The State of the District is Great!
On Tuesday evening, February 5 the Mayor delivered his State of the District Speech to a packed house at the historic restored synagogue on 6th and Eye Street. It was a location fitting a speech about a restored city.
In two short years the Mayor and his administration have worked successfully to replenish the city's reserve fund; produce an unparalleled economic development boom; and improved both the scope and efficiency in which basic city services are delivered. In the Mayor's words using baseball analogies he said, "The District is now a big-league city".
The Mayor gave credit to previous administrations and singled out retiring CFO Natwar Gandhi for his part in restoring our city's finances. He saluted former Mayor Anthony Williams for the goal he set to bring 100,000 new tax paying residents to the District. In the last 24 months the city has attracted more than 1,100 people a month and while it may have taken a little longer than Mayor Williams wanted the Gray administration is working successfully to fulfill that pledge.
The Mayor highlighted specific programs such as his One Hire program, through which 5,300 previously unemployed D.C. residents have gotten jobs with nearly 900 participating employers. The Mayor proudly said, "The lion's share of people we've helped to find work live in areas of the city where unemployment is the highest - Wards 5, 7 and 8".
He touted that under his administration, by improving services to some of the District's most vulnerable residents, the city has taken back local control of many government functions that the courts had imposed federal management over decades ago. This includes services to special-education students and people who are mentally ill. The city has either ended or is very close to ending the Petties, Blackmon, Dixon, LaShawn, and Evans cases. In the Dixon lawsuit the city had been under federal court oversight for 37 years!
The Mayor is justly proud that his administration has completed the construction of nearly 1,500 units of affordable housing and broken ground on an additional 1,700 units and that last year he was able to announce $35 million in financing to create and preserve additional affordable housing. But he agreed that more needed to be done. To a standing ovation he proposed a major affordable-housing initiative that will invest $100 million in building and preserving an additional 10,000 units of affordable housing. He said, and the crowd clearly agreed, that these investments in affordable housing will go a long way towards ensuring we remain the type of compassionate, inclusive city we want to be.
The Mayor announced that in the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget he will transmit to the Council in March he is proposing the establishment of the One City Fund, a $15 million investment fund that will allow non-profits to compete openly and transparently for one-year grants of up to $100,000 for projects that advance the city's key goals. These include: Growing and diversifying our economy; Educating or preparing our residents for the emerging new economy; increasing our city's sustainability; or improving the quality of life for our residents.
The Mayor also set a new ambitious goal of creating 100,000 jobs and $1 billion of new tax revenue for the District over the next five years. He said this will be accomplished by implementing a strategy of diversifying the city's economy and growing established and emerging sectors like hospitality, health care, and technology.
All in all any person who views our city fairly will agree that the State of the District has never been better.