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Council Chairman Vincent Gray
Inaugural Address
January 3, 2007




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To Congresswoman Norton, Mayor Williams, Mayor Fenty, my council colleagues and other distinguished platform guests, good morning. Thank you very much Chief Judge Washington. I am deeply honored that you have taken the time to install me. I am humbled and awed to become the next chairman of the council of the District of Columbia, an achievement I never imagined possible.

I want to thank all who have traveled this journey with me, especially the people of Ward 7 who have been with me since our successful efforts together to become the Ward 7 councilmember. If you will permit me a bit of personal parochialism, I want all to know that I love Ward 7 and its residents and it has been an enormous honor to serve as the Ward 7 council representative for the past two years.

I also want to thank my family, my friends and my professional colleagues who have endured what no one could have expected -- back-to-back campaigns.

And, I especially want to mention my daughter Jonice who two years ago stood here as part of the swearing-in ceremony in a very pregnant state. Just two weeks later, she gave birth to Austin Gray Tucker who on January 16th will turn two and has joined us today.

Today, I asked to a position that has been occupied by giants -- leaders who each made a remarkable and noteworthy contribution to the growth of this city's still youthful evolution.

  • Sterling Tucker who as the first chairman of the council, shaped the contour and direction of our legislative body.
  • Arrington Dixon who rose from being the first Ward 4 member to become a dedicated leader serving as council chairman for four years.
  • The late Dave Clarke whose matchless passion for our great city, in two separate stints as chairman, is known all across the District -- a man who worked hard to ensure a place for the least of these.
  • The late John Wilson whose leadership, tenacity, vision, and uncommon fervor to make the council an equal branch of government are lore and who we have remembered by naming the seat of government in his memory.
  • And Linda Cropp whose decade of service has resulted in an impressive list of accomplishments as she led to way on one legislative achievement after another, all the while shepherding the council to new levels of professionalism.

And so I am proud to stand before you today as a native Washingtonian.

Proud to be a graduate of this city's public schools.

Proud to have graduated from George Washington University, an experience that included the opportunity to strike a blow for racial justice and equality at a time when exclusion and nullification were common place there.

Proud to have served the city in many ways, especially in lifting up those routinely subjected to the indignity of human injustice.

Proud to have been the son of two parents who, while they may never have attended high school, were the ones who put the wind under my wings with their vision, strong work ethic and deeply rooted value systems.

And proud, my friends, to be the next chairman of the council of the District of Columbia.

As council chair, I look forward to building upon the legacy of those who have gone before me -- treating members in a respectful, even-handed and dignified way.

  • Bringing people together
  • Motivating councilmembers to work in concert
  • Urging people to believe in the council as a body whose stewardship can be trusted
  • Serving as an everyday leader
  • And building consensus so that we achieve the best possible solutions for the people of our great city.

Building upon one of the most solid financial positions of any municipality in the nation, we have the opportunity to address those difficult issues whose solutions will make us an even greater city.

Like many, I ran my campaign on making public education the top priority it deserves to be. That is why I am taking the unprecedented step of recommending to the council that for the immediate future, we allow education to become to province of the Committee of the Whole. Such a move will send a resounding message to the city's residents that our legislative body considers this to be important enough to involve every member of the council directly. That we are willing to remove a layer from our own decision-making. And that we, too, are prepared to take bold steps to ensure our children can read, write and do arithmetic.

What those approaches entail will be decided in the months ahead. But as we deliberate new solutions to seemingly intractable problems, let's also open the door to comprehensive and enduring answers.

Surely few support the status quo where failure has become the expectation for so many of our children, where high school dropout rates have hovered around 50% for more than a decade and where large numbers of young people never go to high school in the first place, simply throwing in the towel in the face of overwhelming academic deficiencies.

Facing us almost immediately will be the question of governance and I commend Mayor Fenty for having the courage to raise it. What that has done is placed education squarely at the center of the radar screen, ensuring a vigorous debate.

As we deliberate the future of educational leadership in the city, let's also recognize the rare opportunity we have before us. Governance is indisputably important but there are numerous other factors essential to positive educational outcomes.

In concert with educational reform, we must recognize and address the health and social influences that play such a vital role in the lives of children long before they get to school, often predisposing them to failure. Only integrated approaches to education, health and social services can effectively address these concerns.

