“We have a streetcar line that never had a plan to launch effectively.”

From the Mayor’s office:

“Today, Mayor Bowser released a new web video outlining her Administration’s commitment to working with residents to develop strategies to close the District’s quarter billion dollar gap while developing smart solutions to support our key priorities, like investing in education, job training, infrastructure and affordable housing. The video comes a day before Mayor Bowser will hold her first of three Budget Engagement Forums, which are designed as interactive discussions where DC residents can provide input to help shape priorities.

Mayor Bowser and Administration Officials have been attending dozens of community meetings across the District this month to discuss the Mayor’s budget priorities. The Budget Engagement Forums are scheduled for Thursday, February 19 at Wilson High School, Saturday, February 21 at Anacostia High School, and Monday, February 23 at Dunbar High School.

For more information and to register to attend a Budget Engagement Forum, click here.


Hi – I’m Mayor Muriel Bowser.

A month in, I could not be happier and prouder to be your Mayor.

On the campaign trail, I promised to deliver the District a Fresh Start and that’s what my Administration is doing.

We have brought on top talent and are laying the groundwork to grow the District’s economy and leave it in a better place for future generations.

Our city is on the move. We have the fastest improving urban school district in the nation. A thousand new residents are making DC home every month and our communities are thriving.

While we are a city with great opportunities, we also have big challenges.

When I came into office I inherited past successes, failures and overdue promises.

For example:

· We have a streetcar line that never had a plan to launch effectively.

· We have housing costs rising at such a pace that many long-time residents can’t afford to live in their own city.

· And on top of that, our city faces a quarter billion dollar budget gap.

That’s right – a quarter billion dollars.

How did we get here?

It’s pretty simple: in the last few years we made plans to spend more money than was coming in.

And where do we go from here?

Together, we will confront this challenge head on. My Administration will ensure that we are spending your tax money effectively and efficiently.

I have a simple promise – I won’t tell you what our budget is once the cake is baked, I’ll work with you to write our budget in a fiscally responsible and transparent way.

We will close the gap while giving everyone a fair shot, funding programs that meet our priorities for DC like job creation, affordable housing, ending homelessness and improving education and training for young people and adults.

While we’ll invest in those vital programs, we also need to lay the groundwork for the next generation’s success.

We need a long-term plan that prioritizes funding for school modernizations, especially for our middle schools, funding for public transportation, and our other critical infrastructure projects.

In the coming weeks, my senior staff and I will attend community meetings across all eight wards. In total, we will attend more than 35 meetings across the city in February alone.

But we won’t stop there, Between February 19th and the 23rd I will host a series of Budget Engagement Forums that will give you an opportunity to shape our city’s budget priorities.

The public forums will be on:
• Thursday, February the 19th at Woodrow Wilson Sr. High School at 7 pm
• Again on Saturday, February 21th at Anacostia Sr. High School at 1 pm
• And finally on Monday, February the 23th at Dunbar Sr. High School at 7 pm

With residents like you at the table we will work together to develop smart solutions to close the gap while preserving our city’s priorities.

I look forward to continuing this conversation.

So please come to one of our Budget Engagement Forums, send us an email, tweet me at @MayorBowser, or come to a community meeting in your neighborhood with a Bowser Administration official.

I look forward to working with you.”

50 Comment

  • the streetcar comment seems very out of place.
    Also, long-time resident is a red herring. We should look for affordable housing for everyone, not just “long-time” residents.

  • Bowser had been a Councilmember since 2007. And for some of that time was the chair of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation. Sorry, but acting as if she “inherited” the streetcar is bunk. She had plenty of time in the leadership over the last 8 years to help the city street the streecar project. To the extent that it has failed or experienced delays is partly her fault… not just the prior Mayor’s…

    • In addition to Paul’s comments on the streetcar project, she acts as if there have never been public meetings about prior budgets. The issue has been the mayoral budgets are subject to Council approval; that’s usually where priorities have shifted. I do think the streetcar project – and the development projects she’s tabled – will go forward. Just enough time will pass so she can claim credit for them.

    • Bowser was never chair of the Public Works and Transportation Committee. Your blame belongs with Catania, Wells, and Cheh, Mayor Gray, among others.

  • I dont quite understand the purpose of having affordable housing for the sake of having affordable housing.

    I want service workers, firemen, nurses and other hospital workers, police, teachers, public servants, and laborers to have affordable housing. Generally those that are gainfully employed. There is a collective benefit to everyone for these groups to be able to live close to their jobs and spend as little time and money getting to/from their jobs and more time with their families and have more disposable income, which will mean a better support structure for their kids, more saving, etc. I want my tax dollars going towards that.

