On Tuesday evening, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Councilmember Brandon Todd joined the Ward 4 Democrats for their June monthly meeting. There was a celebratory atmosphere in the overflowing auditorium at the Washington Ethical Society, with random bursts of cheering and shouts of “Four More Years!” ringing out from the crowd, many of whom were clad in green.
Mayor Bowser has truly mastered her budget-season stump speech. She effortlessly waltzed through highlights of the unanimously approved $13.8 billion FY18 budget, ticking off a list of priorities sure to please the assembled Ward 4 residents including:
- $150 million for a full modernization of Coolidge Middle and High schools
- $16.9 million for the completion of the MacFarland Middle School renovation
- $12 million for the Shepherd Park/Shepherd Elementary Recreation Center
- $78 million for the accelerated renovation of West Education Campus
- $14 million for improvements to the Petworth and Upshur Recreation centers
- $3 million for the “Safe At Home” program for senior adults
- Funding for an Express bus down 14th Street from Takoma Metro to Federal Triangle
After her speech, the Mayor answered questions from the audience which where helpfully organized by Ward 4 Democrats president Candace Tiana Nelson. I’ll pull just one of Mayor Bowser’s responses since it touched on a hot topic for our community: Upper Georgia Avenue Development.
Has the Mayor and Council considered the impact of three major development projects so close together: Walter Reed, the Jemal propery at Kalmia and Alaska and the strip mall on the eastern side of Georgia Avenue at Eastern?
The answer is yes, we have. We have been through the various planning processes and I was telling the Councilmember recently that, as long as we’ve talked about the development of Georgia Avenue…who’s been around for that discussion? [wry laughter from the crowd] I think everybody has been around for the discussion of the redevelopment of Georgia Avenue. We saw it happen first in Petworth with the Petworth Metro station and the housing that developed around that. We worked together on the Upper Georgia Avenue redevelopment plan where we spent 18 months having meetings with the Office of Planning. The LRA (Local Redevelopment Authority) for Walter Reed worked five, six, seven years talking about the plan and agreeing to the plan that went to ANC 4A and ANC4B and then came to the council where it was unanimously approved as well.
So, we’ve been talking a lot how we’re going to develop Georgia Avenue, and it happened along the nodes [major thoroughfares], almost exactly the way we planned it. So, Walter Reed is going to be an exciting project for the upper part of the city, not just Ward 4. Georgia Avenue and 16th Street can accommodate the volumes. There will be enough parking on the site to accommodate it as well. The Jemal site at Georgia and Eastern has also been long discussed. It’s been the subject of several planned unit developments including the currently active one. So, I know there are some questions regarding around ingress and egress which I’ve discussed with the Councilmember and DDOT, trying to get to some better solutions about ingress and egress and we’re going to continue to work on that.
The answer to this question is: Absolutely. There’s really nothing on Georgia that hasn’t been the subject of multiple planning processes.
Councilmember Todd followed the Mayor’s presentation with his own local take on the budget-season successes.
This blogger has always been agnostic when it comes to local politics, so it was interesting to me to observe the level of enthusiastic support for both the Mayor and Councilmember Todd. While this meeting displayed what was quite obviously the heart of their power base, widespread support for Mayor Bowser’s job approval was confirmed the following day in a survey conducted by The Washington Post. That poll of 901 District residents showed that she currently has a 67% approval rating. No matter how you slice it, that is an eye-catching number. As the next campaign season approaches, it will be interesting to see how potential opponents process that information.
This was a well-organized and, thankfully, brief meeting. The Ward 4 Democrats will meet again on the third Tuesday in July.