The city of Washington, D.C., looks undeniably different today than it did 20 years ago.
A growing Metro system, a shrinking unemployment rate, a sharp decrease in violent crime and a revitalized downtown are just a few of the accomplishments that D.C. can boast since the beginning of its social and economic turnaround in the early 1990s. It is clearly in the interest of permanent residents and Georgetown students who have chosen D.C. as their home for four years — expecting safe streets, a flourishing job market and supportive local politicians — to help move the District forward.
To continue this growth, D.C. needs a mayor who will pragmatically lead the city in the right direction. But D.C. also needs a mayor who will keep in mind Washington’s historic challenges and work to help residents who need it the most, whether through improving education or controlling crime in the District.
Eight qualified candidates, including councilmembers Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) as well as Mayor Vincent Gray, have demonstrated their commitment to D.C. and its voters in various ways, but Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) brings the strongest ideas to the table. With a focused platform and a combined 10 years of experience as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, D.C. Councilmember and activist in her community, Bowser is the right choice for District mayor.
There are many crucial issues at play in this mayoral election, and most of those issues lie outside of the university. However, Georgetown students voting in D.C. undeniably have a unique set of interests regarding the university and its relationship with the city.
Whoever is elected mayor will have much more important issues on his or her plate than Georgetown’s neighborhood relations. But Georgetown students shouldn’t support anyone who is sure to antagonize the university.
Georgetown is still scrambling to meet the conditions of the 2010 Campus Plan agreement that has undeniably chafed against student interests, both in the short and long term. Of the four main candidates in this race, three were on the D.C. Council when those negotiations were approved, and one was serving as mayor. With Georgetown’s next campus plan looming in 2017, students should keep those negotiations in mind when choosing the leader who will influence the agreement that will decide the future of the university from 2017 to 2024.
This campus should not support those involved in the 2010 agreement like Gray, who was unsympathetic to student and university concerns despite recognizing amicable progress in relations between the residents and the university, and Evans, who then and now maintains that 100 percent of students should be housed on campus despite that goal’s restrictive effects on student living. When asked how he would negotiate a potential conflict between the university and its neighbors last week, Evans made his priorities very clear: “I am always on the side of the residents, who elect me.”
Bowser, on the other hand, articulates a less adversarial, more flexible approach to town-gown relations that emphasizes a coordination of interests and mutual respect. She takes a fairer approach to community relations, as evidenced during her role coordinating developer and resident interests in the planning stages of the redevelopment of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus. All we are looking for in a mayor’s approach to Georgetown is a commitment to consider both sides of the equation in town-gown conflicts and not to disregard student interests because of students’ voting patterns. Unlike many of her opponents, Bowser fulfills those ideals.
Bowser has put energetic public education reform at the top of her platform. Unlike Evans and Wells, who would start the process of education reform with increases in spending on schools, Bowser has rightly shown that the first step in improving public schools in D.C. is to better connect the resources that already exist. By promoting communication between existing city social services, health services and public education services, Bowser will develop a system that will provide the most comprehensive support for Washington’s children and their families.
In Bowser’s vision of connectedness in education, universities like ours will also have an opportunity to play a significant role. In her campaign, Bowser has stated that universities in D.C. bring with them tremendous resources from which the city can benefit — a statement with which Georgetown students involved in tutoring programs like D.C. Reads and D.C. Schools would likely agree. Georgetown’s involvement in social justice efforts could only improve with a mayor like Bowser, whose demonstrated style of governance focuses on cooperation between city assets, bringing Georgetown’s efforts together with education reform in D.C.
In her platform, Bowser recognizes the need for a transportation system that will integrate all modes of transportation, not only connecting Washington with regional neighbors, but also connecting neighborhoods of the city. While Wells and Evans also boast impressive records on transit improvement, Bowser’s experience on the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority board of directors gives her additional expertise in the current state of feasible options to improve public transit.
As residents of the Hilltop have noticed, travelling from Georgetown to other parts of D.C. can be an inconvenience. Bowser has identified similar challenges that exist in neighborhoods across the city, and she is committed to alleviating these concerns by expanding Circulator and D.C. Streetcar routes, two modes of transportation that this campus can look to for short-term increases in city connectedness.
Crime and Drug Policies
While Evans, Gray and Wells all advocate for increased spending in the Metropolitan Police Department, Bowser has reduced crime in her ward by encouraging collaboration between the many police forces active in D.C.
Bowser is also on the right side of the marijuana policy in the District. Bowser has signaled that she would support further efforts to legalize marijuana in the District, contingent on Congress’ tacit consent. The unequal effect of anti-drug legislation on poor minorities in the District has long been apparent, and changing law enforcement focus from prosecuting soft-drug crimes to making neighborhood streets safe is of paramount importance.
By moving D.C. away from failed policies on this issue, Bowser will do both Georgetown and the city a substantial amount of good, taking a critical step toward a city government that reflects the priorities of D.C. residents.
In a city that has historically been plagued by corruption in local politics, the incoming mayor must take a strong stance on ethical issues. In the developing case against Gray’s campaign finance strategies in his 2010 race for mayor, Gray has denied knowledge of any wrongdoing — contrary to statements of former allies and employees — and has generally refused to answer further questions about the matter. Gray’s complete ignorance in this case is questionable, but whether or not Gray knew about corruption, the fact that his confederates would engage in such activity is enough to discredit his candidacy for re-election — especially with Bowser as an impressive alternative.
Other candidates, especially Wells, have shown a strong commitment to transparency and ethics in politics. But Bowser, too, has shown a commitment to ethics that, coupled with her excellence in other areas, makes her the best candidate for D.C. in this election. As a champion of the D.C. Council’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability to enforce ethics policy in city government, Bowser has shown that feasible self-regulation must be at the crux of any effort to improve government accountability.
We urge voters to choose Muriel Bowser in the Democratic primary election for District mayor on April 1. Her policies on D.C.’s most urgent needs present a hopeful future for the District, while her positive attitude toward universities makes her stand out to Georgetown student voters. Bowser has the potential to improve D.C. and to help Georgetown be a part of that movement.
Feature photo courtesy MurielForMayor.com