D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (AFRO Photo)
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser shared a vision of the nation’s capital she hopes all residents will embrace. Bowser delivered her first State of the District Address, subtitled “Pathways to the Middle Class” on March 31 at the Lincoln Theatre with hundreds attending. Bowser started the hour-long speech saying she is “humble and proud” to be the city’s leader.
“Today, I am pleased to report that the District is strong . . . and growing stronger,” the mayor said. “We are one of the strongest economies in the country. We are the economic engine of the region accounting for one quarter of the job market and in the last year, over two-thirds of its private sector job growth.”
However, despite all of the positives the District possesses, Bowser said, “There is room to improve.
“We face historic economic inequality with tragic rates of homelessness. Too many of our residents can’t afford to continue to live in their own neighborhoods; our schools are not yet good enough, and our transit system isn’t reliable and safe enough; and as good as our finances are, heading into the next fiscal year, we face a $200 million budget gap.”
She said that in 1960 when her parents bought their three-bedroom house in North Michigan Park it cost about $15,000. She said the median home value presently tops $500,000, and that is not the way to keep families in the city.
Bowser addressed affordable housing by committing $100 million each fiscal year to the Housing Production Trust Fund. She discussed improving middle schools by, as an example, transforming troubled MacFarland Middle School in Ward 4 into a state-of-the-art institution and expanding educational offerings with $15 million for summer courses, extracurricular activities, and international travel programs.
The mayor reminded the audience of her new career academy to train residents to work for the District government. “The District employs hundreds of workers to maintain our buildings and keep our fleet vehicles road ready,” she said. “The academy will serve as a conduit for motivated District residents to enter the workforce in a good, steady job and begin down the pathway to the middle class all the while providing with first-class services.”
Bowser also pledged an additional $5 million for the popular summer youth jobs program. She said the floundering streetcar system will be funded and operational in the near future. The mayor talked about ending family homelessness by 2018 and chronic homelessness by 2025.
“And we will close D.C. General Hospital once and for all,” she said to loud applause.
Bowser also said that all patrol officers with the police department will use body cameras in the next 18 months.
The mayor said she is aware of the responsibility District residents have placed on her and will deliver results. “I promise to live up to your expectations, to make ours a government that is open, accessible, transparent, and responsive to your needs and to create more pathways to the middle class,” she said. “Because when you succeed, we all succeed.”
Former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams said that Bowser’s address had the proper focus.
“She talked about jobs and affordable housing and that was very good,” Williams said. “She set a good mark tonight on what she intends to do for the next four years.”
Virginia Ali, the retired co-founder of the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant chain, said Bowser delivered a good speech. “I thought she was wonderful,” Ali said. “Her ideas were good and it seemed that she was well prepared to talk about them.”