D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser addressed a wide range of issues at the first meeting of the District of Columbia’s Democratic Party meeting.
Bowser (D) keynoted the Jan. 3 meeting of the D.C. Democratic State Committee that took place at the Thurgood Marshall Center in Northwest. The Democratic State Committee serves as the District’s official arm of the Democratic National Committee and its members are elected citywide and in the eight wards.
The Democratic Party in the District has the highest percentage of registered Democrats in the U.S. As of Dec. 31, 2018, D.C. Board of Elections statistics revealed that 75.80 percent of all registered voters are Democrats leading strong Blue states such as Rhode Island or New Mexico in that category. District residents have voted in each presidential election since 1964 and the Democratic candidate has won the city overwhelmingly even when Republicans Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan nearly won every state in 1972 and 1984, respectively.
Before the mayor spoke, D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) welcomed her fellow Democrats to the ward and delivered words of encouragement. Nadeau spoke about more people seeking political office and becoming activists, saying “we need a deeper bench” and “every single elected position counts” but lamented about the growing inequality of income in the city.
“We see our city growing and prospering but not everyone is benefiting,” the council member said.
Bowser talked about her efforts to have the District as the 51st state in the country and how she works with D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) on that front.
“In 2016, I thought that we would have a supporter of D.C. statehood in the White House and we would win back both houses,” she said. “None of that happened. When we had the chance to advance statehood during the Clinton and Obama administrations, we had a perfect storm, but we weren’t prepared.
“Now we are. We have a Constitution, a map of the state of Washington, D.C., the think tank Appleseed is looking at another judicial strategy and we now have a corporate council that has business leaders interested in statehood.”
The mayor focused then on what many District residents believe is the number one issue facing the city: affordable housing.
“We have a thriving growing city and we need to make sure that it continues to be affordable,” Bowser said. She talked about the Housing Production Trust Fund-a special revenue fund administered by the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development and the Finance Division that provides gap financing for projects affordable to low- and moderate-income households-and its role in making the District more economically reasonable for people to live in.
“The $50 million Housing Production Trust Fund is a specific tool to buy down the cost of affordable housing,” she said. “Our goal is to have 36,000 affordable units by the year 2025.”
Bowser said she has the utmost confidence in her selection as Dr. Lewis Ferebee as the incoming chancellor of the D.C. public schools.
“Dr. Ferebee understands that the most important thing he must do is closing gaps,” she said. “Close the achievement gap. The achievement gap closely follows the income gap.”
Bowser inferred that wealthier neighborhoods have the best public schools in the District while lower income areas have schools whose students are academically struggling.
“Better paying jobs for parents helps us close the achievement gap,” the mayor said. “We are also focused on paying teachers better.”
Bowser mentioned the importance of reinvigorating vocational training in the school system and expressed openness about having a community meeting on Ferebee.
Many people articulated concerns about public safety, especially in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. Bowser expressed her thoughts on the issue.
“The crimes that are taking place are being perpetuated by a small group of people,” she said. “Many people who are perpetrating crime know each other. It is important for people in the community to help the police fight crime.”
However, Bowser made it clear that the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has “no place for corrupt police officers.”
The pending situation of Providence Hospital in Northeast came up. Providence will be shuttered in April and Bowser said not much can be done to change that.
“Providence is losing money,” she said. “The biggest challenge for the community is to stop the emergency room for closing immediately and we managed to do that.”
The recent situation in which Ward 6 advisory neighborhood commissioner Denise Krepp being billed $5,000 for police camera footage of minors being frisked provoked discussion. Bowser said she knows about the situation but not in-depth.
“I am going to look into this,” the mayor said. “I do know that in that situation regarding Commissioner Krepp there is not just one camera but 10. There is a charge for redaction of the sound.”
Bowser said this year there are plans for her to travel to Israel and Ethiopia on behalf of the District and in her journeys, she will make one thing clear.
“There is a concern about D.C. withdrawing from the world stage and I will prove that isn’t the case,” she said. “I will prove that we are much more than the occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”