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Mayor Adrian Fenty
State of the District Address 2007
March 21, 2007




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Moving Forward Faster: The 2007 State of the District Address

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Congress Heights Senior Wellness Center

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Council, Congress Heights seniors and fellow District residents, good afternoon.

I want to thank Alethea Campbell, the vice-president of DC Commission on Aging, for her introduction – and Councilmember Marion Barry for his welcome today. How about a round of applause for our Congress Heights seniors and the seniors across the District who are watching?

I also want to thank the other members of the Council, under Chairman Vincent Gray. We have a great partnership in running this government, and I’m grateful for your support.

Seventy-eight days ago, I took office as Mayor with a promise of a better future for the entire District of Columbia.

A future that recognizes the extraordinary progress our city has made – along with the challenges we must face together.

So there is much to accomplish, but much to be proud of as well.

And that is why I am here today to tell you that the state of the District has never been stronger.

Seventy-eight days ago, I took office as Mayor of the District of Columbia on a pledge to move our city forward faster. I have already begun to do so.

You don’t have to look very far to find progress for our communities in Ward 8 and east of the river. My vision is one of a world-class city with no neighborhood left behind.

In the past 78 days, we’ve opened the new Anacostia Interim Library on Good Hope Road – with three times the number of public computers as the old branch. We’ve opened a new youth court drop-in center on Martin Luther King Avenue for young people who are interacting with the juvenile justice system. We broke ground on a state-of-the-art new facility for the Salvation Army on Martin Luther King Avenue, which will include nutrition classes, job training, day care and space for local businesses. We’ve also awarded $500,000 to 10 community organizations east of the river for HIV services. We laid the groundwork for affordable housing projects across the District, starting right here in Ward 8. And we’re moving forward with more retail in Ward 7 at the Skyland Shopping Center.

We’re working with the community to find the best use for the Strand Theatre, which will have new life after years of neglect. We’re partnering with the new owner of Penn Branch shopping center to bring in new retail opportunities. And we’ll have 115 units of workforce housing and 20,000 square feet of new retail at 2300 Pennsylvania.

We’re making swift, major progress in Ward 8, east of the river and across the entire District of Columbia.

Our police, fire and emergency management agencies have new leadership and new direction. I have given the Council of the District of Columbia my blueprint for aggressive, accountable education reform. And our government continues to make strides in doing its job more efficiently and effectively.

We’re picking up the phone when you call. In the last 78 days, our 911 operation has received 390,000 calls and answered them within 5 seconds or less 97.9% of the time. 311 call takers received 235,000 calls and answered them within 11 seconds 98.06% of the time. And 727-1000 received 340,000 calls, which were answered within 2.5 minutes, 99.8% of the time.

To put those numbers in perspective, we get more than 8 calls every minute of every hour of every day.

We’re opening the mail when you write. My correspondence unit has received more than 15,000 emails and about 4,000 postcards and letters since I took office in January.

And we’re in your neighborhood. In the past 78 days, staff from my Office of Community Relations and Services have attended nearly 500 community and civic association meetings. I’ve attended 47 of them myself.

We’re serious about public safety. My new police chief, Cathy Lanier, is making great strides in her department and in the community. She’s collected 2,300 community surveys to get a better sense of your priorities for the police.

The DC Emergency Management Agency has coordinated 39 special or emergency events in the last 78 days, starting with President Ford’s funeral and ending with last weekend’s peace march. And we’ve sent the fire trucks out more than 25,000 times.

We’re serious about education. One of my first acts in office was to create the position of Deputy Mayor for Education and to hire Victor Reinoso to fill it.

This month, we started testing the water for lead in 127 public and public charter schools.

Volunteers from our Serve DC program are helping. We’re working with the school system to fix the fountains in schools where the water is safe, and bringing in bottled water where it isn’t. We’ve brought in a $10 million grant from Fannie Mae to upgrade and improve access to school athletic facilities such as gyms and tracks. The grant will also help pay for teacher certification and help teachers who want to become homeowners with their down payments.

