, just being able to concentrate,' he said."

SHOOTINGS -- Gray's first day as mayor began inauspiciously on the public safety front, with a pair of daylight shootings that injured six. Theola Labbé-DeBose reports in The Post: "In the first shooting, four people sitting in a car in the 1300 block of Congress Street SE were suddenly sprayed with gunfire about 7 a.m., police said. Three were taken to hospitals for the treatment of wounds, and a fourth sustained minor injuries, police said. About an hour later, the swearing-in of [Gray] and the D.C. Council got underway with a prayer breakfast. [Lanier] was among the attendees. Shortly after Gray's speech downtown at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, a second burst of gunfire broke out. Two teenagers, believed to be 16 or 17 years old, were shot as they stood in the 4500 block of New Hampshire Avenue NW, a residential area where crime scene tape and flashing police lights are rare. Lanier arrived wearing a Metropolitan Police Department windbreaker and blue uniform pants, a sharp contrast to the full dress uniform she wore at the swearing-in."

COLBY -- In his Saturday Post column, Colby King writes that he wants Gray to address "the nuking of our city's nuclear families." The consequences of family breakdown "are evident in our streets, courts and funeral parlors, and on the District's strained budget. You see it in foster care for abused and neglected children, school failures, juvenile detention facilities and group homes, and welfare programs for fatherless families. ... The issue is no longer about where we are headed. It's where we are now. Just look around. Responsibility for raising children now falls on young women, many of whom are little more than children themselves. And when those unmarried mothers fail in shaping their children, child-rearing responsibility lands in the city's lap. It is a job that the city doesn't do well. Men are missing. There are no fathers to share head-of-household duties, to teach, by their conduct, what it takes to be a responsible adult. What I hope Gray will do, if he takes on this issue, is to frame it as the problem that is staring us in the face: generations of District children and families in chaos."

HAND DANCING -- Nikita, the hardest-working woman in the news biz, fronted the Sunday Style section with a piece on how Gray's ascendancy has "put the city's official dance at center stage with a kick, step, step and two triple counts" -- though one expert describes Hizzoner as being merely "OK" at hand-dancing. "Over the years, the distinctly D.C. art form, which developed its distinction in the 1950s, has been largely eclipsed by the congas of homegrown go-go music. And yet hand dancing has ever-so-coolly built a cult following, spreading from Baltimore to Richmond. In the 1980s, the death of disco and a desire to hear oldies sparked the rebirth of a dance that Gray, like others, learned during his youth half a century ago. The resurgence has revealed a note of disharmony. From a mostly lighthearted debate that pits old-school vs. new-school dance moves amid the lingering segregation of black and white dancers, hand dancing hardly reflects the 'One City' that the 68-year-old Gray has said he wants for the District. But maybe the city will follow the lead of some hand dancers, who hope to take the best of black and white and young and old to preserve the tradition they've come to love."

131 MURDERS -- The District ended 2010 with 9 percent fewer killings than in 2009 -- a drop to 131, which is the fewest the city's seen since 1963. Matthew Cella reports in the Washington Times: "The drop, from 143 killings, was the second straight decline and the seventh time in the last 10 years that the city once referred to as the 'murder capital' of the U.S. recorded fewer than 200 homicides. ... For the District, the continued declines in homicides during this decade to nearly half-century lows are impressive. Less than 20 years ago, the city recorded 482 killings, as turf wars among gangs dealing drugs, particularly crack cocaine, fueled homicide rates more than three times their current levels. [Lanier] pointed to three reasons for the recent reductions. First, she said the department has built trust with the community, which is leading to more tips and more cooperation from witnesses. ... Second, she said the department has invested heavily in technology. ... Third, she said gang intelligence has improved, so police are able to intervene to stem incidents that in recent years had resulted in violent tit-for-tat shooting sprees. ... Detectives also closed 101 cases, for a closure rate of 77 percent." Also: Lanier says that All Hands on Deck will continue under Gray.

HATCH ACT -- A Saturday Post editorial notes the injustice of "nutty" Hatch Act restrictions, which prohibit advisory neighborhood commissioners and State Board of Education members from running for higher office. "That the law is routinely violated but selectively enforced is further proof of the need for Congress to fix the problem by giving the District the same rights to self-government as every other local jurisdiction in the country," the editorial reads. It notes that activist Robert Brannum, himself told by the Office of Special Counsel that as an ANC member he could not run for a council seat, has challenged the council ambitions of SBOE members Sekou Biddle and Dorothy Douglas. Here's the fix: An Eleanor Holmes Norton-penned bill "to remove the District from the federal Hatch Act once local legislation is enacted passed the House this year, but when it made it out of committee to the Senate floor, at least one Republican anonymously objected to passing it by unanimous consent. Let's hope the incoming Congress sees the wisdom of making this long-overdue and common-sense fix."


Take Bob McCartney's 2011 news quiz! (The Post)

Researchers: Not enough space at high-performing DCPS schools for NCLB transfer students (All Opinions Are Local)

Gray acknowledges dinner with Redskins GM (WTOP)

Here comes the Rhee "legislative agenda" (the Examiner)

Feds pony up $150 million for Metro car replacement (WAMU-FM)

"Three years after Banita Jacks, how much has changed?" (WBJ)

Dennis Rubin's final message to fire fighters (STATter911)

How will economic development change in the Gray administration? (WBJ)

Voting-rights activism needs to be "much louder, much more intense, and the city in particular needs to be engaged in showing some real leadership in this fight," says D.C. Vote leader (WAMU-FM)

Gray on working with congressional Republicans: "I start out with the assumption that they're rational people ... " (WTOP)

Channel 4's top stories of 2010: 9. South Capitol Street drive-by massacre; 8. Ingmar Guandique convicted; 5. Rhee-signation; 3. Gray upsets Fenty; 1. Snowmageddon (WRC-TV)

ABC Chair Chuck Brodsky says he'll stop going to ANC meetings to ask for street closings for his triathlons (G'town Dish)

More coverage of sex-assault stat dispute (WUSA-TV)

*** ON THE MENU ***

D.C. Council organizational meeting, 10 a.m. in chambers -- Ward 6 Dems host pre-DCDSC at-large appointment forum, 6 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE

By Mike DeBonis  | January 3, 2011; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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