NO MATTER what decisions District voters make on Tuesday, there will be change: a new mayor, the first elected attorney general and at least three new members on the 13-member D.C. Council. The changing of the guard means opportunity, including to clear the cloud that has hung over a city besmirched by the actions of disgraced council members and suspicions about the mayor.
But with the possibilities come challenges. Some are known — how to achieve quality schools, keep city living affordable, get people into jobs and diversify the economy in the face of a shrinking federal presence. Unanticipated challenges are also sure to arise. The District will need the right kind of leadership.
Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), whom we have endorsed, has demonstrated by her experience on the council, her conduct during a long campaign and her aspirations for the next four years that she has the skills and sensibilities to tackle both known and unknown difficulties. Typical of her pragmatic approach to governing was her success in winning council consensus for an overhaul of ethics laws that, as municipal ethics expert Robert Wechsler recently told The Post’s Mike DeBonis, “basically put D.C. from having no effective program to having one of the better ones.”
During debates with her opponents in the general election, Ms. Bowser displayed a mastery of the issues, and her campaign, by and large, has been positive. “I have no doubt that the District’s best days are yet to come,” Ms. Bowser wrote in a 41-page campaign document that delves into subjects that have gotten less attention in a campaign dominated by debate on public education, affordable housing and the style and temperament of candidates. For example:
●More than 80 percent of emergency calls to the city’s beleaguered department of fire and emergency services are for medical issues, not fires, but the department has failed to adjust. Ms. Bowser has promised to find a new chief who has the requisite medical services background.
●The city spends $100 million each year on workforce development, with little effect. Much of the money goes to contractors, who too often train people to write resumes for jobs that don’t exist. Ms. Bowser instead wants companies that are doing real work to help train residents for jobs that do exist. She envisions the city partnering with the private sector to align job training with industry demands, and possibly leveraging city construction contracts to help establish apprenticeships.
●Every mayoral candidate promises to help struggling neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. Often those promises don’t come to much after the election. Ms. Bowser says she will name and empower a deputy mayor to focus on issues in Wards 7 and 8. We’re not sure that’s the wisest organizational choice, but her commitment to pay attention beyond the election is important. She stresses that solutions have to extend beyond attracting grocery stores and restaurants, with improving east-west transportation a priority.
We don’t suggest that Ms. Bowser has all the answers; refreshingly, Ms. Bowser doesn’t suggest as much either. Instead she vows to surround herself with capable, hardworking and committed people. We hope voters on Tuesday will give her that chance.