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Back to Mayor’s main pageCompanion budget proposal and strategic plan

State of the District Address
Mayor Anthony A. Williams
March 6, 2000




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(202) 727-6224
Embargoed For Release at the Conclusion of the Speech Contact: Lydia Sermons
Peggy Armstrong
Text as Prepared for Delivery
March 6, 2000
(202) 236-4836 (cell)

Mayor Anthony A. Williams

State of the District Address at Ballou High School

I'd like to begin by thanking the students of Ballou High School, their parents and families, and co-principals Dr. Bridges and Dr. Durham for making us feel so welcome.

I also want to recognize Senator Hutchison, Congressmembers Norton and Davis, Chairman Rivlin and members of the Control Board, as well as Chairman Cropp, Members of the City Council, Ethel Kennedy and all of our distinguished guests, and most of all, the people of the District of Columbia, who are working so hard to turn the comer.

I'd also like to introduce my cabinet. Stand up folks. I'm proud that this team represents the spirit, the optimism as well as the diversity of the city.

Finally, I'd like to mention three people who inspire me daily to make our city the best it can be -- my mother, Virginia Hayes Williams, my daughter Asantewa, and of course my wife Diane.

Diane tells ale that she's thinking of starting her own T.V. gameshow, asking the question: Who Wants to Marry a Mayor?

When we thought about where we might hold the State of the District Address, we had many generous offers. But I wanted to come to an institution representing the vital center of our city, the vital future of our city, Ballou High School. Because the young people we need to educate are right here. The teachers and parents we need to rally around are right here. A neighborhood we need to energize is right here.

This school, these kids, and this community, symbolize the State of our District. Ballou embodies our hopes and our most profound challenges; our deepest passions, our pains and our potential.

Most of all, I am here because I believe educating our young people is no more and no less than the central driving force for any community that aspires to greatness.

Last November, the citizens of the District met my challenge to join me in creating a vision and a strategic plan for the city's future. More than 3,000 of you came together to set an agenda and define priorities for the 2001 budget. You spoke loud and clear: the City's priorities must be education, revitalizing our neighborhoods and investing in our children and families. Tonight, I want to tell you how we are going to do that.

First, fixing the schools.

Under Superintendent Ackerman, our schools have made important strides. And we can do even more as a community.

Over the years, reform has come in stops and starts. But I'm digging in, committing my leadership and the full weight of my office to pull us through a reform agenda.

This year we worked with the Council to pass legislation to reform the School Board. For the sake of these students, we must approve this change in the referendum this summer. But I want you to do more than vote yes, I want you to get even more involved to help build a school system that really works.

I'm going to take the first step. Tonight, I'm committing full funding for our public schools and a substantial increase for charter schools -- an overall increase of more than $80 million in next year's budget. And I am delighted to say that Councilman Chavous, our Education Chairman, has offered his leadership and support for our education proposals. Thank you, Kevin.

Make no mistake, my budget for next year is an education budget.

As part of this investment, I am launching a major effort to attract and retain the best principals and teachers -- women and men who pour themselves into theft jobs and your children's lives.

Last year, I fought for an eight percent raise for our teachers. And this year, I'm supporting the Superintendent's request for another three percent raise for teachers and special pay incentives for those who go the extra mile.

We're also going to hire more teachers. We're investing more than $3 million to create a fellowship program that will help us hire 100 successful professionals from other fields, who are called to begin new careers as teachers, enriching our schools with theft minds and their hearts and their know-how.

Tonight, with the support of the Superintendent and the business community, I'm proud to announce a new "Lead Principals" initiative. Together, we will recruit 30 top-notch principals -- real education leaders from around the nation, the region and the city. They will be well paid, will sign on for a three-year commitment, and will serve as mentors for their colleagues in other schools. The fact is, all across this city, good principals like Gwendolyn Bacchus at Burrville Elementary School can and do make a difference. Eighty-six percent of Burrville's students score at or above basic in math -- and they've even started their own student run credit union.

