Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) said that as the new public safety committee chairman, he wants to push the city to employ more surveillance cameras to fight crime. He has created an exploratory committee for a possible mayoral run.
Muriel Bowser, the Ward 4 Democrat, said that as the newly minted Economic Development Committee chairman, she will steer the city’s development strategy away from downtown. She is widely expected to announce a mayoral candidacy this spring.
And at-large independent David A. Catania has made truancy a priority as the new Education Committee chairman. Catania has said he is keeping his options open for 2014.
All three have said they won’t let politics influence their committee work. And Mayor Vincent C. Gray said he would work with Mendelson (D) to limit the impact of the election on city business.
“We know how this campaigning stuff goes,” said Gray (D).
But with Wells raising money for his exploratory effort, Bowser reaching out to activists and Democratic leaders to measure support, and Catania not ruling anything out, the election creep has threatened the balance of power between the mayor and the council members rumored to want his seat.
In an interview, Bowser said she wants to shift the Gray administration’s development focus away from flashy downtown projects and toward residential neighborhoods. A neighborhood-centric strategy helped propel Bowser’s political mentor, Adrian M. Fenty (D), to the mayor’s office in 2006.
“Neighborhood development is tough . . . but when you go out in the communities, people ask about the corridors in which they live to make sure they have the same amenities as everyone else,” she said.
Bowser, who has had an awkward relationship with the mayor since he defeated Fenty in 2010, is concerned that Gray is taking too much credit for projects that originated with his predecessors. “Every mayor is the beneficiary of the groundwork that previous mayors have made,” she said. “Some mayors are better at acknowledging that than others.”
With the city nearing its debt limit, Bowser plans to take a central role in planning future growth and “ask very pointed questions” of administration officials about whether some projects should be shelved to free up more borrowing authority for other development.
Bowser is expected to concentrate her efforts on the Georgia Avenue corridor, which bisects her home ward.
“It’s our turn,” said Bowser, who will now interact more with developers and business leaders, who traditionally account for a large share of contributions to mayoral contests.
Gray legislative director Janene Jackson defended the administration’s strategy for development, citing plans for six new neighborhood Wal-Mart stores, new projects at Skyland Shopping Center in Ward 7, the campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Congress Heights and the grounds of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Ward 4.