Rebuilding our schools much be accelerated so that children feel they are walking into decent, modern places which send the message they are valued and valuable.

And as we ponder the opportunity before us, there are four key points of intervention that must grab our attention:

  • We need to move towards universal Pre-K education in order to better prepare all children for a successful educational experience, recognizing that many simply do not have the benefit of strong parent support.
  • Secondly, we need a full court academic press during the kindergarten through 3rd grade because children begin to fall hopelessly behind as early as the 3rd grade.
  • Thirdly, if we are to stem the tide of high school dropouts, diversifying secondary education has to be a priority. And that includes restoring a vibrant vocational and career education program so that young people have immediate job opportunities.
  • And fourthly, failure to address a 37% functional illiteracy rate among adults in the city, will guarantee a permanent underclass.

During my campaign I spoke consistently about housing policy. Frankly, that may be the single most important social and economic challenge facing us as the seek the right balance between market forces and government regulation to assure a diverse population in our city. That is why I am recommending the council approve a Housing and Urban Affairs Committee charged with shaping housing policy for the city by address such difficult issues as:

Development of workforce housing so that we can increase the number of people who both live and work in the city; fashioning other affordable housing options so that we attract and retain young families; implementation of inclusionary zoning, deconcentrating large pockets of low-income housing to create more economic diverse communities; and continuing to oversee and refine rent control so that those who do not wish to be home owners, can live in the city.

There are other initiatives I intend to propose to expand the council's capacity to perform our basic functions:

  • For the first time, extensive orientation for new members was conducted in mid-December to facilitate their quick adjustment to this new and complex environment.
  • Work is underway to build a policy office to support the work of councilmembers in tackling broad, cross-cutting policy issues.
  • We have a plan for expanded use of technology to increase efficiency, accessibility and community with those we represent.
  • We are developing a strengthened communications office so that information flows more quickly.
  • And I intend to propose a program of increased access to the Wilson Building so that we use it as an opportunity for our students to learn more about their government and for visitors to the city to learn more about the District and our unique disenfranchisement.

My friends, this is an exciting time -- an opportunity for us to build upon the progress spearheaded by outgoing Mayor Anthony Williams and Council Chairperson Linda Cropp.

Often, we are likened to Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities. One a place of prosperity, opportunity and bustling life. And the other more evident as we travel east in the city to places where life is hard, educational underachievement is routine, poverty is rampant, healthcare inadequate, crime disproportionately high, housing patterns contributing to epidemic levels of social pathology and places where hopes and dreams are snuffed out by the absence of a fair chance.

So, as a council, I am asking my colleagues to join me in adopting a collective vision for ONE CITY so that there is a framework for our legislation.

A framework that connects education, housing, healthcare, economic development and public safety policy, because they clearly are the basic planks in an orderly society.

No, I am not so naive as to think this can be accomplished easily. But, if we truly are committee to achieving ONE CITY, then the quest for such unity should be compelling enough to impel us to collective action.

As we move forward, there is a solid foundation to build upon. As a city which is in far better shape financially than most, we have the luxury of looking ahead to ways of uniting our city so that everyone has an opportunity to live the good live. The economic gap between the top 20% and the lowest 20% is wider than at any time in the history of this city. it will be solved with an emphasis on education, housing and jobs.

And so, I look forward over the next four years to communicating the good news that ONE CITY is possible if each day we truly embrace that goal as the purpose of our actions.


  • From the West End to the East End let's become ONE CITY
  • From Dupont Circle to Randle Circle, let's become ONE CITY
  • From McLean Gardens to Nayor Gardens and Chinatown to Tenleytown, let's become ONE CITY
  • From Friendship Heights to Columbia Heights to Lincoln Heights to Congress Heights, let's become ONE CITY
  • From Fort Lincoln to Lincoln Park, let's become ONE CITY
  • From Forest Hills to Hillcress and Fairfax Village to Colonial Village to Foxhall Village, let's become ONE CITY
  • From Cheh to Barry, Wells to Graham, Evans to Thomas, and with Schwartz, Catania, Mendelson and Brown criss-crossing the city, Norton working the hill, ANC's operating at the neighborhood level and Fenty as our mayor, we have the team to become ONE CITY
  • ONE CITY -- performing as one, achieving as one, and living as one.
  • ONE CITY, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you.

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