Bowser’s State of the District: ‘Laser-Focused’

An upbeat District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, proclaiming herself leader of “a city that is built not for the past, but one that is building for the future,” delivered her second State of the District Address on March 22 before a large audience at Arena Stage in Southwest, right across from a waterfront area being rebuilt on a massive scale.

While touting her achievements during her tenure as mayor so far, Bowser promised a major school-spending increase, a raise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour and an investment in infrastructure. She said she would attack last year’s huge rise in homicides with a big increase in the use of body-worn cameras. And she defended her plans to close D.C. General and launch shelter projects in every ward of the city.

While she noted that sometimes criticism or interference from politicians and government officials can be a hindrance, she said that “every morning when I wake up, I am laser-focused on what I can do to create opportunity that is equal and fair, and blind to age, gender, zip code, race or religion.”

She promised to make sure “that no one is left behind and that there will be opportunities to a path to the middle class for everyone.”

Bowser said that the city must move forward, stating that we have three choices: to reject growth, to grow without regard to our roots and risk losing what makes D.C. great or to balance change with preservation and with growth, doing it together across all eight wards. “I choose the third way,” she said.

“Some people say change and school reform hasn’t moved fast enough,” she continued. “That isn’t true. We’ve done a lot. We’ve put a plan for $6.5 billion in modernizing DCPS schools, with $2.5 billion to come. … We’ve created the best conditions for charter schools in the country.”

Given the expected 20-percent increase in students next year, Bowser promised a $75-million increase over the previous year in school spending.

She praised the 10-year tenure of Cathy Lanier as chief of police and said that she would make sure that the city would implement the most progressive and transparent body-worn camera program in the country. She promised that there would be 650 more police officers equipped with the cameras by the end of this month and that by the end of the year every single patrol officer would be wearing one.

The mayor also promised a substantial increase in ambulances and 911 call-takers and dispatchers.

“We will continue to invest in our neighborhoods,” she said. “We will continue to invest in our transit system, to make sure that Metro is safe and reliable. And I know I can count on Jack Evans, the ‘Mayor of Metro’ to make good use of D.C. taxpayer dollars.”

She praised Arena Stage for making its commitment to the Southwest community “with this beautiful theater. Check out the signs of progress across the street, with hotels and homes and retail popping up at the Wharf. … We want to bring this kind of commitment and investment to other parts of the city, with the new DC United Stadium and at Walter Reed.”

She also engaged with the issue of the fight against homelessness, which has now become somewhat controversial. “Last year, we made unprecedented investments to end homelessness, to make it rare, brief and non-recurring.

“I promised you we would close D.C. General. … It is too old, too big and not safe enough. So we’re going to close D.C. General and open small, short-term family housing across the District. … We cannot do this alone, the Council paved the way with a vote last fall, and we need your next vote to move us forward again. Let’s not be distracted by arguments based on fear or convenience or apples-and-oranges comparisons, which falsely represent the cost of lifting families out of homelessness. If we fail to act or do not move forward with one of the sites, we will not be able to close D.C. General. Not now, not any time soon and maybe never.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *