(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser was sworn in as the first woman re-elected to a second term as the Mayor of the District of Columbia. Below is the Mayor’s inaugural address, as delivered.
Good morning, DC, and happy New Year to each and every one of you. I’d like to thank Chief Judge Blackburne-Rigsby for swearing me in today as she did when I became Ward 4 Councilmember.
Congresswoman Norton, Attorney General Racine, Chairman Mendelson, members of the Council, and family and friends from around the world and around the region - welcome.
Each year, we know, brings a chance for a renewed focus on the people, the values, and the places that matter most to us.
Each new term also brings with it lessons learned from triumph, opportunity, challenge, and defeat.
And with each new term, we have gratitude for God’s grace and mercy and are honored, humbled, and energized to have the support and confidence of our residents.
And we are grateful for the DC spirit that we are stronger when we stick together.
Because when we do, we will seize every opportunity and overcome any challenge.
Today, I follow in the footsteps of Marion Barry and Anthony Williams and take this oath for a second time. And like them, I do not view a second term as a chance to warm the seat, but to think and act boldly as we work together to take on our toughest challenges.
My favorite part of the oath that I just swore, is that each of us swears to represent the District of Columbia—as a whole—without fear or favor.
When I take that oath and when I administer it, I always say these words very slowly and here is why:
- We are only as strong as a city as the ward that struggles the most. You cannot represent the District of Columbia as a whole and not reflect that in your words, actions, and budget decisions. When I campaigned in 2014 as an all eight wards candidate—I meant it and I’ve done it. And that oath is ours to uphold whether we are elected at-large, by ward, or even a single member district.
- We are only as vibrant as our system of values works to protect us all and our rich diversity that is Washington, DC. You cannot lead the District of Columbia as a whole without placing yourself in the footsteps of the immigrant living in daily fear, of the trans woman who lives constantly with the thought that no one cares about her life or her safety, or the person of faith concerned about a bombing or shooting in his or her synagogue or church.
- Our political decisions are only as sound as all voices that make them—liberals and conservatives; progressives and moderates; fiscal hawks and big government thinkers. We are committed to a focus on law and order and creating greater economic opportunity. Leading our great city, as a whole, requires good people with all viewpoints wrestling not with one another but with each problem and making decisions in the best interests of all of us—not a narrow few. It demands that none of us is a slave to ideology or popularity or even thinking about the consequences of our next election.
Four years ago, I stood on this stage, and told you a little bit about myself – that I find peace in Rock Creek Park; that to reset, I have to see the ocean every now and then; and that I’m fiercely loyal.
Since then, you’ve gotten to know me a little bit better. You know more about the values that guide me; you’ve seen how I react to good news and bad news. By now you know that I don’t like to get pushed around and I react very directly to people talking bad about our city.
You probably also understand why I will never utter the words mumbo sauce, except in total praise, ever again.
And, over these four years, I have also gotten to know you even better—the 700,000 Washingtonians that make up our great city.
I know that you are fiercely independent too.
That you will lock arms with your neighbors when any one of us is attacked.
And that our DC values run deep through each of us whether we were born here or adopted this city as our home.
The last four years have definitely been memorable:
- You probably won’t remember my first memory, but I do…it was a snow storm– Alberta Clipper actually – and it happened in my first full week as Mayor. Meteorologically, a clipper is a “weak area of low pressure.” Weak area of low pressure is not the phrase you want associated with your first week as Mayor.
- Just a few days later, we were challenged again. This time, leading the response to a tragic Metro accident. The loss of Carol Glover saddened our region, and our team did a top to bottom review to ensure that DC and the region would change the culture of Metro both ensuring our safety and our economic future.
- So those first two weeks – what I so desperately wanted to be the start of our fresh start – was actually a slow start. I remember being bestowed the not so great honor of the Worst Week in Washington by our friends at the Post. That lesson that I took from it was that the Mayor must be the one who admits to what went wrong, explains what steps she will take to fix it, and establishes what needs to be done so it never happens again.
