Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) emphasized the local values that guide her administration’s policies and affirmed her commitment to resisting congressional interference in local matters during her 2017 State of the District Address, her third such address to the District, on Thursday.
Speaking from the University of the District of Columbia’s campus, Bowser said D.C. continues to be one of the United States’ pre-eminent cities, as well as highlighted rising tension between District and congressional leaders on matters including physician-assisted suicide and assault rifle legislation.
“Because of our D.C. values, we are the human rights capital. Our diversity alone does not make us great; our embrace of it does,” Bowser said. “That’s why, since Election Day this past November, we have worked to ensure that no one undermines our core D.C. values of fairness and equality, of mutual respect and justice, of falling down and getting back up, and of self-determination.”
Bowser also discussed D.C. statehood, one of the defining issues of her mayoral tenure, while underscoring her belief in District autonomy.
“Last November, I was only the second Mayor to meet with the then President-elect Trump. I wanted to make it clear to him who we are,” Bowser said. “We are tax-paying Americans. We are no more dependent on the federal government than any other state. We don’t want anything special, just full access to our birthright, full representation for the taxes that we pay. And the only way to get there is statehood for the District of Columbia.”
Bowser also called on Trump and Congress to improve D.C. infrastructure, including the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium as well as federal roads, bridges and parks.
She also repeated calls for increased public school funding, affordable housing, arts funding and re-entry programs for prisoners in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Bowser said in all local issues, Congress should allow the District to make its own decisions. Bowser also alluded to her speech at the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, in which she argued for District autonomy.
“And as I told 1 million women at the Women’s March — if the Congress can’t help D.C. with our priorities, the best thing they can do is leave us alone,” Bowser said.
Bowser went on to stress Washington’s role as a sanctuary city that welcomes immigrants — a status Bowser reaffirmed Jan. 25.
“We are a sanctuary city that’s committed to protecting the rights of our immigrants, the underserved and every single person whose contributions have been discounted or dismissed for way too long,” Bowser said. “This is who we are. These are D.C. values. These are the priorities we are fighting for.”
Bowser also advocated for equal treatment of all children in D.C., citing the recent public outcry about missing black and Latino youth in the District.
“We do all of this because it matters to me as Mayor, and it matters to the hardworking men and women of the Metropolitan Police Department who are bringing our missing children home,” Bowser said.
Since December 2016, MPD has used social media accounts to publicize information for critical missing persons, individuals under the age of 15 or over the age of 65, as well as chronic runaways and those who present an imminent danger to themselves or others.
The initiative has drawn national attention to a perceived increase in missing persons of color, though the MPD maintains there is no significant increase in missing young people in the area.
Bowser also noted that she will soon be presenting D.C. City Council with a budget for the next fiscal year.
Bowser said her budget will make the single largest investment in public education and emergency medical services in the District’s history.
She also stressed the need to invest in child care and paid family leave while creating a greater pool of jobs and promoting small business growth.
Bowser also spoke about her five-year plan to reduce unemployment among black residents of the District and to increase prosperity for all citizens, highlighting her desire to provide solutions for the homeless population in the city.
“We are forging a path to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. We are transforming our family homeless system and together we will end veteran homelessness. But we must do more to protect and preserve affordable housing,” Bowser said.
Bowser indicated she would work with Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) to craft a proposal to use D.C. government installations for child care centers. Silverman said she will continue to work with Bowser to promote family-centric laws.
“I look forward to continuing to work with Mayor Bowser and my Council colleagues to advance legislation that will make the District more accessible and affordable for working families,” Silverman wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Silverman, who is a member of the Housing Preservation Strike Force that Bowser created in 2015, said she is glad to hear Bowser remains committed to increasing funding for the District’s affordable units.
“Affordable housing remains one of my top priorities and a necessity for District residents to thrive — both for native Washingtonians and new residents who want to invest in making the District their home,” Silverman wrote.
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