Muriel Bowser’s office solicited an advisory neighborhood commissioner to state the mayor’s case for her job performance and personnel decisions. (AP File Photo)

The AFRO, in its June 24 edition, published an article “Mayor Bowser Gets Mixed Reviews” that has political observers talking. When the AFRO sought to get the mayor’s response to the article’s critical comments on her six-month tenure on July 1, at the formal opening of her office in Anacostia, she wasn’t interested in discussing it.

As a response, however, Bowser’s communications team solicited Antawan Holmes, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for single-member district 7C07, to state the mayor’s case for her job performance and personnel decisions.

“I live in Deanwood located in Ward 7 and have seen and interacted with her in the community in the last six months more than I did with her predecessors during their entire terms,” Holmes said in an exclusive op-ed to the AFRO. “Like every mayor before her, she has brought on a team that she feels best equipped to tackle the challenges of running a dynamic city. The city is rapidly changing and requires both competent veterans and new personnel.”

Holmes refutes the notion that Bowser isn’t sensitive to the needs of struggling residents in eastern Washington.

“In my observations, Mayor Bowser has launched a serious effort to create a pathway to the middle class by investing heavily in education initiatives that help young men of color, addressing homelessness and affordable housing, and expanding job programs such as the summer youth employment program,” he said.

Holmes said that the mayor’s team is “working in all eight wards.”

“And the mayor has put special attention into communities like Deanwood,” the commissioner said. “Her office, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Police Department, has conducted Safety Walks with community leaders to address the security concerns and needs within the neighborhood.”

In the July 1 article, residents Jauhar Abraham and Constance Woody expressed reservations about the representatives of the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations (MOCRS) in their ward. Holmes disagrees with them on that.

“I know a lot of people in our community have had consistent, positive, productive interactions with the MOCRS,” he said. “I have personally worked with Wendell Felder and he provides 110 percent effort in his work. He works seven days a week with residents to address service issues in our neighborhood.”

He said “many residents have called me to praise his efforts in addressing their issues.”

Holmes said that MOCRS work with other executive agencies to deal with local issues like vacant properties, lots and streetscape issues.

“I enjoy the fact that MOCRS are a single point of contact for all other agencies,” he said. However, he did express a concern. “I would like to see more cross sectional agency teamwork to address various neighborhood issues efficiently,” Holmes said.

The commissioner said that Bowser has the city moving in the right direction at this point in her term. “We all know that progress will not occur overnight so let’s give Mayor Bowser time to make progress on the long-term issues that have negatively impacted east of the river,” he said.

Jacque Patterson, a commissioner for single-member district 8B07, agrees with Holmes on Bowser’s appointments. “I applaud the mayor for appointing Courtney Snowden as deputy mayor for greater economic opportunity,” Patterson said. “Snowden knows our community and she is going to do a good job.”

Patterson said that Bowser’s pick to lead the Department of Employment Services, Deborah A. Carroll, was also a good hire. “I know of Deborah Carroll’s work and she’ll provide employment opportunities for people,” he said. “I think that through her work, the employment rate will be lifted.”

District resident Karen Todd concurred with Holmes in calling for patience.

“Change doesn’t come quickly,” Todd said. “Anything of substance takes time because things have been messed up for such a long time that it will take a bit of time to get things straight. Still, I have seen great change in such a short period of time.”

One example, Todd said, is that children can ride free on the bus with a voucher. “I think that is an amazing idea,” she said. “I wish I had that when I was young. To me, it is the small things that make a difference and Bowser is making a difference.”