In an auditorium overflowing with supporters, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray kicked off his 2014 re-election bid at THEARC on Mississippi Avenue Saturday, Jan. 11. Gray, who has completed three years of his first term, has been at the center of debate surrounding his 2010 campaign. Saturday, he sought to move beyond the cloud of 2010 and put that debate to rest with an apology.
“We have big plans,” Gray told the audience. “And frankly ladies and gentleman I think we have a record that proves that we can achieve those plans. But, before we talk about the future, I want to say something about the past. Everyone knows that our 2010 campaign had shortcomings … I know that the 2010 campaign caused many people great pain. And I know that our city suffered great embarrassment. So today, I want to apologize to you.
“I want to apologize for the pain that my campaign, my campaign caused and I want to ask you for your forgiveness for what happened,” said Gray, to applause and cheers of ‘four more years.’
Gray’s apology comes long after several of his close campaign aides pleaded guilty for their involvement in illegal campaign activities that occurred in 2010, including Vernon Hawkins, Eugenia “Jeanne” Harris.
However, the mayor stopped short of specifically apologizing for those who have already accepted criminal responsibility. Instead, Gray said he is committed to focusing on the future. The success of his re-election bid hinges on whether voters are willing to put the transgressions of the 2010 campaign behind them.
“I think it’s time now, ladies and gentleman, to turn the page,” stated Gray. “We can’t be mired in the past … we have too much work to do.”
During his speech, Gray reminded the audience of some of his administrations accomplishments. In 2013, the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) showed the greatest improvement of any school system in the United States on the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA). The test measures the reading and math skills of fourth and eighth grade students.
He also highlighted job creation, touting that D.C. has more than 25,000 new private sector jobs since his election to office.
“We’re going to continue to insist that our employers hire more and more of our residents so that we can make sure that people who live here get the jobs and they pay their tax dollars right here in the District of Columbia, which is not true of those who live outside the city,” exclaimed Gray.
The ‘One City One Hire’ program also made good on Gray’s pledge to put unemployed residents back to work, helping nearly 9,000 residents regain employment. Under Gray’s administration, the citywide unemployment rate fell from 11.2 percent to a current 8.6 percent.
Positive employment numbers and a declining unemployment rate could benefit Gray on primary day, but all is not rosy. While economic development is on the rise in certain corridors of the city, not much of the boom has reached the people with the greatest need.
The District of Columbia is thriving with an average influx of 13,000 new residents each year. But those new city dwellers arrive with plenty of income, increasing the cost of living in one of the most attractive and competitive cities in the nation and driving out residents with the fewest resources - a fact not lost on Gray.
“People who move into the District of Columbia because it offers opportunity and a wonderfully diverse culture, we welcome them to the District of Columbia,” Gray said, “but we cannot forget those who held our city together when times were not the best.”
To help with housing disparities, Gray said that he has committed “an unprecedented $187 million” to preserve or build 10,000 affordable housing units. According to Gray, 3,000 units have been completed with 47 additional project launches expected.
“If somebody wants to live in the District of Columbia there ought to be a place for them in our city,” Gray said.
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