D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser

Fellow Washingtonians, it’s that time of year again: it’s budget season in the District of Columbia – time to put our DC values into action and invest in the programs and initiatives that will keep our city moving forward. Back when I served as the Ward 4 Councilmember, I always thought the budget process was backwards – residents would only see the budget once it was finalized, when it was too late to provide input. So, when I became Mayor in 2015, I charged my team with putting together a process that would allow us to hear from residents about their spending priorities prior to finalizing the budget. Since then, every February, my team and I have joined residents and community leaders at budget engagement forums across DC.

Every year, these forums are spirited events where deputy mayors and directors work hard to sell their programs and residents have lively conversations with their neighbors about their budget priorities, their ideas for building a stronger DC, and their vision for our community. Over the years, at many of these meetings, I’ve heard from seniors that we need to prioritize initiatives that support the creation and preservation of affordable housing, combat social isolation, and increase access to safe and affordable transportation options.

During my first four years in office, we were able to take this feedback and invest in programs that have supported thousands of seniors across DC. Together, we launched and continuously expanded the Safe at Home program, making more than 2,000 homes safer through home adaptations and the installation of private security cameras; built and cut the ribbon on Plaza West, the District’s first housing development specifically designed forgrandparents raising grandchildren; cut in half the amount that property taxes can go up each year for qualifying seniors; invested in a new Senior Wellness Center, the expansion of two centers, and interior renovations at all centers; and launched the Transport DC program, making it easier and more convenient for seniors to move around DC.

We launched the first faith-based senior village in Ward 8; worked with the community to pilot a satellite senior wellness model in Wards 2 and 3, using community spaces to deliver the same high-quality programs found in the Senior Wellness Centers in other wards; and, with partners in the LGBTQ community, launched a citywide meal and entertainment social program specifically created for older LGBTQ adults.

In short: I asked the community to share their budget ideas with us, and you delivered. Then, I charged my team with turning your ideas into programs and solutions, and they also delivered. But our work is not done. As Washington, DC continues to grow and change, we know that we must stay focused on how we continue to be an Age-Friendly city and a community where people of all ages and backgrounds can thrive.

On Monday, February 11 at noon, I will hold our first budget engagement forum – a telephone townhall for District seniors. You can join the call by dialing (855) 756-7520 and using extension 38887. If you are unable to join this call or you wish to attend an in-person forum, I hope you will join us at one of three other budget engagement forums on Thursday, February 21 (Arthur Capper Community Center), Saturday, February 23 (Deanwood Recreation Center), or Monday, February 25 (Roosevelt High School). You can learn more about the forums and other Fair Shot February events at mayor.dc.gov.

Thank you for your support and for working with us to build a more inclusive and Age-Friendly Washington, DC.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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