    I am at a loss for why we should be providing subsidized affordability solely based on the fact that people who live here now cant afford to.

    I also dont think we should be in the business of providing affordability on expensive real estate for the chronically unemployed.

    Also, I think the street car is a boondoggle, but the costs of operating and maintaining the system pale in comparison to the money already spent and it would be a shame for them to just abandon the project. Plus anytime you talk about the boondoggle of the street car 3 sentences before you reference long-term residents (c), I question your motivations.

    It appears to me that Bowser is pandering exclusively to a certain voting block in DC that is resentful and feels disenfranchised (for a variety of complex reasons many of which are rooted in inequalities that permeate American society). Im not sure that’s the best idea for governing, from a pragmatic perspective…

    • +1 I love everything about these observations

    • +10 well said.

    • Too cogent and sensible an argument – return to GO – do not collect $200.00

    • Right, it’s “pandering” when it doesn’t directly affect you. It’s not pandering when it does.

    • This all should surprise no one, and is exactly why I did not vote for her.

    • “I am at a loss for why we should be providing subsidized affordability solely based on the fact that people who live here now cant afford to.” I’m surprised everyone agreed with this statement. You don’t see anything wrong with people growing up in DC their whole lives and not being able to continue to live here? As families grow and children become adults they have to move away because they cannot afford DC. Or if you are earning minimum wage while working in DC, you should start your life in another city? I think if you are employed in DC you should be able to live in DC, whatever your job is.

      • I would love to live in the small town where I’m from, but there’s few opportunities there and I don’t expect the government to subsidize a job to enable me to continue living there. Same with my wife but she’s from a different country so it applies on a different scale. The market is what it is.

      • This is part of growth and by implementing plans such as freezing property taxes only hurts the future of the city. Policies like that only pass the bill onto others either in taxes or other ways such as speed cameras and tickets. Maintaining policies like that and focusing on one block of people is the fastest way to run out the young new families that are looking towards the future and end up moving to Nova and MD. I have lived here for over 30 years and nothing will change with this mentality and approach of governing for the few despite the many.

    • “I dont quite understand the purpose of having affordable housing for the sake of having affordable housing.”
      There’s a simple retort here; affordable housing helps decrease costs related to homelessness and joblessness.

      Another thing, your comment “Generally those that are gainfully employed” is very prejudicial. Affordable housing is not subsidized housing. If you’re a EMT and make $40k, I don’t see how that is more gainfully employed than a someone who works two jobs and makes the same amount. You obviously have a bias and prejudiced viewpoint which comes through in your writing.

      • “Affordable housing is not subsidized housing. ”

        Wrong. Affordable housing is only “affordable” if it’s subsidized in some way by tax payers.

  • dcdon

    long-time residents can’t afford to live in their own city – In my neighborhood, most long term residents already own their home, I am not sure how prices are driving them out. unless they want to cash out. The long term renters in my neighborhood are also in rent controlled buildings. Stop throwing out long term people cant live here. They already do!

    • Home owners have to pay property tax. When every nearby property is $800,000 the annual property tax is $5 or $6,000 a year. Many people on fixed incomes cannot afford that.
      Other than that, the city is popular and rents go up. Thats a fact of life, no one can do anything much about it. At the end of the day apts are a business, not a charity.

      • there are numerous programs in place to provide property tax relief to seniors.

      • DC can’t raise your property taxes by more than 10% (proposed to go even lower to 5%) per year. So while prop. taxes may be going up, they’re not skyrocketing. DC also has a program to freeze (maybe even waive I think?) for homeowners over 65 who have lived in the house for over a certain number of years.

      • There are programs in place for tax relief for seniors. Or they can sell their house and move to florida with a very nice nest egg.

      • “When every nearby property is $800,000 the annual property tax is $5 or $6,000 a year.”
        That’s true. However, if your property tax is $5000 or $6000 each year, that property is worth quite a bit. When someone’s sitting on a valuable asset and cries poor because they allegedly can’t afford the taxes on it, I have limited (that is to say, no) sympathy.

  • jim_ed

    Christ. I thought Muriel would be an ineffective and dithering Mayor similar to her role as Councilmember, but so far it’s been WAY worse than anything I could have imagined. We’re a month and a half in to her term, and it’s been basically a complete disaster. Instead of facing the challenges head on, she’s now blamed the previous administrations and shown zero ideas on how to tackle these problems. This is going to be a rough four years.

