It is that time of the year when everyone is giving their “State of the […]” speeches. The President delivered his State of the Union. The Mayor delivered his State of the City. Some of my Council colleagues even give “State of the Ward” speeches. So instead of a speech, I thought I would relate my own “State of the City” here.
I would not trade our situation in Washington for any other jurisdiction – city, county, or state. Financially, we are in a better position than every other city and state. Although we face serious budget shortfalls, they in no way impair our ability to provide for our residents and businesses. In fact, we will be spending as much in Fiscal Year 2012 as we have ever spent. Our problem is that we don’t spend our money wisely. We continue to spend over half of our revenues on social services and education without demanding high quality services.
In terms of public safety, our city is safer than at any other time in the last 20 years. Violent crime is way down and still declining. Although robberies and theft are high so far for this year, we can and will address that. My major concern is to hold our police force at 4,000 officers. We are currently at 3,850 and losing 15 officers per month to retirement and relocations. I will be identifying funds and a plan to bring us back up to 4,000 officers.
Our public school system continues to struggle. The jury is still out on our progress over the past several years. We have done much in the area of school renovation, but not as much to reform education.
Finally, I am greatly concerned about the scandals surrounding Mayor Gray, Council Chairman Kwame Brown, and some of my fellow Councilmembers. The scandals have really hurt the District’s image over the past three months and have partially undone 10 years of hard work. The individuals involved need to bring these issues to a conclusion and act accordingly. We have too many challenges ahead of us for these distractions.
Overall the state of our city is good, but we still have a ways to go. I am committed to getting us there.