Rubinson spoke candidly at the networking meeting, organized by the grassroots group Lifting Voices, about his personal experience with DC, the campaign, and Gray’s vision. He suggested that Washington was a continual surprise.
"I like to describe DC as a room you can enter many times, and think it's the same room, but every time you come in you find something new that was always there, but you just didn't see before," he said. He went on to say that running the campaign was one of the best experiences of his life, granting him “the chance to see all the possibilities of that room.”
Even with the success of what Gray’s organization called the One City campaign, Rubinson said he noticed something unexpected about the way the people approached and characterized it.
“In my view, to many people thinking abut this election, this was one of the least-understood campaigns in recent history,” he said. “It seemed some people felt that [outgoing Mayor Adrian] Fenty was being a great change agent, and when you make many changes you’re likely to get booted. People felt like our campaign was about ‘slow down, reform is difficult.’ But really, Gray’s campaign was a crusade to transform the city.”
While giving due credit to the contributions of former Mayor Anthony Williams and Fenty, Rubinson pointed to Gray’s penchant for inclusion and respect as built-in features of the new administration.
“Tony Williams took us to a point of respectability and professionalism, but he could only take us so far, and there was something lacking [with Fenty],” Rubinson told the crowd of 30 community organizers, advocacy group representatives, and nonprofit founders. “Vince understands how important it is to respect process and people, and that ultimately, reforms will go nowhere if those things are ignored.”
Repeating a frequent campaign theme that suggested Fenty and his top lieutenants such as Michelle Rhee focused only on certain sections of the city, Rubinson assured the audience that Gray’s administration would collaborate closely with those who live, work, and have roots in DC.
“The city has a very recent history of people’s voices not being heard. There are a lot of stakeholders, and no matter how great the results are, any venture will fail if you haven’t brought those stakeholders along,” he said. “I think we are going to see tremendous creativity and people getting involved because we have a mayor who really welcomes that involvement. He wants to hear your ideas.”
“It’s timely,” Reba Elliott, Lifting Voices’ executive director, said of the event. “With the new administration and especially with Gray’s background in nonprofit work, people are energized and want to create change.”