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D.C. Mayor Gray Defends Himself, Touts City's Accomplishments

Barrington M. Salmon | 3/12/2014, 3 p.m.
"I say this to all of you clearly and unequivocally, I did not break the law!" With those words, Mayor ...
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray delivered his 2014 State of the District address at Kelly Miller Middle School in Northeast on Tuesday, March 11. Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah

"Federal investigators are now using this man's words to suggest that I broke the law."

Thompson says Gray was aware of the shadow campaign, while Gray continues to insist that everything Thompson told federal prosecutors about his involvement are lies.

"So I ask you, who do you believe? A greedy man attempting to save himself, or me, a public servant who has dedicated his entire career to giving back to our communities?" Gray asked. "I have spent my entire life in public service, all of it with a clean and unblemished record. Why would I, at the tail end of that, suddenly turn on that life, a life lived openly and honestly?"

"To some in our city, I'm just another corrupt politician from the other side of town. I ask them to look beyond their preconceived notions, and instead to look at my record, both as mayor and especially as a human being. I have given all I have to this city and its people, especially those who are less fortunate. I'm not some caricature drawn up by an eager press corps; I'm a person. A person with a history and a track record. A person who has diligently worked to make this city a better place for all its residents, white and black, Asian and Latino, gay and straight, rich and poor, and the haves and have-nots."

Gray used the opportunity to paint the picture of a city on the move, while also highlighting significant challenges. He derided critics who suggest that when he took office, he simply inherited a steaming engine that was already chugging along. That the District would be booming now regardless of whether or not he was in office. And that he was merely coasting along.

"But we know better. And while I am pleased to acknowledge the contributions of my predecessors, let us not forget recent history," he said. "When I came into office in 2011, unemployment was rising fast, revenue was dropping, our reserve fund had been spent down by half, and Wall Street had put our credit rating on a negative outlook. There were a number of major development projects in neighborhoods across the District that were either stalled — or simply neglected."

Gray ticked off several he said came to fruition because of his administration's leadership and which are either complete or moving forward rapidly. These include: the City Center project, nearing completion a decade after it was first envisioned as redevelopment on the site of the old Convention Center; the historic O Street Market site which has been restored and redeveloped into a long-awaited retail-and-housing complex, including the largest supermarket in the city and affordable housing for seniors; the revitalized Howard Theatre; and the Shops at Dakota Crossing in Ward 5 which houses the District's first Costco — 28 years after that shopping center was first envisioned.

"That's not coasting, ladies and gentlemen, it's leadership," Gray said emphatically several times as he described each project.

Gray also made a number of announcements: $116 million in new investments for D.C. Public Schools for at-risk children and enrichment programs; an additional $100 million for affordable housing; legislation to provide government employees six weeks of paid leave for new children if the baby is just born; and the "500 Days, 100 Days" initiative where city officials will identify and lease 500 apartments for homeless families using either Rapid Re-Housing or Permanent Supportive Housing vouchers.

Some Gray supporters said they wouldn't abandon him in this time of adversity, and

questioned Machen's motives.

"Going all the way with Mayor Gray!" chanted AFSCME union organizer Andre Lee as he walked away from the event. "All unions are with Gray. The timing is suspect. They're trying to force on us who to vote for. It reminds me of Marion Barry. Are they gonna lock up Hillary Clinton? Noooo."

"The mayor apologized. Let's move on. There's no way we should believe someone who's trying to save themselves. Should I believe someone who's building the city or a criminal? You want to come down on the mayor. That's not justice. And what I want to know is where are the white people in all of this? They have been stealing money, involved in illegal activities but they haven't been touched."