For the third time in as many days, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray stood at a podium on Wednesday to highlight the District’s progress during his tenure — a defiant stand less than a week after his attorney rebuked the media’s “rush to judgment” over a shadow-campaign scandal that has besmirched Mr. Gray’s first 18 months in office.
On Wednesday, the mayor outlined a “One City Action Plan” that lists an array of ambitions, from recruiting more police officers to installing 84 new Capital Bikeshare stations, in a 56-page booklet that looks and feels like a Playbill. But the plan, like each of Mr. Gray’s actions in recent weeks, is set against the dramatic backdrop of scandal.
The mayor, who has not been formally accused of wrongdoing, has been fighting to keep reporters and residents focused on his accomplishments in office instead of the federal probe that has resulted in three guilty pleas by people who assisted his effort to unseat incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in 2010. So much so, his attorney released a statement last week that accused the media and political operatives of ignoring “the very good things he is doing for our city.”
On Monday, Mr. Gray welcomed visitors from around the globe to the AIDS 2012 summit at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center by highlighting the city’s strides in fighting the epidemic and in raising awareness. The next day, he released preliminary, yet improving, marks from the Grade.DC.gov program designed to evaluate city agencies. By Wednesday, he was offering a smorgasbord of goals that coursed through his first term and offered a look to the future.
At each appearance, he hastily departed amid a scrum of TV cameras looking for a sound bite from the man who must lead the city while fending off increasingly vocal critics.
While senior aides nodded in agreement behind him, Mr. Gray on Wednesday defended his new plan as a sensible blueprint for the rest of his term, if not beyond.
“I am not going to stand up and put something out in front of people that I am not committed to,” he said. “I’m putting a document out here that says we intend to deliver on this plan,” Mr. Gray said.
Mr. Gray is promoting government accountability initiatives two weeks after one of his supporters, Eugenia Harris, pleaded guilty in federal court to managing more than $653,000 in unreported funds to purchase materials for the Gray campaign. Prosecutors say the scheme was funded by a city contractor with an interest in seeing Mr. Gray defeat Mr. Fenty in the Democratic primary.
Since then, Mr. Gray’s agenda has been forced to contend with calls for his resignation and unflattering media attention that hounds him at every turn.
“All we can do is continue to do the job,” Mr. Gray said Wednesday.
In his words, that job has included a laundry list of accomplishments. Mr. Gray reminded reporters of the city’s declining unemployment rate during his tenure, attributing the drop to a revamped D.C. Department of Employment Services and his One City, One Hire initiative designed to link city residents with employers.
“I’ll tell you something else you haven’t focused on — look at what we’re doing with the unemployment system in the District of Columbia,” he said, noting the city has “dealt with” people who were unlawfully collecting unemployment benefits after they got new jobs.
He then highlighted the city’s fiscally sound approach to sending special-needs students to private schools, after a reporter suggested his action plan described “routine” government functions.
“Have you covered the recent story?” he asked. “The recent story is that when we started, the budget was $160 million for private tuition for kids in special education.”
This year, he said, the city is on track to spend $110 million.
“That’s not talk, that’s results,” he said, before issuing an emphatic reply to a reporter who asked if that was under his watch. “Yes, my term. Me. Mayor Vincent Gray, the guy who was sworn in January 2, 2011. Why? Because I stood up and said that’s what we are going to do.”