We also must continue to modernize our school buildings. This year, we're investing $59 million to renovate schools across the city. Next year, I want to almost double that commitment -- and invest $100 million to continue our efforts to modernize eight schools a year for the next 10 years.

Right now, about one in every six classrooms is wired for the Internet. Next year, I'm proposing that we commit the resources to bring the Internet to every classroom, lab and library in our schools. It's within our reach, it's the right thing to do and it's about time.

Many of the students of Whittier Elementary have been waiting almost four months for chairs to sit in, and some don't even have a desk. This is absurd. It's time to fix our broken school purchasing system so that teachers get the books and supplies and yes, even computers they need, on time, when they need them.

Those of you in the business world may find this hard to believe, but many of our teachers don't have their own phone at work. My budget includes funds to get every teacher a phone and a voicemail, so they'll be able to set up a "Homework Hotline" for parents to find out what's happening in class.

We can't afford to take chances with our children's safety. That's why, as part of my school violence initiative, I'm proposing that we assign a uniformed police officer to every public school.

We must also do more for kids after school, before school, on the weekends and in the summers. I'm proud to tell you that last year we committed $15 million to create -- at a minimum -- 30 community-run afterschool and out-of-school programs this year. And we will keep going until every young person in the city has access to at least one of these opportunities.

And finally, if we want our students to succeed, we must show them that their hard work will pay off. Starting this fall, thanks to the support of Congresswoman Norton, Congressman Davis, Senator Hutchison, President Clinton and my administration, graduating high school students can get in-state tuition rates at state schools in Maryland and Virginia, through our Tuition Assistance Program. They can also get a tuition discount to attend one of the fine higher education institutions in this city.

Paying teachers what they deserve, recruiting great leaders as principals, assigning a police officer to every school, Internet access, good facilities, afterschool programs and a ticket to college. That's an education agenda for the 21st Century.

What difference does education make? Just ask Lopi Quinteros, who came here 19 years ago from El Salvador not speaking English. She had to adapt to a new country and a new culture. She graduated from Wilson High School with honors, and went on to earn her college degree while serving as Director of Education at the Latin American Youth Center.

But Ms. Quinteros has another story, one you may remember, marked by gun violence. Last June, she was shot just outside of her job at the Youth Center. Thankfully, she survived the attack, and she's shown the courage to go right back to work. I'm grateful that she's able to join us tonight. Ms. Quinteros, you are an inspiration.

And that leads me to my next priority: creating safe communities.

You probably expect me to talk to you about the positive trends over the last year -- and I will. We've added an extra police shift to get more officers working when crime is highest -- from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Violent crime went down by 14 percent. Our new Mobile Force made more than 10,000 arrests, seized almost 200 guns and more than $1.7 million worth of drugs. But there's another reality I want to talk about tonight -- a reality that's more real, because it's human.

Since the first day of classes, 13 school age children have been murdered in this city -- six of whom were students right here at Ballou High School. They played m this gym, walked these halls and learned from these teachers.

These losses are indescribably painful for the families and friends of those students. And think how difficult it must be for every student in this school to walk through these doors the day after one of their friends died, sit down in class and see the empty chair of a fallen classmate. What is courage? Courage is what our kids display every day when they say no to violence and yes to opportunity.

Last month, it was my honor to meet Tre Aundra Stover, Ballou's student body president, whose courage and leadership we could use more of in this city. Let me say to Tre and all the other students of Ballou: you are our greatest natural resource, and I believe in you.

Let me just tell you six things I'm proposing to make our communities safer.

First, we're going to get more guns off the streets. Last summer we collected almost 3,000 guns through our buyback program. This year, we're going to keep that going. And we have launched a major lawsuit to face down the gun industry and its wild, wild west mentality.

Second, we need more officers on the streets. We have more than 3,400 officers on our police force, but not enough of them are patrolling our streets. Chief Ramsey is working to get officers out from behind desks and on patrol, and we're going to hire another 125 officers next year. But we can't do it alone. Because every day, more than 500 police officers are stuck down at the courthouse, waiting for hours -- even days at a time -- to testify in a hearing that may or may not be held. That's inexcusable.

