Mayor Anthony A. Williams announced he would not seek a third term in a speech at the Hillcrest Recreation Center in Southeast last week. Below is an excerpt of those remarks.
Seven years ago, on beautiful Kingman Island, not far from here, I began my candidacy for mayor of the District of Columbia. Most of us remember the state of our city on that day.
We were under the thumb of the Control Board. We were bankrupt -- our finances a wreck.
City services, like garbage pickup and street paving, were abysmal. Potholes sat unfilled. Our DMV was long on lines, short on service. Telephones would ring unanswered, and customer service was unheard of.
Revenues were down. Spending was out of control. Our downtown was a ghost town, a place people feared after dark. As a city, we were closed for business. Homes were abandoned. Crime was sky-high. And, worst of all, the reins of city government were being pulled by Congress -- instead of by citizens in charge of their own destiny.
But we rose up. . . . We put our house back in order. We sent the control board packing, two years ahead of schedule.
Agencies emerged from receivership. We balanced eight budgets in a row. We now have a large surplus, and a $300 million rainy-day fund to protect citizens if the economy turns sour. We repaired our relationship with the federal government.
We returned our rightful elected leaders to the Wilson Building.
City services rose from the basement to the top floor. We launched the Mayor's Call Center. We went from junk-bond status to an "A" bond rating. We created thousands of new homeowners. We boosted our number of police to 3,900, trained them better and reduced violent crime by 34 percent. Together, we spread economic development across all eight wards. Together, we created a government that actually responds to citizen requests. . . .
As your Mayor, I have led this city to the threshold of greatness. We have opened the door, and prepared this city to walk through it. But I have come to tell you today that I will not be the one to lead you through that door.
I am announcing that I will not seek re-election to a third term as mayor of the District of Columbia.
My biggest reason for not serving a third term is the feeling that it's time for a change. Time for me to begin a new chapter in my life and to look for new challenges.
As I look around the city, I am incredibly proud of what we've accomplished.
New retail opportunities for our residents -- places like Home Depot, Gallery Place, Best Buy, Container Store, new Giant food stores in Brentwood and Columbia Heights, a Storehouse furniture in Ward 1, and a revitalized neighborhood in Barracks Row.
We opened the new convention center and we're redeveloping the site of the old one.
On the horizon, we have the Southeast Federal Center, a Costco in Fort Lincoln, a new grocery store in Ward 8, a Target in Columbia Heights, two Harris Teeter grocery stores, a new National Portrait Gallery and the Newseum in Penn Quarter.
This year alone, we've opened new affordable housing at Henson Ridge in Ward 8, Capitol Gateway in Northeast, and the Fairmont Apartments in Ward 1.
We've got our waterfront plan that begins the Anacostia River's renewal and rebirth. It's my belief that the Anacostia River will be one of the great urban rivers in our country and a symbol of our city's renewal.
Adding to that renewal is baseball. I fought hard and succeeded in bringing a baseball team back to our city after a 34-year absence. . . .
In a few years, a new ballpark will rise on the shores of the Anacostia. The ballpark will be an economic engine -- creating jobs, and luring fans from near and far.
But the ballpark is just one piece in a mosaic of a revitalized Anacostia waterfront. My "New Communities" and "Way to Work" initiatives will do more to rebuild some of our poorest neighborhoods, and provide jobs for people who live there. I firmly believe that prosperity in our city can benefit and will benefit all residents.
Our schools, our universities, and our libraries are the backbone of instruction and teaching. We must build them up if we want our children to succeed.
Over the next year, I want our city to take more steps towards bridging the "digital divide." Together, we're going to make it easier for people of any background to harness the incredible potential of the Internet.
My priorities also include building a new hospital so residents in Wards 6, 7 and 8 don't have to travel to Northwest for medical care.
In January 2007, when my term is up, I want to leave this city even better than it is today.