A year ago, the District’s mayor spent his State of the District speech insisting he wasn’t a crook. With no criminal investigation of her own to dodge, Muriel Bowser did something a lot different, laying out her budget plans while prepping supporters for future cuts.
Bowser’s speech title promised “pathways to the middle class,” and the mayor made clear in her address that the ideal pathway to the middle class goes by improved schools, safer neighborhoods, and miles and miles of streetcar tracks. Bowser’s speech was equal parts celebration about her first 89 days in office and big promises ahead of budget season.
After coming out to a new reel of her administration highlights (complete with friendly headlines and a nod to marijuana legalization), Bowser sketched what it means to be middle class in a city with rising housing costs. Bowser’s parents bought their home in 1960 when the average District house cost three times a family’s average yearly income; now, Bowser says, housing costs six times the average yearly income.
Bowser’s answers to that dilemma include eventually shuttering the D.C. General homeless shelter, a new school for minority youth, and a new government-wide approach to violence response. Bowser promised a more ethical government, slipping in a little dig at the “shadows” (campaigns) of the city’s past.
In perhaps the biggest news of the night, Bowser promised to not just start the streetcar on H Street and Benning Road NE, but eventually expand it east across the Anacostia River into Ward 7 and west in downtown and Georgetown (so much for the Streetcar Deathwatch). Still, Bowser acknowledged that the streetcar program has been “long on promises and short on results.”
Bowser touted administration accomplishments, from switching the mayoral position on the budget autonomy referendum to standing up to “bully” Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) on marijuana legalization. Bowser even sought to make administration failures, like piled-up trash after snowstorms, into positives.
“We hauled over 1,000 tons of trash within three days!” Bowser said of her catch-up trash pickup push.
Not everyone outside the Lincoln Theatre was as thrilled as the crowd inside. On U Street NW, protesters chanted about the District’s shrinking affordable housing supply.
“There’s no pathway to the middle class, it’s a lie!” said one.
Inside, Bowser defended another one of her slogans: “Fresh Start.”
“No matter what you think of it, I can assure you: It’s a promise that I will fulfill,” Bowser said.
Read Bowser’s entire State of the District Address here.
File photo by Darrow Montgomery