AS D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) approaches her 100th day in office, a clearer picture is emerging of her priorities and how she hopes to achieve them. She has put together an impressive administrative team and taken an approach to issues confronting the city that is thoughtful but decisive. While her mayoralty is still in its infancy, residents should be encouraged by her early weeks in office.
The latest evidence of her administration’s sound approach was this week’s rollout of policy initiatives and a proposed budget. The mayor’s $12.9 billion draft spending plan will be subject to council action and no doubt will need to undergo scrutiny and adjustments. There is no question, though, that she rightly identified the areas — education, affordable housing and homelessness, Metro, fire and emergency medical services — that demand attention, and the broad solutions she has outlined are responsible.
The proposed 3.2 percent growth in spending is the smallest in five years, and it’s smart to target inefficient programs, such as the University of the District of Columbia, for cuts while preserving the middle-class income-tax reduction that went into effect this year.
In formulating her budget, Ms. Bowser held a series of hearings to learn what the public sees as the District’s biggest problems. It was a departure from past practice, in which public hearings were held at the back end to explain the budget, and it speaks to a collaborative style. She also met with members of the D.C. Council, and her proposal includes some of their priorities. Similar inclusiveness can be seen in her selection of a cabinet. She enlisted a wide range of people in both the private and public sectors to help her identify, interview and recruit people for city jobs. Her appointments, which include officials from the federal government and other states, have been widely praised for their experience and diversity.
There have been missteps. The city’s response to this year’s snowstorms could have been better, as Ms. Bowser has acknowledged. She showed inexperience in dealing with the fatal smoke incident on Metro, and we were troubled by how peremptorily she pulled the plug on a proposed museum for the former Franklin School. On the other hand, she was adept in standing up for the District’s interests in a showdown with House Republicans over a voter-approved initiative to legalize marijuana. The national attention she received was a welcome change for a city that too often has been in the spotlight because of the misdeeds of its officials. Integrity in government, Ms. Bowser made clear in her State of the District speech, will be a paramount priority: “Accountability is embedded in everything this administration does.”
The first 100 days of any administration are not dispositive of what will eventually be accomplished, but they provide a foundation. That an unusually competitive general election truncated Ms. Bowser’s transition period makes her sure-footed start all the more noteworthy.