Tonight, I'm issuing a challenge to the courts and to the prosecuting agencies to free up these officers to get back on the streets where we need them.

Third, we need to board up more vacant buildings where people are hanging out, getting high and committing crimes. This year I'm committing to board up 1,500 nuisance properties throughout our city.

Fourth, we need to put juvenile offenders on notice, rather than putting them on the back burner. Tonight, I'm calling on police officers, probation officers, truancy officers and court social service workers to provide coordinated supervision. Yes, we're going to continue enforcing the curfew. We're also going to provide counseling, drug treatment, afterschool programs, mentoring and conflict resolution that empower young people to make smart decisions with their lives. And if you are willing to help in your community, we are going to make progress. They did it in Boston, and we can do it here.

Fifth, we need to promote public safety by expanding drug and alcohol treatment. Last year, we created a thousand new treatment slots. This year, we're going create even more, including another thousand slots specifically for drug offenders. And we'll do it not by increasing the budget but by using your tax dollars more efficiently.

And sixth, we must continue to fight back with every resource we have against open-air drug markets. This year we focused the energies of community leaders, police, housing inspectors, public works crews and our federal partners like the U.S. Attorney's Office. Working together in six drug-plagued neighborhoods, we've seen clear results: crime is down in every neighborhood -- and in some neighborhoods by more than 50 percent. And we're not going to rest until we've shut down those drag markets for good.

But folks, we're not doing this alone. It took the efforts of people like Gloria Robinson and Reverend Anthony Motley and ANC Commissioner Winifred Freeman and many others from the Forrester and Galveston community who came together to form the Far Southeast-Southwest revitalization task force.

Crime isn't the only threat to safety in our neighborhoods. I believe we have the most dedicated fire department in the country, and they should have everything they need to do their jobs well.

By the end of this year, we'll have 18 new pumper trucks, six new ladder trucks, three heavy rescue trucks, and 25 new ambulances. And that's just the beginning.

Along with that, we'll keep working to improve 911. Yon should expect more than same day service. The new 311 line for non-emergencies will make a big difference, and so will new equipment and delivery systems. Our goal is straightforward: no more busy signals, no more disconnected calls and no more half-hour waits.

You know, this is the longest running period of economic prosperity in our nation's history. And I want that prosperity to reach into every part of our capital city -- whether you live east of the River, west of the park or anywhere in between.

Even with almost 50,000 households and a combined income of almost $2 billion, there we only two supermarkets east of the River. Ladies and gentlemen, that's going to change.

By the time I give my next State of the District address, we will have broken ground for two additional supermarkets east of the River.

Since the day I took office, we've used our revenue bond program to generate a record-breaking $1.5 billion of private investment in our city -- that's more investment in just 14 months than in the previous 5 years combined.

My goal is to make our city number one in creating new homeownership. And we're well on our way. More than 2,000 homes are in the pipeline for this ward alone. And I'm proposing $22 million over the next three years to demolish more than 1,000 units of vacant and abandoned housing throughout the city to make way for new homes.

I'm also proposing funds to hire 24 new housing inspectors to work with our neighborhoods to preserve and protect our existing housing. It's time to put some muscle behind our efforts.

Alongside the many new developments are the historic pillars which renew and sustain our communities. Last month, we witnessed the rebirth of one of them, thanks to Fred Taylor, Executive Director of For the Love of Children. Nearly 20 years after closing its doors, the Anthony Bowen YMCA was reborn as the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage. Mr. Taylor is proof of what Dr. King said, "Everyone can be great, because anybody can serve."

We're doing more to support small and local companies that create jobs for our citizens. In the last year, we've more than doubled contracting awards to local, small and disadvantaged businesses -- from $69 million to more than $150 million. And we have increased the pool of applicants for these contract dollars from 400 to more than 700 businesses.