We’re serious about human services. We’re moving toward the end of court supervision over child welfare with a new agreement that will increase adoptions and foster care opportunities. We’ve awarded a contract for the new Department of Youth Rehabilitation services facility at Oak Hill. That agency is now taking over education and mental health services for its court-involved youth. And those youth are doing great things. They’ve gone to New Orleans to help rebuild homes after Hurricane Katrina and they’ve performed Macbeth at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

We’ve created a Department of Disability Services as a cabinet-level agency to better serve our developmentally-disabled neighbors. We’re proposing solutions to the shortage of shelter space for families, and developing a Housing First policy to end homelessness in the District. We went door to door to identify residents who don’t have heat – so we could help get it turned back on. And we’ve given energy assistance grants to 22,000 households.

We’ve finished the first year of the grandparent subsidy program, helping 423 children with subsidies to their 252 grandparents. And we’ve awarded $100,000 in grants to provide mentors to 100 young people in our care.

We’re serious about health care. We’ve reorganized the Department of Health to serve residents better. Developed a unique response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic for neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. Handed out 250,000 condoms to help prevent HIV and AIDS. Put together an inter-agency task force on lead in the water. Collected a $10 million federal grant to improve data collection. And we’re making major changes at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.

We’re serious about our infrastructure and environment. In the past 78 days, we’ve planted 1,815 trees. We’ve filled 3,400 potholes as requested by residents. We’ve picked up 21,000 tons of trash, 4,900 tons of recycling, and made 8,250 bulk trash pickups.

We’ve inspected almost 40,000 vehicles and adjudicated almost 45,000 traffic tickets.

We’ve started calming traffic in our neighborhoods. We’ve put 10 new and upgraded traffic signals online. We’ve created a new taxi map that’s easier to understand and a new map for cyclists too. We extended service on the DC Circulator and put a new Georgia Avenue express bus, Metro Extra, on the streets just this week.

We have a new “Street Smart” pedestrian safety program. And we’ve bought backup generators to keep important traffic lights running even when the power goes out.

We’re making sure our parks and recreation facilities are ready for the spring and summer seasons, and we’ve opened registration for summer camp. We rebuilt and reopened the Trinidad recreation center. And we held the first of many Teen Nights at our rec centers to give young people something safe and fun to do.

We’re implementing the Green Building Act that the Council passed last year. We’ve signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors climate protection agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming.

We’re serious about economic opportunity for all. Economic development and affordable housing don’t have to be at odds. To make sure they’re not, I’ve put them in the same agency. I’ve appointed an Affordable Housing Coordinator, Leslie Steen, who works under my Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Neil Albert. We’re underwriting the construction of up to 2,000 affordable housing units to start this year.

We’re moving forward on the Southwest and Anacostia Waterfronts. We’ve designed a comprehensive workforce development strategy. And we have a new, multi-agency program called Operation Nail Gun that targets dishonest contractors.

We’re serious about making government work better and more openly. To help me make faster, better decisions, I’ve put all of my top staff together in the same room. And I’ve streamlined the offices of the Mayor and City Administrator by eliminating three Deputy Mayor positions.

The Office of Human Rights has reduced its backlog of cases by 40 percent.

At the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Interim Director Lisa Morgan is building a new permit center. DCRA has also issued almost 1,500 basic business licenses and conducted almost 6,000 building inspections in the last 78 days.

And you don’t have to leave your house or wait in line to file for unemployment anymore. The Department of Employment Services is taking unemployment claims over the phone for the first time. That agency has given face-to-face help to almost 4,500 residents. We’ve placed about 1,900 residents in jobs too.

We have made great progress in the first 78 days of my administration. But the best is yet to come.

This Friday, I will deliver my Fiscal Year 2008 budget to the Council. It's the blueprint that sets our priorities for the coming year and beyond. This 8-billion-dollar budget will move the District forward faster for every resident.

We’ve gone agency by agency and line by line, looking at what works and what doesn’t. The result is a budget that will invest in some areas and reduce in others. We have major improvements in store in the areas of education; public safety; healthcare; human services; infrastructure and environment; economic development and affordable housing; and government operations and financing.

And we will do all of these things without raising taxes.

I decided to give my first State of the District address at Congress Heights Senior Wellness Center as a symbol of my commitment to a great quality of life for District residents of all ages. We have so much to learn from our seniors because they are the living history of our city. They're also a significant part of the population – nearly one of every six District residents is over the age of 60.

