Jan 06, 2017

District of Columbia: Booming City Deserves Statehood, Says Community Activist


Photo courtesy of ep_jhu@flickr.com

Assessing the District’s challenges for 2017 and its administration’s accomplishments since Muriel Bowser took the mayor’s office in 2015, DC community activist, Ms Sandra Seegars lauded the capital’s commendable financial situation as an excellent recommendation for becoming the nation’s 51st state. While the growing city attracts people of all walks of life, Ms Seegars insists public revenue should be used to address unemployment and create affordable housing schemes.

Below is an article published by the AFRO:

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has entered her third year as the District’s mayor and residents have strong ideas on what she needs to accomplish in 2017. Bowser took office on Jan. 2, 2015 touting a “fresh start.” Sandra “S.S.” Seegars, a community activist in Ward 8, told the AFRO that the mayor’s slogan is still relevant given the problems that the city faces.

“We need to continue to find homes for the homeless,” said Seegars, who has served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner and as a former member of the D.C. Taxicab Commission. “I hope that she will work with the new council on that, and I hope she continues to create and find summer jobs for youth.”

The District of Columbia is undergoing a number of positive changes. On Dec. 20, the mayor touted the District’s growth in population, with the Census Bureau estimating that the city has 681,170 residents, the highest number since the 1970s. “Our growth in population shows that Washington, D.C. continues to be an attractive place to live, work and start a family,” the mayor said in a statement. “Our neighborhoods continue to grow safer and stronger and our schools continue to enroll more students and improve outcomes. The District’s investments in neighborhoods – from affordable housing, public infrastructure and transportation to public schools, parks, retail and the arts – are all making D.C. a highly desirable place to call home.”

On Dec. 30, D.C. Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey S. DeWitt released the revised revenue estimate for the FY 2017 Budget and Financial Plan. This showed local fund revenues up by $66.6 million. The mayor was pleased with the revenue revision, saying that “the District of Columbia’s finances are in good order.”

“We continue to manage our finances effectively while working to meet the needs of residents in all eight wards,” she said. “Our financial forecast and bond ratings are the envy of jurisdictions throughout the United States, and this is just one more reason why Washington, D.C. deserves to be the 51st state.”

On Nov. 17, U.S. Housing and Urban Development released its annual homeless assessment report to Congress that showed a 14 percent spike in the District from 2015, indicating 8,350 people are without a permanent dwelling. In addition, the unemployment rate in the District stands at 6 percent according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Labor in contrast to the national figure of 4.6 percent.

On Aug. 30, Bowser released an 18-month progress report that addressed these issues. While Seegars is aware of the report, she voiced concerns it may not directly deal with, such as the funding for the Virginia Williams Resource Center that helps individuals and families who are housing unstable. “The Virginia Williams Center needs more money,” she said. “They need to put more money into that program.”

Seegars also said that she would like “for city agency heads to be more visible in the community.”

Marlena Edwards, a community activist in Ward 4, is a strong Bowser supporter but has issues she wants the mayor to focus on. “There needs to be more opportunity for local businesses,” Edwards told the AFRO. “There should be expanded training for the unemployed and . . . affordable housing.”

Douglass Sloan, a District political analyst, told the AFRO that he wants a more resident-friendly police force, starting with its leader. “I would like for her to appoint a permanent police chief,” Sloan said. “We haven’t had one since Cathy Lanier left in September and I would like for the new chief to be African American. I would like the mayor to support progressive police tactics that protects citizens, not harass them.”

Sloan said that he wants the school system to continue its improvement and, like Seegars, a focus on ending homelessness. He said that Bowser should expand her political advocacy role.

“I would like her to continue her aggressive stance on D.C. statehood, voting rights and self-determination,” he said. “She should continue to push the ball forward on progressive issues despite the GOP leadership in the White House and the Congress.”