I want to ensure that young people can take part in the economy we're building. That's why I'm asking for $4.5 million to expand job-training opportunities for 3,300 more young people.

Our Summerworks program took a record 10,000 kids off the streets and got them into productive summer jobs, where they learned skills and responsibility. And I'm proud to tell you, my goal is to have a year-round youth employment program.

Since we want young people to have some fun, we also launched a major effort to improve our parks and playgrounds. Since the day I took office, we've renovated 20 playgrounds, 20 basketball and tennis courts, 13 ballfields and three recreation centers. We opened a new pool, two teen centers and 26 Computer Learning Centers where seniors, adults and young people can surf the net and find out how cool computer geeks really are.

We've got some kids here tonight who represent all the good programs we run through our Parks and Recreation Department. I'd like you all to meet Allan Russell, John Parlow, Harold Parker, Dayon Drayton, ages 10 through 13. They've participated in city sponsored boxing tournaments, and this year, each of them won a Silver Glove National Championship, while maintaining high academic performance. They're not only star athletes, they're stellar students. Give these guys a hand!

And fellas, education and athletics really do pay off. Take Vince Cohen, who is here tonight. He's a long-lime resident of our city and a very successful lawyer. He's also a leader in the effort to rebuild downtown and has recently been selected for the Syracuse University All-Century Men's Basketball team. Congratulations Vince.

Two years ago our city joined with 46 states in a lawsuit against the tobacco industry which will cut teen smoking and generate more than a billion dollars for the District. I want to focus these funds to support our core priorities: health, education, families, and nothing short of a comprehensive tobacco control and prevention program.

A healthy community also means a healthy environment. I've made a commitment to plant 6,000 trees this year. And I'm committing more than $5 million this year to continue our effort to clean up the Anacostia River -- which represents the rebirth of our city, from East to West. Tonight, I'm also proud to announce that I will be asking for the Council's support to begin developing Heritage and Kingman Island as a learning lab for children and wildlife sanctuary for future generations to enjoy.

Government can't develop a program for every problem, but we can and should deliver high quality services to all citizens.

For preschool children, we can redouble our efforts and create 1,800 new childcare slots by the end of the year. Parents shouldn't have to make a choice between childcare and a job.

For low-income children who often go hungry, we can partner with churches and other community organizations to provide meals and nutrition programs in the summers, on weekends and when schools are closed.

For seniors, we must continue to insist on full funding for the Office on Aging to support the programs that enrich the lives of people like Rupert Clark Sr., who will celebrate his 102nd birthday later this year.

For those who are underserved by our health system, we need to follow through on what our health commission advised us to do. We should provide a community based doctor's office that's easily accessible to every home in the District. We should provide new or improved comprehensive care for 18,000 uninsured residents. And we should use Medicaid to expand health insurance to more than 14,000 people.

And finally, we must not turn away from foster children like Brianna Blackmond or from persons with mental retardation and developmental disabilities who are entrusted in our care.

Two decades of neglect has taken a toll. Lives have been lost, dreams destroyed and dignity stolen.

This is intolerable, and it will stop on my watch. No one is more outraged than me. I was a foster child myself and my mother adopted me when they said I was retarded. I'll never forget the lesson she taught me: There are no disposable people.

We must shine the bright lights of accountability into our foster care system, root out mismanagement, root out abuse, and do what is necessary to bring this agency out of receivership and into normal government. Because what happened to Brianna must never, ever happen again.

And you have my commitment here tonight that we are going to make a multimillion dollar investment to build a new system to support developmentally disabled people in our care.

First, we're going to cut the staff-to-client ratio in half.

Second, we will create new alternatives to "group homes" -- menu of options that provide the appropriate support to allow individuals to live as independently as possible and to contribute to our communities.

Finally, we will create an independent monitoring arm to oversee and ensure quality services for every person in our care. We will provide lay and legal advocates to make sure they get the referrals and services they need.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are broad goals for our city. Strengthening education, stopping crime, building healthy communities and continuing our economic recovery are goals not for one year or one administration, but for every administration and for all time.

