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Mr. Brown, a married father of two young public-school students, discussed Washington’s quality of life in narrower terms, saying Mr. Gray’s vision to unite as “One City” will lead to improved lives for all residents if parents lead the way for the next generation.

“We must embrace the thought that accountability begins at home and not just with the teachers and principals in our schools,” Mr. Brown said. “We can no longer tolerate the lack of parental involvement and accountability in the lives of their children.”

He also vowed to push education reform forward, saying it “was never a four-year experiment.”

Speaking to reporters afterward, Mr. Gray and Mr. Brown said getting the city’s fiscal house in order tops their to-do list, but school reform remains job No. 1.

“Parents want options,” said Mr. Gray, citing the 40 percent of students who attend public charter schools.

Mr. Brown, who as chairman has kept education matters in the Committee of the Whole instead of a separate panel, said he will focus on “bolstering middle schools and getting our hands around financing for D.C. Public Schools” to help keep families in the city.

The city’s top two leaders also said education reform is imperative as they wrestle with the twin problems of unemployment and underemployment of adults, and juvenile crime because youths’ academic and job skills are unmatched for a 21st-century work force.

Mr. Brown’s father, Marshall Brown, who served in the Williams administration, said the new tone of collaboration and common list of priorities aired on Sunday aren’t coincidental.

“The budget is where everything springs from,” said the chairman’s father, a political strategist. “Get the budget right, which is job No. 1, and then job creation follows.

“Today sets the tone for what the city needs,” he said.

The chairman himself said the council will be no rubber stamp for Mr. Gray, a longtime friend and neighbor in Southeast Washington.

“Over the last four years, both branches of government seemed to spend too much time talking at each other or not talking at all,” said Mr. Brown, who had served as an at-large council member for four years. “But I must be clear: The council will do its part by continuing robust oversight of government functions under the mayor and independent agencies.

“We will examine the budget closely, and scrub it. And we will work closely with our chief financial officer, relying on his office’s analysis and numbers and, when appropriate, we will challenge them.”

All but one of the eight officials sworn in Sunday is a Democrat, and they all said stakeholders must stand resolute in the push to become the nation’s 51st state despite the incoming 112th Congress, whose leadership will be in Republican hands.

One lawmaker noted that while some nations fall into bloody battles or dictatorship when leadership changes hands, the U.S. capital is disenfranchised but a testament to democracy.

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