Our government will continue to help you receive the best in medical care and transportation, and to help you live independently in your own homes. And in the past 78 days, our Office on Aging has delivered services to more than 13,000 seniors. We’ve opened a nutrition site in Ward 1 at Sarah’s Circle, and we’re about to open another in Ward 8 at Ft. Dupont Park Apartments.

We’ve signed a Triad Agreement – putting senior citizens, law enforcement and service organizations together to help keep our seniors safe. And we had a law enforcement symposium for seniors last month, complete with information about the kind of consumer crimes that target our older residents.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the great American poet, said: 
“Age is opportunity no less,
Than youth itself, in another dress.”

The opportunities Longfellow spoke of can be found right here in this room.

Our District of Columbia senior wellness centers are one of the best examples of how government agencies can work together to help residents. We have meals, activities, fitness and arts programs under a single roof. These programs help keep our older residents healthy and productive.

The good news is that these centers are doing great. The even better news is that we're opening more of them. The Ward Four senior wellness center on Kennedy Street is set to open in a matter of weeks, and the Ward One senior wellness center on Georgia Avenue is set to break ground in a matter of months.

So that’s a small sampling of what we’ve done and why we’re here.

Seventy-eight days ago, I took office as Mayor of the District of Columbia on a pledge to move public safety forward.

In the last 78 days, Chief Cathy Lanier has begun a customized community policing program. We have 140 more officers on foot and on bicycles, patrolling the streets. And we’ll have even more soon. Every district commander has the flexibility to do what's best for every neighborhood. Forming relationships with the neighbors. And stopping crime before it starts.

So you'll see the police walking the beat again soon, if you haven't already.

We’re making the District a safer place for our young people, both in school and on the way to and from school. Our Safe Schools initiative brings together the local and federal governments and nonprofit groups. It has two components. Safe Routes focuses on heavily traveled streets that students use to walk to school. And violence-free zones are a project of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, the East Capitol Center for Change and Peaceaholics. It puts young adults and students together to diffuse situations at school before they lead to violence. We’re beginning the program here east of the river, at Johnson Junior High School and Anacostia Senior High.

Chief Lanier has also brought back the Officer Friendly program, so students can have positive interactions with law enforcement and help prevent crime. And she’s automating the department’s paperwork, starting with 110 laptops for the top performing officers.

My budget proposal also includes funding for 300 new police officers. We're going to get them hired, trained and sent out into the neighborhoods as quickly as we can. We’re also bringing in 82 new civilians to the Metropolitan Police Department to do administrative work. This means at least 82 officers who are now doing these jobs can hit the streets as well. The District of Columbia isn’t an island when it comes to public safety. So we’re working with Governor Tim Kaine in Virginia and Governor Martin O’Malley in Maryland on regional homeland security issues. And we’ve established a first-in-the-nation regional wireless network for law enforcement use.

We're expanding our re-entry programs for ex-offenders. By coaching ex-offenders on literacy, job skills and parenting, we make it less likely that they'll commit more crimes. That means safer streets, fewer calls for service and less overcrowding in the jail.

And big changes are already underway for our fire and emergency medical services.

Last year, a retired journalist's life was needlessly cut short because the city dropped the ball when he was attacked. As part of our settlement with David Rosenbaum's family, we have a task force starting a top-to-bottom review of the delivery of all emergency medical services. The Rosenbaum family decided what they really wanted was to make sure there would be no more tragedies like theirs.

I share their wish, and I look forward to the task force getting its work underway.

Looking forward, we've also brought four new ambulances on board to improve response times. I’m also proposing a pilot program to put DC Emergency Medical Services staff at six hospitals in the District – so we can turn around ambulances and get them back on the streets faster.

We’re looking at quality control and the patient experience. Fire/EMS is getting ready to distribute a survey card to every patient who goes to the hospital in an ambulance. These will be available in English and Spanish. And we’re bringing an electronic reporting program online to keep better track of patient records.

We have a new fire chief, Dennis Rubin, taking his post next month. He started his career as a firefighter in the District at the age of 19, and was first in his class. He’s a native Washingtonian who grew up in Trinidad, and I look forward to having his decades of experience back here in his hometown.

Seventy-eight days ago, I took office as Mayor of the District of Columbia on a pledge to move education forward.

