By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
Mayor Muriel Bowser gave her State of the District Address on March 18 promising to keep pushing her mission of offering everyone in D.C. a “Fair Shot.”
The address was held at the University of the District of Columbia – Theater of the Arts (Auditorium) 4200 Connecticut Avenue and Windom Place, NW. It was at once a formal event while also filled with spirit and spontaneous moments.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser gave her State of the District of Address on March 18 emphasizing every D.C. resident should get a “Fair Shot.” (Photo by Rob Roberts)
Before she spoke, a sizzle reel of recent events in the District was shown. Everything from cutting the ribbon to the Audi Field, to the closing of D.C. General Hospital, to celebrating the Washington Capitals 2018 Stanley Cup victory.
Bowser started her speech taking a swing at the current presidential administration saying, “In 2016, I know D.C. was hoping for and expecting a different outcome.”
“We came out and made our voices heard. You came out strong for D.C. Statehood, a new constitution and boundaries that define a federal enclave. But things at the top of the ticket didn’t quite go as we had hoped…and so here we are.
“Two years ago, at my State of the District address, I called on the President to work with D.C. on a range of issues that would make our city and our nation stronger. But for progress on revitalizing Franklin Park, I could stand here and recite the exact same list.
“Over these past two years, instead of investments in infrastructure, housing and schools, we’ve gotten tweets, parade plans and shutdowns,” Bowser said.
“Locally, though, we’ve stood by our D.C. values.”
But even with the political jabs, Bowser stayed on her now seminal mission.
“The truth is – I will work with anyone who wants to help us give more Washingtonians a fair shot. And while I will continue working with this Administration, it is time to think about our collective future. We’ve got to start looking ahead at the national debate in 2020.”
She publicly urged the Council to move the District’s presidential primary schedule up to April instead of June, saying, “We know what the Bible says, “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” But in presidential primaries, the last, well, they’re just last.”
“Voting last sends the wrong message. It reinforces the incorrect notion that since D.C. isn’t a state therefore we don’t matter, that we shouldn’t be taken seriously. It reinforces the notion that we can be taken for granted or discarded,” the mayor said.
“We’ve seen what happens when Americans are dismissed, discounted and forgotten.”
The Mayor gave shout outs to South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Cory Booker, and Senator Kamala Harris when she spoke of 2020 hopefuls.
“I also look forward to engaging candidates like Mayor Pete from South Bend, Indiana. I know I’m biased as a fellow mayor, but I quite like the idea of having a president who understands the importance of not just talking about infrastructure, but actually investing in infrastructure.
“And Senator Kamala Harris who, like us, is looking at how we can use tax credits and cash payments to recognize and reduce the financial strain middle class families in our nation are feeling,” she said.
“What we want to know is how these candidates will work for Washingtonians?”
On the local front the Mayor reiterated a balanced budget and fiscal responsibility throughout the District, talking about how over the last two decades D.C. went from a federal Control Board to a AAA bond rating.
The Mayor spoke of how certain implementations helped to give D.C. residents a “fair shot,” including a $1,000 Early Learning Tax Credit for families, which will be made permanent, a $14 minimum wage which will rise to $15 in 2020 and the Kids Ride Free Program.
A robust transportation system was one of Mayor’s most important missions. She started with offering free D.C. Circulator rides during February, then March. Now the D.C. Circulator will be free from now on, however the mayor made it clear what the District’s agenda was saying:
“But, as much as we love the Circulator, Streetcar and Capital Bikeshare, we also know that they are no replacement for Metro.
“We have always prioritized safety, reliability and building the capacity for Metro. So now – we need a commitment from Metro that they will return to late-night hours and that they will not become a system that only caters to white-collar workers commuting from the suburbs.
“We’re not going to replace Metro with Uber and Lyft because we can’t move our region forward by further clogging our roads,” the mayor emphasized. “We need a Metro system that works as hard as our workforce and stays open as late as our region.”
But it was when the Mayor spoke about housing that the crowd became most excited and at times most agitated as protestors chanted and interrupted part of her speech.
Bowser pushed through continuing her plan to address homelessness, affordable housing and even the rising fatal shootings in the District.
“In a city as prosperous as ours, it is our responsibility to decide how and when we adjust our policies to ensure that everyone living and doing business in the District is giving and getting their fair share.”
The speech emphasizes an optimistic administration and one in which the Mayor is expected to turn in her FY 2020 budget before the council this week, in addition to testifying in support of the budget as well.
For the entire transcript please go to: https://mayor.dc.gov/release/mayor-bowser-delivers-2019-state-district-address
For a look at the mayor’s 2015 State of the District address go to https://mayor.dc.gov/release/state-district-address.