By: Current News Staff Writer
Re-elected City Council Chair Phil Mendelson and the six re-elected members of the Council were sworn in a week ago Tuesday at the Convention Center along with Mayor Muriel Bowser and Attorney General Karl Racine. Six other sitting Councilmembers are up for re-election in 2020.
Mendelson pointed out that in the 2018 election, every District Council member whose term was up was re-elected, indicating that residents are happy with their government.
The biggest challenges the District government has, he said, are education and housing affordability. “Doing better, more quickly, to help our children learn is critical, as is resolving our affordability crisis,” he wrote in the program.
“You have a Council,” he continued in his written message, “one of the most progressive in the country, that believes the District should help those least able to help themselves to develop the skills to become self-sufficient and end the cycle of poverty. The District, as the nation’s capital, should be a leader in this.”
“Only one third of (District public) high school students,” Mendelson pointed out “are proficient in English and 14% in math,” adding “The achievement gap (between African-American and Caucasian students) is embarrassing. … We need a long term strategy. It is easier to teach …children than to repair broken men.”
Mendelson, pointed out that average income for black households in the District is $38,000, while for whites is is over $300,000. “The difference,” he said, “is education.”
“We are fortunate,” he added, “that our differences can be measured in degrees.” The re-elected Council members all pointed out serious problems they hope to help make progress in solving during their upcoming 4-year terms.
Mary Cheh, the Ward 3 Councilmember, told the audience of well over 100, “We have too much carnage on our streets,” but that “We are too quick to lock up people who should not be.”
One of the biggest problems Cheh said is our streets, which are in bad need of fixing. She also called for making contractors hire D.C. workers.
Cheh was particularly proud of “one of the strongest climate change bills in the nation.” Her major environmental bill, the Clean and Affordable Energy Act, created an organization to assist residents and businesses to curtail energy use, mandated energy benchmarking of buildings and fostered the use of solar energy and green roofs. She was critical of the District’s having one of the highest teacher turnover rates in the country.
Many public school graduates, she said, are unable to fill out job applications. We need “less testing and more teaching. … There is a lot to do, but we can do it. Now is our moment.”
Brianne Nadeau, the Ward 1 Councilmember, who took her oath with her infant in her arms, pointed out that her ward “is the most diverse in the District,” she further said, “We have much more work ending homelessness” and need to “build more housing.”
“We are a prosperous city, but it is not distributed equitably,” Nadeau said,” I came here to serve our most vulnerable people,”
Nadau is particularly proud of her constituent service. At-Large Council member Anita Bonds said in her post swearing-in address that solving the “blaring housing problem” is a major goal for the next four years as is increasing the opportunity for home ownership.
“My focus,” said Bonds, “is on DC becoming an inclusive city. … the idea of putting people first.”
On public schools she said she wants to “insure discipline does not interfere with education.”
Elissa Silverman, the other at-large Councilmember who was re-elected in 2018, joked in her speech, “Even a wayward ex-reporter … can be elected. She had been a reporter for The Washington Post.
She called Washington “a city of dreams deferred as well as a city of dreams achieved.” She called for adult education “to put moms and dads to work.”
“Now,” said Silverman, “is the time to turn our potentiality into reality.” Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie of Ward 5 called for a major effort to improve schools. Councilmember Charles Allen of Ward 6 also called for improving education.