NPR logo Washington, D.C. Officials Have One Of Worst Weeks Ever

Washington, D.C. Officials Have One Of Worst Weeks Ever

Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. Charles Dharapak/ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

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Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.


This was not a week that strengthened Washington, D.C.'s argument to be treated more like a state and less like the unique federal district overseen by Congress that it is.

In fact, it may have been one of the worst weeks ever in the annals of city government. That really saying something since Washington is the city that literally saw one-time Mayor Marion Barry busted by federal agents in a hotel room on cocaine charges.

The city's two top elected officials, Mayor Vincent Gray and City Council President Kwame Brown, both Democrats, had to deal with embarrassing disclosures that raised questions about their stewardship of taxpayer money.

Among Gray's problems this week were questions about why he gave his staff members sharp pay increases over what their predecessors in the the previous administration were paid.

Then there were questions about nepotistic hiring in the administration, with the children of officials being hired, as well as other questionable hiring.

Meanwhile, as the city, like many others, struggles with its finances, it was reported that council president Brown had leased two fully loaded SUVs, the second because the first didn't have the interior color scheme he preferred. It meant the city was stuck with two very expensive vehicle leases.

As the Washington Post editorialized:

MAYOR VINCENT C. GRAY (D) and Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) both took office in the District soberly warning of the need for fiscal restraint. Apparently, though, neither thinks this message applies to him.

With Republicans in control of the House and within striking distance of taking over the Senate in 2012, the mostly Democratic city was already sailing in much choppier political waters than it has been in for some time.

It's an easy enough guess to make that the city's two top officials just handed Washington, D.C.'s congressional critics much more ammunition to work with.