- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 4, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Vincent Condol Gray, the former mayor, announced Thursday that he is heading back to the campaign trail to run for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat held by Yvette Alexander, another Democrat — and he could win.

“People are going to go to the polls, hold their nose and vote for Vince,” a mover and shaker told me. Then he said, “People are going to go to the polls, hold their nose and vote for Yvette.”

Say what?

“At the end of the day,” another political player said, neither Mr. Gray nor Miss Alexander has done anything “remarkable,” nothing that says she “fought for our people.”

Said yet another: “Yvette is a Ward 7 girl. She still lives in [the] Penn Branch neighborhood with her mother.”

Score two for Miss Alexander, 54, who beat 17 other Democrats in 2007 to represent Ward 7 after Mr. Gray won the council chairman’s race.

And there’s the apparent rub.

Ward 7 today is pretty much the same Ward 7 that Mr. Gray first represented in 2005.

And the same in 2006, when he ran for chairman.

And the same in 2010, when he first ran for mayor.

And the same in 2014, when he sought re-election and lost to Muriel Bowser.

On Thursday, Mr. Gray said this when announcing his 2016 run: “The hope and promise of Ward 7 cannot slip away. Every day I see our accomplishments slowing or stalled. Too many of our neighbors are living without jobs, the security of a stable home, or the certainty of a warm meal. Our streets feel less safe. A young generation seeking direction is looking to us to lead.”

A longtime Gray supporter called the sales pitch “BS” and said “nothing is going to change, nothing is going to be different.”

Indeed, in 2011, the unemployment rate in Ward 7 stood at 19.7, read a press release from the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization Inc., a Ward 7 group. The Marshall Heights group also rightly cited illiteracy as a chief reason for that woeful statistic. The jobless rate in December 2015 was 11 percent — more than twice the national average of 5 percent.

That’s enough to leave voters saying “Do not rinse and do not repeat,” ya think?

Interestingly, Mr. Gray served as chairman of the council’s Special Committee on Prevention of Youth Violence, and he held regular town halls with youths. Also, as a Roman Catholic, he served a decade as founding executive director of Covenant House Washington, which helps at-risk youths.

Mr. Gray supports decriminalizing marijuana and gay marriage, and signed into law a bill that prohibits LGBTQI conversion therapy, and he is a proud backer of universal pre-K public schooling.

Mr. Gray does not support publicly funded vouchers for poor children, including those whose parents he now looks to vote for him a fifth time around the Ward 7 carousel.

Where exactly, pray tell, does Mr. Gray want to lead the youths of Ward 7?

Speaking of youths and illiteracy

A fan, as I am, of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, e-mailed me to point out that: “The model which all communities participating in Parton’s program must agree to use is simple: your local sponsors (which I presume in the case of D.C. is taxpayer dollars) reimburse the Dollywood Foundation for the actual cost of book purchase and mailing expenses, about $2 per book each month. Thanks to Parton’s generosity, her foundation covers the administration of the program at no cost to local communities. This includes convening a panel of child development experts to select the book titles for the year, negotiating the special printing of each title with the publisher, and coordinating the mailing of all of the books to each enrolled child. None of this is done by the local chapter, so the city will not be responsible for deciding the titles of the books, ordering the books, or delivering the books.

“All the local chapter does is publicize the availability of the program to its residents, enter the names and addresses of local children as they register to receive the books, and send the money once a month to pay for the books that are being mailed that month to your local children. I’m certain these limited responsibilities will be easy even for the city government of D.C. to handle :)”

Thanks to Duane for setting the facts straight from my Tuesday column.

With D.C. getting failing grades in the literacy department for two generations, though, I’ve still got my fingers crossed. :)

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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