By Cara Williams,
Special to the AFRO
D.C. has had two women mayors, Sharon Pratt Kelly (1991-1995) and the City’s current mayor, Muriel Bowser who has served the District of Columbia since 2015.
Bowser is running for a third term, following in the footsteps of Marion Barry (1979-1991), the only Mayor who served the District for three consecutive terms since Home Rule began in 1975.
Muriel Bowser was born and raised in Northeast D.C. She attended Elizabeth Seton High School, an all-girl Catholic school in Bladensburg, Md., graduating from Chatham College in Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in history and receiving her Master of Public Policy from the American University.
She has one child, Miranda Elizabeth Bowser.
Bowser began her political career as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Riggs Park. In 2007, she became the council member for Ward 4, in a special election and was re-elected in 2008 and 2012.
Bowser was elected Mayor of Washington, D.C. in 2015. “It is a time to reinvent our government, making it better, more efficient, and dedicated to supporting all families,” Bowser said in her inaugural speech.
She was re-elected for a second term in 2018, becoming the first woman mayor to be re-elected and the first mayor to earn a second term in 16 years.
From the beginning, Bowser conveyed that every Washingtonian “Deserved a shot and a seat at the table” and that homelessness would be rare, brief, and non-recurring in D.C.
Through the Homeward D.C. plan and the building of service-enriched shelters across the city, homelessness has decreased for families and veterans, helping to put homelessness at a 15 Year low for the District.
On June 1, Our Way Home Program, through HUD, was introduced to supply additional affordable and resilient housing.
“I like what she has done with the homelessness and homeless shelters,” said Sandra Seegars, founder of Concerned Residents against Violence and civic activist. “And the fact that she wants to add more police,” she continued.
However, Bowser’s tenure has not been without criticism. While Seegars is a fan, many are not fond of Bowser’s approach to combating Homelessness.
The escalating homeless community has resulted in the establishment of homeless encampments, some in newly gentrified areas of the city.
Some persons living outdoors indicate they prefer the outdoor encampments for a variety of reasons. They say the shelters and homeless hotels are filthy, unsafe and a haven for sexual harassment.
The City’s intractable problems with homelessness and violent crime have Bowser jumping and searching for new approaches.
Bowser and the Metropolitan Police Department announced the Violent Crime Impact Team recently to address the escalation of crime after a rash of incidents happening across the city this spring.
The collaboration with local and federal agencies will remove illegal firearms and violent criminals from communities that are being bombarded as the District witnesses the most persistent wave of violent crime it has experienced in years.
Bowser feels that violence interrupters can support police to de-escalate violence. Washington is one of 15 cities across the United States that serve as model communities to test the effectiveness of violence interrupters.
“Law enforcement response is not enough,” she said. “Trained community members can dissuade some from delving into violence.”
Bowser has invested millions into D.C neighborhoods to expand the number of violence interrupters from thirty to eighty.
Bowser’s vow to be the “education mayor” has dismayed parents, reaching a boiling point over Bowsers’ insistence on COVID-19 protocol during the height of the pandemic in the 2020-2021 school year.
Parents were livid, with many turning to the D.C. City Council for help when numerous school facilities lacked adequate ventilation. Entire school buildings put live instruction on hold due to outbreaks of COVID in classrooms.
Bowser has implemented reforms that helped struggling middle schools in Ward 4, a gentrified and racially diverse area of D.C. Yet, the middle schools suffering the most are east of the Anacostia River in wards 7 and 8, where the poverty level is the highest and the schools are under-enrolled.
Many D.C. residents move their children out of the public school system to safer and wealthier neighborhoods, choosing charter schools over the public school system, another cause of under-enrollment.
As she runs for a third term, Bowser says it reflects on her confidence that she is transforming the city and changing people’s lives.
“When I look at our city, I see our promise, and I see our great potential,” Bowser said.
While Bowser currently enjoys a lead according to at least one poll in a four-way mayor’s race, a new poll conducted by the Washington Informer casts a more doubtful light on Bowser’s record.
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