Williams Attacks City's 'Status Quo'
"We can keep reshuffling the deck chairs until the end of time," he said, "and it will not make the current system work. . . . In our public schools, the buck stops nowhere."
He also tried to make the case for his own leadership, noting that since he took office in 1999, the city has consistently balanced its budget, increased child immunizations, lowered teen pregnancy rates, built affordable housing and seen the end of court receiverships and the federal control board.
The choice of venue for the speech -- at the restored Lincoln Theatre on historic U Street, often called Washington's Harlem for its performing arts legacy -- was intended to highlight progress.
"U Street is back. Our pride is back. [Redskins Coach] Joe Gibbs is back. And citizens and residents, our city is back," Williams said. "Ladies and gentlemen, the State of the District is stronger than ever. And that's a fact."
The line about Gibbs, who announced plans to return to the Redskins last month, got the loudest applause of the night.
The mayor acknowledged ongoing problems with crime and violence, and he listed the names of several recent youths who have died violently, including 14-year-old Jahkema Princess Hansen and 17-year-old James Richardson, who was fatally shot at Ballou High School on Monday.
Williams assigned Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey to come up with a security plan for Ballou in the next 10 days and said police should take control of security in schools. Administration officials said yesterday that it was not clear how that would be done, although the police may oversee security while continuing to rely partly on the private guards working there.
"Tonight, I am asking the police department to take control over security at our public schools," Williams said. "I want our police officers to make sure doors are locked and guns never make it into our schools. I want them to get out there, get to know the children in the schools, to pick them up when they are truant, to understand what they are up against at home."
That proposal has found some support on the D.C. Council, but some members are wary, questioning whether the department has enough officers to patrol streets and schools.
"The police have enough to do," said council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4).
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