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Gray Takes the Helm

James Wright | 1/5/2011, 10:52 p.m.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Eric Washington enjoy a light moment after Gray was sworn in on Sun., Jan. 2 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley watches from a distance. Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah

The newly-inaugurated mayor of Washington said that he wants city residents to unify and to work with him to see that statehood for the District is achieved.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) delivered his inaugural address on Sun., Jan. 2 at the Washington Convention Center in Northwest. Gray, 68, said that his goal is to make Washington "One City."

"This is one city, our city, the District of Columbia," Gray said to an estimated crowd of 3,500.

"There is far more that brings us together than drives us apart."{gallery}extras/gray-inaguration{/gallery}

Gray is the District's sixth mayor since the advent of Home Rule, which became the governing structure of the city in 1973 by way of Congressional action. In the audience were former mayors Sharon Pratt and Anthony Williams.

Former Mayor Adrian Fenty sat on the stage with Gray to pass the ceremonial mayoral seal to his predecessor while D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), who served four terms as the city's mayor, was also on the stage sitting with his Council colleagues.

Gray emphasized the need for the District of Columbia to become a state.

"We are the only people in our nation shut out of democracy," Gray said to thunderous applause.

"We cannot rest until we achieve self-determination and become the nation's 51st state."

The push for statehood was echoed by the other council members who were sworn in with Gray. D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) said that D.C. residents have a right to be treated like other American citizens who pay federal taxes and have other citizenship obligations.
The District's delegate to the U.S. Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton -- who was on the stage at the ceremony -- does not have a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and there is no representation of the city in the U.S. Senate.

"Taxation without representation is not right," Cheh, 60, said. "If you don't give it [statehood] to us, then give us our money back."
Her colleague, D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), agreed, saying that "D.C. citizens have the same rights as the 50 states have" and that D.C. voting rights should be reinvigorated.

Gray said that the District is facing problems that many cities across the country are facing such as struggling schools, record unemployment, unsafe streets and a national economic crisis. Nevertheless, he stressed the importance of city residents working together to solve the problems.
"Our challenges can and will be met if we can come together," he said. "There is nothing we cannot accomplish. This is not the time for complacency; we need collective action to build 'One City.'"

Kwame Brown, who was sworn in as the chairman of the D.C. Council, said in his address that the city is facing tough times.
"We live in perilous and historic times," Brown, 40, said.

Brown, who is the youngest person to become the leader of the Council, said that he will work to see that Washington becomes a "world-class city." He also pledged to work with Gray.

"The Council will do our part in terms of oversight and the budget," he said. "We need to get our fiscal house in order."

Brown said that he will work to beef up the middle schools, create jobs for D.C. residents, create a more business-friendly environment in the city and strengthen adult education to help the city's estimated 36 percent functional illiterate population find jobs.

D.C. Council members David Catania (I-At-Large), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5), and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), also took their oaths.

During Gray's address, there were lighter moments. The mayor pointed out that three members of the Council -- Brown, Thomas and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) -- were graduates of Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest.

Gray, a Dunbar High School graduate, could not resist a dig at his colleagues.

"I told Thomas that it takes three Wilsons to equal one Dunbar," he said to widespread laughter and cheers.

Among the dignitaries at the inaugural were Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Maryland Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Maryland State Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-District 25), Prince George's County Councilmember Karen Toles (D-District 7) and Montgomery County Council President Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring). U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder swore in Brown.

Gray stopped by to congratulate the newly-elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners and members of the D.C. Board of Education. He also held an open house in the newly refurbished mayoral offices on the sixth floor of the John H. Wilson Building in Northwest as well as being present at the inaugural gala, which featured musical artists Chuck Brown and Raheem DeVaughn.

Kemry Hughes, a political activist who lives in Southeast, said that he has high hopes for the Gray administration.

"At this point, we have a mayor and a city council that will work together," Hughes, 48, said.

"We have a mayor who understands the legislative process and there will be a sense of order in this new government."