  • Absolute meaningless gobblelygook. Shameful and insulting to all residents.

  • Yep. The streetcar certainly has become the whipping boy for everything bad in this city. does she really think that the folks in Carver Terrace and other homes along Benning Road had no plans to ride the street car?

  • Reading the comments on anything Bowser-related here is like reading the comments on Wapo for anything Obama-related., The combination of suspicion, hyperbole and misinformation is really something.

    • We’re reading what she actually says, so how is that “misinformation?”

      • The second comment on this post says she was “chair of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation”, which is simply not true. She was chair of the following committees: Committee on Economic Development, Committee on Government Operations, Committee on Libraries, Parks and Recreation, and Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs. I was trying to be polite by referring to it as “misinformation”.

        • It’s an understandable mistake. She represented DC on WMATA’s board. Until 2011, it was the chair of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation was the person who represented DC on WMATA’s board. She was also on the Public Works and Transportation committee (source: http://dcclims1.dccouncil.us/bowser/committee.html), even though she was not the chair. She had a role in the council’s oversight of the streetcar effort.

  • This is very concerning. As mentioned above her sequencing of these statements (streetcar above the affordable housing issue?!) seems questionable to the point of pandering. I agree that the streetcar project never had a plan launch effectively (the haphazard plan to launch in January was just ludicrous) but the way she’s putting this out there makes me wonder if it’s going to get the axe entirely, which would be a completely ridiculous overreaction. Combined with the affordable housing comment… buckle up everybody. Those who complained about the last three administrations have no idea how good we had it next to this.

  • budget gap? that’s a bit misleading. the district has a very healthy budget surplus this fiscal year… a first over pass on city budgets shows being over target, but that’s often how budgets work.

    • Hasn’t there been criticism for the past several years that the CFO’s projections of city revenues often grossly underestimate what actually comes in, thus leading to the surplus situation you describe? I don’t get her complaints about the “budget gap” either, but maybe she’s talking about what’s on paper for next year rather than what the experience has been for the past several years of surplus. As for the rest of her speech, it’s the same meaningless puffery as her campaign statements, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

  • My biggest concerns with the city are (and these are really all tied together):
    1. how to create (or sort of continue on a path that i thought was started a decade ago) a sustainable, viable, and prosperous economy for which the current citizens and future generations can benefit from, and which businesses want to invest. improve education, job opportunities in long term and emerging and innovative sectors, not just fed jobs.
    2. education and job training – improve this failure of a public school system. provide vocational and technical programs for skilled workers.
    3. crime – address the crime that continues to plague this city.

    i want to hear actual plans for how these issues will be addressed.

    • Vocational training is not going to help a functionally illiterate population that is in a city where most jobs require a bachelors or higher. This is not an industrial city, it is a knowledge capital, and these low skilled workers by in large do not fit the regional labor economy. The best solutions is moving vouchers, not low income, I mean “affordable” housing which makes them stick around in city where they cannot find work, and are not likely too.

      • I’m sure you’re a troll, but you are grossly underestimating the number of vocational “technical jobs” that support a balanced vibrant economy. DC can’t survive on lawyers and lobbyists alone, dependent on a stream of Fed cash. And the fact that you would refer to them as low skilled jobs shows how little you know of vocational training. no major business, especially those that show growth in the next 25 years, including biotech, pharma, sustainable energy manufacturers, construction, etc would move to an area that didn’t have a talent pool of both “knowledge” based and technical workers.

        • Only 2% of DC’s labor force is skilled labor, we do not need that many HVACs. Proof, this group has a 15% unemployment rate. DC does just fine without it. Most of the newer jobs in both Biotech, Pharma, Environmental Engineering, and Software Engineering, usually require a bachelors in science for the entry level jobs, and many require a graduate degree for higher positions. The best job a lower skilled vocational worker can think about getting in these places is working in the cafeteria or as the janitor. These are scientific jobs that require scientists and engineers, not vocational workers. The fact you are even posting this response shows how little you know about these fields, yes, they are technical, but they are knowledge economy jobs, not just lawyers and lobbyists. But they require much more education than these people will ever be capable of. Also DC’s economy is far healthier than any that depended on manufacturing, and a healthy economy is one were there is fewer low skill workers, by the way this is the economic term for this group. Knowledge workers, those with a bachelors or higher…high skill workers. Also DC is not a manufacturing hub, and never will be, that is a good thing. We are far better off because of it. Anybody who thinks vocational education is the solution for DC is fooling themselves, or painfully unaware of the nature of knowledge capitals. Moving vouchers is a far better idea, preserving people who are lower skilled in this region who are largely structurally unemployed is meaningless.

