On Monday, March 18, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) delivered the first State of the District address in her second term from the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). In the speech, released to the press shortly after it was made, Bowser announced a move to allow the District to purchase RFK Stadium. She also announced that rides will be free indefinitely on the six routes of the DC Circulator. Bowser also mentioned embattled Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2-D) and the challenges of working with the current administration, in different contexts several times throughout.
BID to Buy RFK
Bowser announced that in the coming days, Congresswoman Norton will introduce legislation to fully convey the RFK Stadium Campus to the District of Columbia at what Bowser termed “fair market value.” The site is under the control of the National Park Service (NPS) and is contracted to Events DC, the sports and entertainment arm of the DC Government.
“It may be the only national park dedicated to asphalt,” Bowser said, referencing the large parking lots surrounding the stadium.
“To be clear, there is no deal to bring a professional sports team to that site,” Bowser added. “Whether a stadium or sports arena is included in the re-imagined RFK Campus is a debate for a future date, which as a city we will decide for ourselves.”
The comments about RFK Campus followed a discussion on affordable housing during which Bowser noted her administration had made a $100 million investment, creating 7,200 units of affordable housing. She said an increase in taxes on commercial real estate transactions plus District increases to the Housing Production Trust and Housing Preservation Fund would contribute $200 million to the production and preservation of affordable housing in next year’s budget.
Free Circulator Rides
Bowser spoke about the administration’s reduction of transit costs for families and the working class. After eliminating fares for the DC Circulator buses during a campaign called ‘Fair Shot February,’ and extending free fares through March, Bowser announced that the DC Circulator would be free from now on. “Over these past few weeks, workers at hotels, restaurants, and shops have stopped me at the checkout counters, at the diners, telling me how much they appreciate the free Circulator,” she said in explaining the reason for the elimination of the fare. “We may not think about it, because it’s just $1 each way, $2 a day, but for a working person it adds up.”
Two of the six Circulator routes, the Congress Heights – Union Station and Eastern Market – L’Enfant Plaza routes pass through Capitol Hill after revisions to the routes last year, when service to Audi Field was discontinued. Circulator buses provide close to five million trips annually.
Bowser also touted the administration’s work on making DC more affordable for families, noting in addition to the expansion of the Kids Ride Free program that allows students to ride free on trains as well as buses the upgrades to recreation centers and libraries as well as the elimination of the tax on menstrual hygiene products in 2018.
Bowser said that in 2019 DC would eliminate the diaper tax as well. “We know that those baby costs, diaper costs, after school costs, child care costs, summer camp costs, pre-school, after-school costs, they add up, don’t they?” she asked. “So, eliminating the diaper tax is one more way we can make it more affordable to raise children right in DC – one pack of diapers at a time.”
Leadership of Public Servants: Evans
Bowser also mentioned embattled Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2-D). After noting the challenges with the current president and her hopes for the 2020 Presidential Election, Bowser listed Evans in her praise for the management of the District. “Our values did not change on Election Day 2016, nor did the fact that Washington, DC can manage our jurisdiction as well as any jurisdiction in the nation,” she said.
“It was, after all, through our own fiscal responsibility, our commitment to good government, and the responsible leadership of public servants like Councilmember Jack Evans and Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWitt that in less than two decades, our city went from a federal Control Board to a Aaa bond rating,” she continued. “As Chairman Phil Mendelson will tell you, our financial prudence is the envy of state legislatures and city councils around the country.”
The Monday evening mention came as WTOP reported that Evans faces reprimand Tuesday from DC Council for using his government email when he solicited business arrangements with law firms that lobby the District government. His conduct is under investigation by both the District Board of Ethics & Government Accountability and a federal grand jury.
You can watch the entire address online (Bowser’s remarks begin at about the 21-minute mark) courtesy of Periscope TV.