- I always keep in mind the words of Maya Angelou: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.” And so, we never stopped fighting for dedicated funding for Metro until we got it, and when Snowzilla came in 2016, we were ready– our Snow Team and our residents – pulled together to get the city back up and running before any other place in the region.
We had triumphant moments too.
- We hosted the Pope and the Inauguration of the 45th President, and then the next day: one million women - one million women - came to Washington, DC to be heard without incident or arrest.
- And when we were visited by those who spew hate, we showed the world that DC is United in Love.
- We opened two venues to help cement us as the Sports Capital – an arena in Congress Heights now home to the Washington Mystics, Capitol City Go Go, DC’s fight game, and a stadium at Buzzard Point to house our DC United. Not to mention hosting a world-class All-Star Game and a Capitals victory parade.
- We travelled the world to Canada, China, Cuba, Mexico City and El Salvador to promote global investment, tourism, and cultural exchange, the American commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. But we also, very importantly, demonstrated to the world that we are the faces of Washington, DC—not the current occupant of the White House. And these friendships are lasting and real—I want to thank the Mayor of San Salvador, our Sister City, Ernesto Muyshondt, for travelling to be with us today. I also want to acknowledge my sister leaders from Wards 9 and 11, or should I say thee Prince George’s and Loudoun County, let’s give a big hand for Angela Alsobrooks and Phyllis Randall.
- With Relisha heavy in our hearts and minds, we also are focused on ending homelessness. We prevented more than 6,000 people from becoming homeless, and once and for all shuttered DC General and opened three out of 6 short-term family housings facilities.
Much of what we have achieved is because we stand on a solid foundation – 23 straight balanced budgets.
- We eliminated materials weaknesses from our audits and got upgraded to Aaa bond rating from Moody’s.
- We welcomed 700,000 residents in February. Not all of them were in February, but we crossed 700,000 in February with a bouncing baby boy named Kooper and a bouncing baby girl named Leah, and in May we welcomed our first daughter, baby Miranda.
- We helped over 1,200 seniors with $10 million dollar investment in Safe and Home, and even more in Transport DC.
- As promised, we budgeted and spent over $100 million out of our Housing Production Trust Fund – every single year of my first term.
- Working with our partners on the Council, we focused on putting more money in people’s pockets and raised our minimum wage - and by 2020, it will be $15 an hour in the nation’s capital.
- We have unstuck projects like the DC Streetcar which just last month celebrated its three millionth rider.
- And, we have identified a new partner for our new hospital east of the river. We will work tirelessly to finally deliver residents the hospital that they need and deserve closer to their homes.
I was elected with the help of and in the era of our President Barack Obama. What happened next, I don’t think we foresaw, and in many of us have not stopped lamenting.
However, as your Mayor, I must work with all leaders and do some things for you so you don’t have to.
So we went to a tower in New York City and to the Oval Office to meet a new president to tell him exactly who we are; what we’re about; that we pay our own way; and that we want control of federal land in Washington, DC.
And, I carried your message very clearly: DC demands statehood now.
In 2016, you voted overwhelmingly to create our new constitution, boundaries, and to form a representative government. And my eyes hath not seen nor my ears heard any reason to stop fighting until we achieve DC statehood. And we are going to start in a Democratic House with our Warrior on the Hill to get us there.
Over the last four years, we have seen that DC’s economy is strong.
But at the federal level, 2018 saw vulnerabilities with shutdowns, trade wars, and a sliding stock market.
So for as responsible as we have been, we must be prepared for what may lie ahead.
The last recession, often termed the "Great Recession," impacted the District of Columbia during Mayor Fenty’s term in 2010 with approximately 10 percent losses in revenue. In 2019 numbers that is $800 million dollars – imagine for a moment what a $800 million dollar loss in our current budgets would do to our spending plans. What would an $800 million hit mean for school investments and public safety and our social safety net.
Obviously, we in DC are positioned better now than 2010.
We have significantly higher reserves of nearly 60 days, a Aaa bond rating giving us much lower borrowing costs, and a more diversified economy with more tech companies – including Amazon and related spin-offs that may help buffer the next recession.
