What I discussed with Speaker Boehner
In his Jan. 29 column, Colbert I. King wrote that I missed an opportunity, when I met with Speaker of the House John A. Boehner, to discuss a GOP proposal that would eliminate the District’s federal payment. Mr. King’s column may have left residents with the mistaken impression that I did not discuss the financial challenges facing the District. Although it was a very brief meeting, I certainly discussed the city’s fiscal problems.
While I did not specifically mention the GOP proposal, I did share with the speaker my concerns about the city’s financial health. And while I appreciate Mr. King’s belief that my first meeting with the speaker was the moment to aggressively pursue the issue, I disagree.
The purpose of my meeting was to get to know Mr. Boehner, the person and the leader, and for him to get to know me. It was an opportunity for us to exchange views and for me to better understand his perception of the District.
I likewise look forward to having this discussion with every elected leader of the House with oversight responsibility for the District, to share my views on city matters. Within the first 15 days of my month-old administration, my senior staff had already begun meeting with the senior staff of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, where the GOP proposal was discussed. Those meetings have been constructive and are assisting with establishing an open line of communication between my office and Congress.
And, frankly, one of our efforts has been to ascertain the source of this proposed $210 million cut, since the federal payment to the District ended more than a decade ago. The city has received support for education, infrastructure and other efforts, but the amount does not equal $210 million a year.
Further, a discussion of vouchers, which some believe to be an effective means for extending educational opportunities to children, enabled me to share with the speaker the broader agenda of full democracy and self-determination for the taxpaying residents of the District.
Although our city, like many other major cities, faces serious financial constraints, it is also a place of great economic opportunity, and we will need bipartisan help to realize our potential. Rather than use my first meeting with the speaker principally to state opposition to a GOP proposal, the basis of which could not be identified, I sought instead to build a cooperative relationship that I believe will serve the District well in the long term.
The writer is mayor of the District of Columbia.
Vincent C. Gray, Washington
| February 4, 2011; 10:54 AM ET
Categories: D.C., D.C. politics, HotTopic, Vincent Gray
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