What Does a Vincent Gray Mayoralty Mean for Georgetown?

On Tuesday, Vincent Gray soundly beat Adrian Fenty for the Democratic nomination for mayor. Given the one-party state that we live in, Gray can for all intents and purposes be considered the mayor-elect. So what will his mayoralty mean for Georgetown? It’s not clear, since he has not said too much specifically about Georgetown, but that doesn’t mean GM can’t do a little speculation on a few issues!

Hardy School

GM has kicked around the idea of writing an article about Michelle Rhee’s disastrous meeting with the Hardy PTA last December and call it “The Night Adrian Fenty Lost the Election.” Yes there were other single events that seemed to encapsulate everything that Fenty was doing wrong to get reelected, but the Hardy incident stands out as a particularly bad one. Not for nothing, but the meeting ended with Ward 7 councilmember Yvette Alexander delivering a rousing speech to the angry crowd that to get rid of Rhee they’d have to get rid of Fenty first. Step one can be checked off.

While the post-Pope transition appears to be going along with relatively minimal problems, it seems likely that an appetite remains within the Hardy PTA to roll back the changes and reinstall Patrick Pope as principal. Moreover, there may be an effort to finally convert Hardy entirely into a magnet arts school. Given that the Hardy situation became a bit of a rallying cry for pro-Gray voters, it seems likely that at least some change of course is taken.

Of course much of that depends on whether Michelle Rhee sticks around and how much latitude Gray gives her. The jury is still out on that.

Parking

The primary complaint of residents and visitors of Georgetown is parking. Rather than face the reality that it’s a scarce resource and to treat it as such, many people take the contradictory position that parking can somehow be easy and cheap if only the government would do X or Y.

So with that in mind, during the last mayoral debate Carol Joynt lobbed a parking question at the candidates:

(If the embed isn’t working, watch it here: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post.cgi?id=7130)

Fringe candidate Leo Alexander gave the populist and dead-end answer that parking needs to be cheaper and enforcement lighter. Fenty gave the performance parking answer (kind of), which GM loved. And Vince Gray didn’t really address parking head-on, but gave a strong endorsement to mass transit.

What does this mean? Well, as hashed out over at GGW, Gray has given some mixed messages on performance parking. He seems to intellectually “get it” but he nonetheless made some comments about the cost of parking being too high.

And while Gray didn’t get as wonky about parking theories as Fenty, his emphasis on mass transit is nonetheless apt. And it gets at the problem in Carol’s question: Georgetown doesn’t have a parking problem, it has a driving problem. We can’t make more parking spots, but we can reduce the number of cars and the number of car trips.

Furthermore, some leaders in Georgetown have been quietly planning a radical overhaul of parking for Georgetown. Built on the principal that parking on the street should be expensive enough that some spots are always free, these changes could improve the parking experience in Georgetown significantly.

It’s still a long-shot, and organizing Georgetown behind the idea is probably more of a challenge than getting DDOT on board, so Gray’s views may not be that relevant. But that said, we do need to be on the lookout for Gray’s populist streak and make sure he doesn’t thwart reform in Georgetown to appease a misguided belief that parking can be easy and cheap at the same time.

Business Environment

Frankly it’s not like Fenty did much for Georgetown businesses and all signs point to that city-neglect continuing. The Georgetown commercial district will continue to trudge along without clear leadership or vision. The BID and GBA will do what they can, but there’s only so much. And the ANC will look out for the interests that the ANC looks out for. But a deafening silence from the Wilson Building on what to do about the Georgetown commercial district will keep rolling on.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “What Does a Vincent Gray Mayoralty Mean for Georgetown?

  1. David

    GM,

    “a deafening silence from the Wilson Building on what to do about the Georgetown commercial district will keep rolling on.”

    Just curious if you could expand on this – what exactly would G’town be looking for from the Mayor’s office on a vision here? Do they have visions for other neighborhoods?

    I envision a Georgetown that should be the most walkable/bikesharable neighborhood, filled with high end retailers (5th ave style), and a demolished Georgetown Park Mall that is open air or at least a style similar to Cady’s Alley.

    I also think if we push the Bikeshare concept into the neighborhood, resident parking wouldnt be as difficult either. We have no alternative here, traffic will not get better on its own.

  2. asuka

    Don’t expect anything from Gray. Its going to take years for his “methodical approach” (read: plodding) to reach this side of the river, much less this side of Massachusetts.

  3. Old Georgetowner

    ” …a demolished Georgetown Park Mall…”

    The GPM was a mistake from the beginning. It’s never going to work — never — as originally conceived. People can fantasize about filling it with the chain stores that now litter M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, but that’s not going to happen either. (Even massive tax subsidies from the city wouldn’t move them.)

    Maybe it can be maintained by enlarging the residential space and adding offices. (Probably not.) Maybe it could survive with one very large retailer and several smaller ones. (Maybe too late, maybe not.) But this recession is going to last for years, and the attractiveness of Georgetown as a retail destination is unlikely to improve much beyond its current condition. (“Branding”? Grow up.)

    I suppose it could be recycled as public schools for the children of people who actually live nearby (since all the places in the existing neighborhood school have been commandeered by people who don’t want their children going to school in their own neighborhoods), but that seems a stretch.

    Maybe it will wind up as an auxiliary site for GU. Or federal offices. Or as a holding pen for people waiting to buy cupcakes. Whatever.

    What it won’t do is work as originally envisioned.