We are less federal government reliant but they are still a large part of our economy.
We are resilient but we are not financial tsunami-proof. We must resist writing checks now that we cannot cash in recessionary times.
We must also look to within to realize our greatest challenges. Inequality manifests itself in too many ways in our city. We have charged the Chancellor with closing the achievement gap—but it exists side by side with the income gap and the opportunity gaps across our city.
When I was exploring my first mayoral run in 2013, I called a former member of the Council to get her advice and ask for her support. She pressed me hard to make sure I really knew the unique challenges we would face. She said, “I’m worried that people will blame you for how fast the city is changing and their place in it. You know that right?”
I said that I did know it, and that’s exactly why I wanted to run. I knew then and now that I would take a relentless approach to attracting opportunity, focusing on residents new and generational, and sometimes pushing hard for programs and initiatives that left one side or the other feeling less than whole.
When people ask me what I want to be remembered for, it comes down to this: a relentless commitment to a fair shot for every single DC resident…period.
That means people of all incomes can live and thrive in our city.
That starts with taking care of our youngest residents.
- We should be proud of our commitment to transforming our schools. We started 10 years ago with heroic efforts led by Mayor Adrian Fenty. Not only have we invested in buildings but we have also invested in our people. Let there be no mistake that our investments in our schools have led to the renaissance of Washington, DC, to more parents choosing public education. We proudly pay our teachers well and invest in their development. And in this term, we are committed to creating new teacher leadership roles that will reenergize the profession and shape our next phase of excellence.
- We are excited to lead the nation with expanding access to high quality early childhood education. And we know that ensuring that critical early literacy skills are mastered in kindergarten through second grade for all students will bolster academic success. And that commitment grows to include expanding access and improving the quality of daycare in all eight wards.
- We are thrilled to replicate and grow high performing programs like the Benjamin Banneker Academic High School to ensure that more kids have access to high performing high school seats. Beyond that, incubating new learning models will be a hallmark of how we prepare students for the career pathways of today and tomorrow.
And we are prepared and ready to work with the Council to certainly ask the tough questions. But let’s be honest about those questions. Our outcomes are disparate, but so too have been our investments. I’m willing to ask those tough questions and equalize those investments for all the kids of the District of Columbia.
A fair shot also means that we reduce crime in all neighborhoods.
One of the worst calls you can get as Mayor is when someone dies on our streets.
Even worse when that person is an innocent child like Makiyah, who should be doing the things that little girls do; or Wendy who should be enjoying life with her new husband; or Zaire who should be going off to college just like his twin brother.
But when there is a spike in homicides, nothing else seems to matter. But there is hope that we can overcome this heart wrenching challenge.
MPD must do and will do its part. That’s why 3,800 members of Metropolitan Police Department have been engaging residents and visitors alike to drive down violent crime in DC for the last four years. In fact, we have 2,000 fewer violent crimes than we did when I became Mayor.
But MPD cannot do it alone. And that’s why the Office of Neighborhood Safety & Engagement and the Cure Violence initiatives are focused on interrupting violence before it happens.
But we cannot for one moment forget the havoc that illegal guns and those willing to use them are creating for DC families – some havoc, in some neighborhoods every single night.
- I can assure you that shootings and gun play will not be tolerated in this city… and that getting away with murder will never be our norm.
- With precision policing targeted at illegal guns and repeat violent offenders; with strengthened resolve of our federal law enforcement partners; and with a focus on greater economic opportunity, we will reverse this year’s homicide spike in our city.
Sadly, tragedy comes to us in other ways too.
Our work is not done until we save the lives of Washingtonians felled by deadly fentanyl-laced drugs. That’s why we have laid out a roadmap to address the opioid epidemic prevention strategies funded by the federal government.
Our work is not done until we prevent the loss of a mom and her daughter: an Alaskan mayor visiting our city, crossing the street, hit by a bus, killed. That’s why we launched a new slate of Vision Zero initiatives to make roadways safer for bikers, walkers, and people who drive.
A fair shot to live and thrive in DC also means that we are big in our thinking about creating and preserving more affordable housing.
