Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.
On his first day as mayor, Vincent Gray should advise his agency directors and direct reports not to put his name on anything that doesn’t require it.
Mayor Gray should issue clear guidance from the start in order to save the District money and avoid easily preventable criticism. He can send a message that progress for the city is more important than promoting the name of the mayor and his team.
Placing a mayor’s name on a sign, or nearly anything else, is just an act of vanity. There is little if any benefit to District taxpayer with Marion Barry on the side of the Reeves Center, Sharon Pratt Kelly on recycling bins, Anthony Williams on trash cans or Adrian Fenty on DC One Cards.
Here are five reasons to stop this practice with the incoming administration.
Cost: Especially during tight budget times, every dollar needs to be spent on direct services to benefit residents, visitors and commuters. The letters shown on the side of the Reeves building had to cost something. Even if there were nearly zero incremental cost to adding the mayor’s name onto something, the perception will always remain that extra money was spent.
Time: Agency staff should focus on their agency’s core mission and not where or how to place an officials name on a building, card or trash can. Residents don’t want to wonder why an agency had time to promote the mayor yet did not have time to respond to their real-world issue.
Replacement: Once something is printed with the current mayor’s name, the next mayor needs to decide whether to replace it. This means spending more funds to replace the item with the former mayor’s name with the same item, this time with the new mayor’s name.
Politics: Other political parties question whether use of government funds to promote the mayor is an unfair advantage for the incumbent’s party. The DC Republican Party expressed this concern in reaction to Mayor Fenty’s name painted on the soccer field at Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Columbia Heights (Post).
Outreach: Citizens want to know specifically who to contact if they have a question or problem regarding a program or service. For practical purposes, this means a staff person’s name, telephone number and email address instead of the mayor or agency director’s name. A sign outside the Hurt House only listed the names of Mayor Fenty and Deputy Mayor Valerie-Joy Santos.
There is no clear indication that the current administration was any different previous ones when it comes to this practice. District residents can assess that based on what they have seen or accumulated with each respective mayor’s name.
On January 2, 2011, incoming Mayor Gray can make this into a non-issue. He can remove this potential distraction from agency staff when he provides “day one” guidance on this issue. Even better yet, he can and should hold his entire leadership team to the same standard regarding promoting their names.
Residents will assess the new mayor based on his performance, not where his name appears.