Residents of Ward 8 recently assembled to hear D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser deliver her State of the District Address and they were mildly impressed with what they heard but had concerns.

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In D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s third State of the District Address she outlined the city’s plans to decrease unemployment, increase affordable housing and advocated for political autonomy. (Courtesy photo)

On March 30, Bowser (D) delivered her third address detailing the progress that her administration has had since it took office in January 2015. The location of the address was on the campus of the University of the District of Columbia and since that venue was inconvenient for many residents east of the Anacostia River, a number of Ward 8 organizations came together to have a “State of the District Address” viewing party at the Old Congress Heights School located on Martin Luther King Jr., Ave., S.E.

Commenting quickly on economic development and measures to protect children, the mayor hit her stride when she proclaimed “I am proud to say that we have delivered on promises and the State of the District is strong.”

“Without question, the past several years have been an exciting chapter in the ever forming history of Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said. “It’s a growing collection of memories marked by our fight for Home Rule and now Statehood, bust and boom times, flight out of town and flight back into town, a legendary four-term mayor, a triathlon mayor, a bow-tie mayor, a king of the go-go swing. Of blockbusting and desegregation.

“Of seekers of LGBTQ rights and immigration justice. Because of our D.C. values, we are the human rights capital.

“Our diversity alone doesn’t make us great; our embrace of that diversity does.”

The mayor got a few claps when she talked about the District’s need for political autonomy.

“So when our friends up on the Hill from Utah or Maryland’s Eastern Shore tell you that they are concerned about D.C., you tell them about their federal obligations in the District,” she said. “And I like to use Trayon White’s words. You tell them, don’t just stand there, do something. But if they ask you about our local issues-you tell them to keep their hands off D.C.”

White, who was elected as the Ward 8 council member as a Democrat in November 2016, was present at the watch party but didn’t speak publicly.

A few people nodded their heads when Bowser mentioned the unemployment problem in Ward 8.

“While the unemployment rate has declined in the District, it is still disproportionately high among people of color and those without a high school diploma,” she said. “You see unemployment in Ward 3 at 4.2 percent and unemployment in Ward 8 is 12.5 percent. The good news is that unemployment in Ward 8 is down from 16.8 percent when I took office.

“The bad news is 12.5 percent is still too high, nearly three times what it is in Ward 3. We can and must do better.”

The mayor rounded up her speech with plans to increase affordable housing, modernizing schools, praising the work of D.C. Chancellor Antwan Wilson, interim D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham and D.C. fire chief Gregory Dean. She ended her hour-long address with “I couldn’t be more proud to serve as your mayor.”

Jacqueline Kinlow is a political activist who lives in Ward 8. Kinlow seemed impressed with the mayor’s address.

“I thought it was strong and she got off to a good start,” Kinlow told the AFRO. “It was a reflection of a positive, forward thinking administration.”

However, Jackie Ward, who was a former staffer for the late D.C. Council member Marion Barry, was skeptical.

“I thought it was glitzy with no substance,” she told the AFRO. “She only said things that would make headlines. We needed more meat on the bones.”

Monica Ray is the president of the Congress Heights Community Association, which was one of the co-sponsoring organizations of the event. Ray facilitated a discussion on the mayor’s speech and longtime political and civic activist Philip Pannell didn’t mince words.

Pannell noted that the speech was delivered by a liberal, Democratic, African-American mayor of Washington, D.C. but there were some things lacking.

“I noticed she didn’t put much emphasis on the environment,” he said. “You have to clean up the environment so we won’t have trashy streets. I think she missed an opportunity when she didn’t say anything about Anacostia Park, which is larger than Central Park in New York City.”