Muriel Bowser laid out her case for the Exelon-Pepco Merger. (AFRO File Photo)
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), with the support of D.C. Council member LaRuby May (D- Ward 8), recently addressed a Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commission to set the record straight on some of the controversies of her administration.
Bowser and May were the two primary speakers at a meeting of the 8B advisory neighborhood commission that took place on Nov. 17 at the Metropolitan Police Department’s Seventh District Station in Southeast.
The commission’s area of jurisdictions covers neighborhoods such as Garfield Heights, Knox Hill, Shipley Terrace, Woodland Terrace, Fort Stanton, and Hillsdale and possesses such landmarks as the Allen AME Church and THE ARC.
Bowser’s political career has been closely tied with Ward 8 in general. In a surprise move in January 2014, Bowser defeated then incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray in a straw poll conducted by the Ward 8 Democrats in her quest to become the city’s mayor.
While Gray won the ward in the April 1, 2014 Democratic Party, he lost the primary to Bowser. In the general election, Bowser won the election with the strength of Ward 8 voters with nearly 75 percent of its votes, the highest percentage in the city.
The majority of the mayor’s remarks centered on the Exelon-Pepco merger and she explained the ongoing process to the residents and commissioners.
“Three state governors negotiated community benefits packages with Exelon for their support of the merger,” Bowser said. “When the governors got their packages, they encouraged the public service commissions in their states to support the merger and they did. But when it came to the District, they didn’t spend a lot of time with us.”
Bowser said administration officials negotiated with Exelon after the D.C. Public Service Commission rejected the merger. The mayor said that city residents and ratepayers came out better when Exelon came to the table with city officials.
“We changed a benefits package from $14 million to $77 million that includes a one-time credit for ratepayers and workforce training for District residents who are interested in working for Exelon,” she said. The benefits package also includes financial incentives and credits for low-income residents, an Exelon headquarter location in the city and a fund to assist District non-profits.
However, Anthony Lorenzo Green, chairman of the commission, wasn’t sold on what the mayor said and asked whether the city’s deal with Exelon was the “same old, same old”; meaning that nothing significant really changes. Bowser disagreed.
“If we don’t have the merger, we will be dealing with Pepco and they will be asking for a rate increase next year,” she said. “With the merger, there won’t be a rate increase until 2019 and seven members of the council have signed on to it as well as the Office of the People’s Counsel and the Office of the Attorney General.”
Bowser said that the council members supporting the deal are Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), May, Vincent Orange (D-At Large) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large). All of the council members signed a letter supporting the merger. The mayor also said that it was unrealistic to expect no rate increases in the near future so the merger is the best way for ratepayers to save in the long run.
8E Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Christopher Hawthorne was also skeptical of what the mayor was saying.
“Exelon is just giving the people a stipend,” Hawthorne said. “They threw money at the deal and that was accepted by the city. That’s not right: we need transparency to find out what the people are getting out of this deal.”
When the mayor finished, May talked about the bills that she has drafted that would declare Columbus Day Indigenous People’s Day in the District, give a hiring preference to District residents who graduate from the University of the District of Columbia or participate in the D.C. TAG program, and increase the loan amount for the Home Purchase Assistance Program from $50,000 to $80,000.