And for us to achieve these goals, we need a government that works.

As I told you the last lime I spoke to you by phone, government has to pick up the trash on time, all the time. We should settle for no less than a gold standard of customer service.

And we're getting there. So far, I'd say we've earned a bronze. The phones are getting answered at 727-1000. The Thomas Circle underpass is open. We squashed the Y2K bug and zapped the backlog of electrical inspections at DCRA.

Balanced budgets are becoming normal again, and our new website, washingtondc.gov, is becoming a virtual "c-government," providing a range of online services, from renewing your auto registration to reporting abandoned cars to requesting bulk trash pickup.

I'm still not satisfied with our progress down at DMV. But, let me tell you what we have done.

DMV is now open until 3:00 p.m. on Wednesdays. You can renew tags online or at drop boxes in your neighborhood. We have a new customer service center. And our lines have improved from hell to purgatory.

In the short-term, we will be opening temporary satellite DMV locations. And over the long-term, we will have a new location with lots of parking.

Now that we've raised the standards, I want you to hold government accountable as we go to bat for the District. So I'm going to do something a little unconventional.

Later this month, I will release a "scorecard" of specific commitments that you can expect from your government -- commitments you asked us to make through Neighborhood Action. We'll print up these scorecards, and make them publicly available. It'll be like a baseball card -- with specific goals, deadlines and even a picture.

My agency directors will have their own scorecards. But since I'm the manager of this team, I'll go first, with my own scorecard of goals I intend to achieve by this summer. Here's an example of what it might look like.

We're going to post the scorecards around the city, and you'll be able to track our progress on our web site. Fellow teammates, spring training is over, It's time to play ball.

Like any team manager, I want my team to be number one, We are creating the most competitive government in the nation. That means providing better services and using your tax dollars efficiently. My budget invests in your priorities, and it won't break the bank. I will continue to focus my energies to reduce the cost of government. Because the bottom line is this: our financial recovery is still fragile, and we simply cannot afford risky budgetary policies that could send us back to the bad old days of fiscal meltdowns.

At our Neighborhood Forum in January, 84 percent of you and your neighbors said that you'd prefer more and better services to a tax cut. And I agree -- now is not the time. We need to build on the momentum of the past year, improve quality of life, improve services and attract new residents.

My budget will reflect the values of the Citizen Summit -- children, education, neighborhoods, safety, health, economic growth, quality services for citizens, and a bold faith that we can achieve, together.

I am asking you to join me in creating partnerships in every neighborhood in this city so that we can make the vision of Neighborhood Action a reality.

So where are we now? What is the state of our District, on March 6th of the Year 2000, at Ballou High School -- point zero at the epicenter of democracy?

We are gaining strength. We are moving forward. We are coming together.

Unemployment is down. Wages are up. Crime is way down. Housing sales are way up. Budgets are being balanced again. Our bond rating is back up. Residents are coming back, and believe it or not, the rat population is starting to leave.

We're being thought of as the hub of a great regional economy, rather than the empty center of an expanding ring.

But we cannot rest. We've just begun to rebuild. We've just begun to make our vision reality.

To keep our sense of perspective, we need only look back at the faces of our future, the children of tomorrow, the young women and men of Ballou High School, a school with heart, here in America's home town -- and the capital of the world.

These students have shown hard-won courage on the battlefields of life.

They have the courage to study algebra when it's not easy.

They have the courage to learn Spanish because it's new.

They have the courage to surround themselves with people who will challenge them to succeed, not drag them down.

They have the courage to face the tragedy of an empty chair and come back to school the next day and all the days after that, believing in themselves and their families and this city that we call home.

And, they have the courage to care about tomorrow.

If they can display that kind of courage, surely we who are grown can have the courage to come together and make the changes we must, so that this great city supports their great dreams. God Bless you, and thank you very much.

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