In four years, we built or preserved more than 6,000 units of affordable housing. By 2025, we will need to produce 36,000 total units of housing in DC alone and 240,000 units across our region.
To get there, we must be bold.
- I will call on all of us to do more and to challenge the comfort of outdated laws and regulations that no longer suit our need to accommodate our growing city and rising housing costs.
- We can no longer resist a close look at building taller and more densely where it makes sense. To do otherwise would be to ignore our growing affordable housing shortage.
- I will challenge every ward and every neighborhood to think about how you can add more housing. And create targets for all of us to shoot for.
- I will challenge our policy makers to craft programs to both produce deeply affordable housing for our most vulnerable families and individuals. We will also invest in more workforce housing for teachers, social workers, police officers, and firefighters.
A fair shot means an opportunity – be it a job or owning a business. That’s why I am proud that in our first four years:
- We pushed the unemployment rate from 7.5% to 5.6% with the most significant drops occurring in Wards 5, 7 and 8.
- We increased our government’s spending with Certified Business Enterprises, more than double – from $359 million when I became Mayor to $814 million this year.
- Our investment in UDC has also grown, and a new Infrastructure Academy has opened to prepare residents not just for jobs but good careers.
- We topped national lists for women tech entrepreneurs and investment.
While we are making progress, we have more work to do. We can’t take a victory lap as a whole if African Americans in our city continue to see lagging wages and a huge income disparity with their white neighbors.
Knowing that the Mayor alone cannot provide a fair shot, we will charge forward into the second term and knowing that each of us has a charge to keep:
- I will call on DCPS to reshape the vocational offering, preparing our high school graduates for good paying, DC-sustaining jobs that allow them to stay in DC. That’s right - contemporary VO-tech. Any longtime DC resident will tell you, we are currently losing a generation of kids who haven’t been engaged by our current offerings.
- I will call on bankers and lenders to re-invest in our city and our people with small business loans, micro loans, loans for returning citizens, and special loans for DC government workers who want to buy a home in the neighborhoods that they serve.
- I will call on our large private employers to partner with us for more earn and learn opportunities.
- And because we cannot let opportunities to create new housing and business incubation opportunities to sit fallow, I will call upon my economic development team to activate Poplar Point and the RFK campus as places for DC residents to live and to work.
- I also call on UDC, the business community, and the leaders on this stage to affirm a path to UDC’s ascendance as a first choice 2-year and 4-year institution for DC’s best and brightest.
Certainly, each of us, as individual Washingtonians – no matter whether you’re the Mayor like me or a small business owner…whether you choose DC as your home or you choose to stay here because you weren’t lucky enough to be born here…no matter whether you’re rich or you’re poor – we’ve each asked ourselves how we can do more for our city…How we can make sure that we are contributing to its progress.
As President Obama has reminded us many times: “Progress doesn’t travel a straight line, but instead zigs and it zags, and it fits and it starts.”
And, certainly, that is the story of our city.
It is the story of any city in our country that is trying to do the most good for the most people.
I got into politics because I knew it was the way to help the most people the fastest.
And I wake up each and every day, still, thinking of how we can help more Washingtonians achieve the prosperity that is growing in our city.
I’ve been fortunate to serve our city as an advisory neighborhood commissioner, a Ward Councilmember, and now as a twice-elected mayor.
When people on the street meet me and tell me about their hopes and dreams for our city, their interactions with government or the job they think I’m doing, I usually end the conversation with this question: Can I count on you to stick with me?
Inherent in the question is the promise that I will wake up every day committed to working on the tough issues and making the best decisions for the District of Columbia as a whole.
I need you to keep pushing because we are counting on you to lead, to speak for us, to represent us, and to make us proud.
So today, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart for sticking with us, for trusting us, for pushing us.
To everybody who has worked for me, in the Ward 4 Council’s office, the 30,000 plus people who work for DC Government, the Ward 4 residents and DC residents who stuck with us through all those green and yellow campaigns - I say thank you.
And I also say: We will continue to make you proud.
May God continue to bless each of you and may God bless the District of Columbia.