  • SkeptiDC

    I’ve been saying this to anyone who will listen for months now, the streetcar will never launch. Bowser’s comment here and her decision to initiate a “top to bottom” (see the Franklin School) review of it further cements my opinion that it will die before it was even born.

  • Every time there has been a projected budget gap by the CFO there ended up being a surplus. This happened in the most recent fiscal year, and it is likely to happen again. Those people being pushed out for lack of affordable housing in many cases are actually being replaced by people who are taxpayers. Personally, I think the affordable housing thing is BS, it is code word for low income housing. Frankly we have an oversupply of low skilled labor in this city, making them sticky in a city where most of the jobs are for those with a bachelors or higher accomplishes nothing. We have a distorted housing market because we have too much “affordable” ie low income housing, and not enough market rate. It is making things more difficult for those who actually have jobs as it is artificially limiting supply on the market and providing housing for those who are less likely to find employment. Also we should not be warehousing the poor in cities, especially high cost of living cities like DC where they do not effectively match the labor market in a knowledge economy. Also personally, I have no problem with displacing the previous residents of DC, it is the DC natives who made DC the crime ridden murder capital, and the same natives which are behind much of the current crime and violence in this city, if they are priced out good riddance, the city will be far better off without them. People often forget that what the DC natives did to this city was run it into the ground with drugs, crime, and violence. The reality is affordable housing does nothing more than to incubate crime, and the higher percentage of poor people are in city, the worse a city often is. The chronically unemployed should not be living here. If you cannot afford to live here, do what many rational people do…move. Just because you grew up here does not mean you have a right to live here if you do not own a house and can no longer afford it. The market is doing what the market does, replacing people who can actually become gainfully employed and fit the labor market, with people who clearly do not. We are literally trading low quality residents for far higher quality residents in DC. The fact is gentrification has been improving this city, let it continue, and let people get priced out. Everything in this city will improve as a result from better educated, more employable residents, who are far less likely to commit violent crimes. DC is a better city because of the displacement of the poor and gentrification, and anybody who thinks otherwise is yearning for the blight and crime of the murder capital days. DC’s problem with affordable housing is not too little, but too much.

    • Dear Popvillians, Please note… This voice does not represent all new residents. Just another yuppie private uni transplant, enrolled in grad school on daddy’s dime, and halfway through a course in libertarianism.

      • This is a great point, though I’m not yet willing to jump to your conclusions. There’s still a chance, however slim, that we have a true life Horatio Alger on our hands.
        But seriously, I genuinely hope that readers don’t project this inane myopia onto all other denizens of PoPville. We’re not all like “this guy” above.

  • What cracks me up as an H St. resident about all of this, is that many of the folks who supported her mentor Adrian Fenty were concerned that Vince Gray didn’t want to move forward with the streetcar because he expressed concerns as council chair about the streetcar NOT HAVING A VIABLE PLAN FOR OPERATIONS. Now, she is blaming Gray for not having plan.

    As a middle-term H St. resident (been here 12 years, before it got cool, but not like some of my neighbors who have been here 30+ years), that was always my complaint. But my neighbors and I were all just shouted out as anti-progressives and against the streetcar. I was never against the streetcar, but I did recognize that the Fenty administration had a horrible record of transportation projects that stumbled or failed because of lack of upfront planning (e.g., re-done bike lanes on Penn Ave because not well thought out, the mess that is the NY Ave./FL Ave. interchange). I mean really, there was no eastern or western terminus for the streetcar! I wanted a plan and never got one.

    I think it is instructive to read this Post article about the streetcar from then, juxtaposed onto the mess it is now – http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/26/AR2010052605238_2.html?sid=ST2010052505202. I get mad every time I see one of the empty streetcars pass, multiple times a day. We have been a victim of poor planning and magical thinking and now she is trying to pin this on Gray. Whatever you think of the Gray vs. Fenty administrations, her framing makes it sound like the previous administration didn’t have a plan. NO ONE had a plan, but whenever we tried to point out that the emperor had no clothes, we were pushed out of the conversation by having our motives questioned, magical thinking prevailed and we threw more money at the problem.

    I hope the streetcar starts running with passengers soon, but I put nothing pass any of these folks, the politicians and the advocates. No one will be as mad as me if we don’t get streetcars because I had to live through the years of construction, loss of some favorite businesses that couldn’t survive the construction, and the general inconvenience. I won’t be a regular streetcar user at this stage as it doesn’t go anywhere I want to go, but I want it to happen.

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