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Gray, Commended on State of the District Address

James Wright | 3/29/2011, 6:26 a.m.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray delivers his State of the District Address at Eastern Senior High School in Northeast on Mon., March 28. Photo by Lateef Mangum, DC Gov't  

The mayor's first State of the District speech received accolades from residents for its comprehensive nature and its focus on the future.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray delivered his first State of the District address before hundreds who gathered inside the newly remodeled Eastern Senior High School in Northeast to hear Gray's vision for the future on March 28.

The general consensus: Gray touched on key issues that will impact the District going forward.

"I think it was a very ambitious address," Ken Fealing, 43, said.

"It was a speech that dealt with the realities that the city faces. I liked the fact that he talked about the serious budget deficit and the problems of Wards 7 and 8," the Northeast resident said.

Gray, 68, noted, that he was speaking in the new Eastern Senior High School. He also said that the school's rebuilding is a sign that the District of Columbia is moving forward.

"As they have done at this school, we must build on our past and focus our energy on creating tomorrow's triumphs," the mayor said.

"Tonight, we gather to reflect on what those triumphs might be: the State of the District is our occasion to pause from our daily labor, think hard about our city's future and offer a vision of the great achievements that tomorrow will bring."

Gray talked about his specific interests throughout the 35-minute address, which included early childhood education, getting District residents jobs, building the health care, hospitality and technology sectors and last but not least, dealing with the city's $322 million budget deficit.

However, as is the tradition with mayors of the nation's capital, Gray mentioned the District's self-determination.

"Imagine the District of Columbia as the 51st state where residents enjoy the full privileges of democracy and self-determination -- just like every other citizen in the United States of America," he said.

Gray, a longtime resident of Ward 7, talked at length about residents who live east of the Anacostia River.

"At its widest, the Anacostia River spans barely half a mile -- but when you pass over it -- it can feel like you've left one continent for another," he said.

But, that's not the case.

He said that the Anacostia River could resemble many of its counterparts in the world, such as the Seine River in Paris, the Thames in London, the Charles River in Boston or the San Antonio River Walk in San Antonio, Texas.

"They all represent a unifying force," Gray said.

During his address, Gray also said that one of his economic development projects includes more District control of Walter Reed in Northwest.

"One week ago, I announced that we have negotiated with the federal government to give the District control of more land on the Walter Reed campus," he said.

"This will increase opportunities for jobs, affordable housing and retail that Ward 4 residents have been urgently requesting."
The mention of Walter Reed pleased D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4).

"At least Ward 4 got one mention," Bowser, 37, said. "We have been working on that project."

Gray said that the work he is attempting to do should have long-lasting effects.

"When a century [has elapsed] and [a] future mayor gives a State of the District address at a school, let him or her take pride in something we built today, with our hands and with our spirit," he said.