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SIMMONS: It’s time for Mayor Gray to make his next big step
Question of the Day
Your move, Mr. Mayor.
There's an aging elephant in the room where deliberations are held on a tentative agreement to build a new stadium for the D.C. United soccer team.
Its name: RFK Stadium.
Its purpose: Ask the mayor.
Its problem: Lack of vision.
Baseball's Washington Senators used to play in RFK, until the team found a new home in Texas in 1972. The Washington Redskins played before roaring crowds there, too, before the team found a new home and larger roaring crowds in Maryland in 1997.
If and when United departs for another part of town, RFK will become home to the ghosts of D.C. past and a bleak, silent reminder that big-city mayors who lack vision are bound to be shown the exit signs.
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray's time is running out.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing saw the exit signs and made his move.
A native Washingtonian who made a name for himself as a Hall of Fame guard in the NBA and later as a wealthy car-parts middleman in Detroit, Mr. Bing replaced Kenneth Cockrel Jr. in 2009 as mayor of a city that already was falling on hard times and had the criminal corruption clouds of the Kwame Kilpatrick administration still hanging over it.
Mr. Bing, an astute businessman, was considered a change agent, as he promised to bring "efficiency, transparency, honesty and integrity back to the mayor's office." What he failed to do, however, was lay out a vision to turn around Detroit.
Facing reality this spring, Mr. Bing announced he would not seek re-election, and this month the city declared bankruptcy — the largest U.S. city to ever do so.
What Mr. Bing lacked was vision — a well-thought-out plan to move the Motor City into the future by the bootstraps.
For sure, Mr. Gray was considered a change agent as well when he became D.C. mayor in January 2011. Promising an administration that would not become reclusive like that of his predecessor, Adrian M. Fenty, Mr. Gray entered office under ominous clouds that continue to this day.
Just last week, one of Mr. Gray's 2010 campaign aides, Thomas Gore, was sentenced to six moths in prison on political corruption charges. Also, the city agreed to pay $48 million to settle accounts for Chartered Health Plan Inc., the once-prominent Medicaid contractor run by monied playmaker Jeffrey Thompson, who also is being investigated on federal corruption charges.
Mr. Gray has but a few short weeks to make a move, as the pols who want to replace him — Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans and Tommy Wells, all Democratic members of the D.C. Council — are already out of the gate because, unlike prior years, the primaries will be held in April not September.
To help gauge voters' intent, Mr. Gray, a Democrat, has been conducting neighborhood walk-throughs in recent weeks, standing on stoops, hugging children and chatting up residents as if his mind is made up and he is going to run again.
But what remains lacking is Mr. Gray's vision.
We all know how far the city has come from its bankrupt days of the 1990s, which coincided with the Redskins' departure, and we know it took decades for then-Mayor Marion Barry's vision of the U Street corridor and the Reeves Center — part of the land deal in the new soccer stadium plan — to come to fruition.
It's your turn, Mr. Mayor.
Bust a move, unless you want to be like RFK — a has-been without a roaring crowd.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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