  4. Michelle Rhee must go. Her arrogance and total insensitivity to the parents and teachers of DC’s school children was unforgivable, no matter what she was trying to accomplish. And Fenty just mirrored her overbearing pride. To see her on the cover of TIME magazine with a broom after firing several hundred teachers was too much for the majority of the voting public in this town. The election was a good lesson for all: there is more to DC than Wards 2 and 3. Removing Patrick Pope from Hardy was just plain stupid.

  5. GM

    Good questions. I do think some other neighborhoods are subject to better planning, but most of those are the vastly changing neighborhoods like Columbia Heights.

    Some things the city government could do:
    -Tax breaks for small independent shops or the landlords that rent to them
    -As you suggest, the city has not taken a comprehensive approach to fixing the transportation issues facing Georgetown. Many of the recommendations from the Georgetown traffic study aren’t going anywhere. There has been no discussion of adding bus lanes or bike lanes. Parking reform is still far away. It doesn’t help that our CM doesn’t hold very progressive views on transportation.

    These are just a couple ideas. But more generally, it seems as if the city doesn’t have a comprehensive plan for Georgetown (or many other neighborhoods). So you have several large projects like the library, the waterfront, Jelleff, and the streetcar tracks and they all seem to be in a vacuum. It’s better that then nothing get done, but some overarching vision for Georgetown would be nice.

  6. James Paul

    Re: Dave Roffman
    “Her arrogance and total insensitivity to the parents and teachers of DC’s school children was unforgivable”

    Really? The schools are there not to provide employment for teachers but to educate children. Teachers in their panic of being exposed riled the parents against their own children’s interest.
    Do you really think these teachers deserve their positions? She should have fired EVERYONE by default just based on the results the children have shown on a national level. Then they could ALL go through a re-hiring process: #1) By taking an SAT test to show that they have basic math and basic language skills and #2) to interview with an independent committee (from out of town) and outside ‘the union’. The level of children in the DC public school system is beyond pathetic, beyond third world and you want it to deal with it with sensitivity? Emergency is the word that comes to mind. School is for children to learn and grow, both socially and intellectually. It should not be a vehicle of employment for losers that hide behind national unions to abuse taxpayer money.

  7. Old Georgetowner

    What James Paul said.

    DC has the worst and most expensive public schools in America. This is the fault of politicians, school administrators, teachers, parents, and even the students themselves.

    Changing this dysfunctional system is, under the best circumstances, a nearly impossible task. Michelle Rhee may have been the last, best hope for DC schools. Dave Roffman complains about her insensitivity to people who are part of the problem. Did his neighborhood newspaper ever once in the past several decades contribute anything at all useful on the deplorable state of DC schools? No, of course not. Not even a short bit on the incompetent work done at Hardy by a politically-connected contractor that had to be redone at enormous public expense.

    So now, in effect, we give up. Tens of thousands of children, for many years to come, will continue to quit school without a diploma, or get a diploma that means little or nothing because they can’t read or do math at a basic level. Because they know little or no science or history. Because they lack the skills and self-discipline to do much more than low-wage work — ever.

    “Overbearing pride”? That’s what the defenders of the system bring to the game. That’s what stands in the way of fixing the schools. Incompetent teachers, ineffective administrators, and negligent parents are the problem. And everyone of them is stuffed full of “overbearing pride.”

    A DC mayor is obliged to feed that mob to survive. Barry did it by inventing a black middle-class through make-work government jobs. Sharon Pratt Kelly forgot or wouldn’t be bothered, and was soon toasted. Williams managed to survive, barely, and with the help of the Feds. And Fenty pretended the problem just didn’t exist (perhaps because, in his mind, it shouldn’t exist). Now the mob has got its revenge. Hackery is back, reform is out.

    “Forget it, Jake. It’s DC”

  8. EastGeorgetowner

    Ditto to all those who pointed out that Michelle Rhee was the best thing that could have happened to DC schools, and who had the courage to take on the system. Mr. Roffman, it is the interest of the children in the schools, not adult teachers’ ability to maintain mediocrity with guaranteed salaries, that she was concerned about. And that is the morally right, if politically difficult, approach. Without her, we will sadly settle back to the dysfunctional status quo where the public school children of DC are not treated with the dignity, respect, and potential that they each have as individuals, and the money will keep flowing to the adults.

  9. efavorite

    Keep in mind that children can’t be taught without teachers, and it’s stupid to treat all teachers terribly, assuming that all the problems in education are due to bad teaching.

    This is so elementary that I’m surprised the great minds that supposedly populate Georgetown haven’t thought of it.

  10. Pingback: DeMorning DeBonis: Sept. 17, 2010

  11. EastGeorgetowner

    Mr e-favorite, nobody suggests treating all teachers badly. That would be not only stupid, of course, but wrong in terms of the interests of the children. What Rhee did, and what I support, is weeding out *ineffective* teachers who were not performing and giving the children what they need.

  12. Ken Archer

    re: Hardy

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there is no change of course at Hardy. Gray says he plans to really listen to all constituencies, including those who didn’t vote for him. If he does so, he will hear from the same Ward 2 elementary school parents that Rhee heard from. Honestly, Rhee’s decision to build a magnet arts middle school around Pope sounds like the type of decision Gray would have made, but he would have made it after meeting with the PTA and would have communicated the decision better than Rhee did and would thus have earned much more credibility that the decision is in good faith.

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