As you know, I've also been talking quite a bit lately about putting someone new in charge of the public schools in the District of Columbia. And that person is me.

I have proposed transforming not just the school system, but the entire infrastructure behind public education in the District of Columbia. Great schools are not enough. Supports and services are not enough. We must provide all of these things for our children to reach their full potential.

There’s an old Japanese proverb that says, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” We can’t afford any more daydreams or nightmares when it comes to the future of our kids. I’ve laid out my vision, and it’s time to act.

Along with the school reform plan, my budget proposal increases per-pupil spending by 4 percent. We’re fully funding special education but looking for ways to reduce our expenses. It’s time to start treating our children with special needs right – and teaching them here in the District instead of busing them elsewhere.

But we cannot stop at high school. I can't underestimate the importance of higher education. As a graduate of the DC Public Schools myself, I wouldn't be standing here without it.

Our DC Tuition Assistance Program is in its seventh year. It has helped more than 11,000 students by helping them pay for college. In the seven years since DC TAG has been operating, the number of public school students going on to college in the District has doubled. It's now on par with the national average.

DC TAG is up for re-authorization this year. I'm testifying tomorrow on Capitol Hill to ask Congress to continue it and provide $35.1 million in funding. This is a great program that will pay dividends for future generations.

My budget proposal also increases funding for the University of the District of Columbia by 8 percent and the public libraries by 12 percent. We’re going to keep our libraries open later and on Sundays, and make sure our kids have exciting educational programs at every branch.

Seventy-eight days ago, I took office as Mayor of the District of Columbia on a pledge to move our government forward.

We have a strong foundation upon which to build. My predecessor took the District of Columbia government to a new level of professionalism. Many of us, especially the seniors in this room, can remember a time when you picked up the phone to call the District government and didn't expect anyone to answer. When the government didn't have enough money to deliver basic services, or didn't have the professional talent to deliver them properly. Those days are behind us.

When you call the Mayor's Call Center at 727-1000, you can put in a service request on anything from abandoned vehicles to yard waste, get a tracking number and find out how long it will take us to do the job. We're on our way to making the Mayor's Call Center a 24hour operation. We’re combining the DMV and Department of Human Services call centers into the Mayor’s Call Center. And if you've called us, don't be surprised if we call you to find out how we did. We're bringing this quality assurance program online in the next month or so.

Our CapStat program is off to a great start. Every week, a different agency director comes into my office and a team of us review how the agency is doing. For example, we've cut the amount of time it takes to fill a pothole from 72 to 48 hours, and we're working to get that down to 24 hours. CapStat is also going to save you money – as we use it to identify inefficiencies and unnecessary government expenses.

Better government also means doing a better job of attracting, hiring and retaining employees.

Speaking of employees, I want to thank my cabinet and the tens of thousands of dedicated District Government employees who serve this city every day. Let’s give them a round of applause.

Our DC Office of Personnel is now the DC Department of Human Resources. And that department is changing the way we hire our employees. We want only the best and brightest in the District Government, and we need to speed up the process of bringing them on board. We're also aggressively recruiting bilingual employees in recognition that English is a second language for many of our new residents.

And better government means doing a better job of spending money. It's time we stopped making headlines for the difficulties we've had with our procurement process. We're clearing out the backlog of contract requests and getting ready to hire a new Chief Procurement Officer. And we're working on a package of reforms to allow our government to spend money faster, better and at less cost.

We are working on all of these improvements because our residents deserve nothing less. But we have an added responsibility as the nation’s seat of government and one of the world's top travel destinations.

A distinguished Republican Senator once said, “The District of Columbia should be the model of perfection in municipal government, and showplace for our Nation for all who visit the National Capital to see.”

I believe we can – and will – be that model of perfection.

But first, we must have the freedom to shape our own destiny.

April 16 is DC Emancipation Day. DC Emancipation Day is a city holiday to commemorate the day President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in the District of Columbia. This was 9 months before the Emancipation Proclamation. So it can be said that we were the first to be free, but the last to get the vote in Congress.

We are the only capital of a democracy in the world that has no vote in the national legislature. Though Congress oversees the way we spend our local tax dollars and has veto power over our local laws, we have no vote in the House or Senate. The United States government has brought democracy to Baghdad before bringing it home to the District of Columbia.

This is shameful.
This is unjust.
But... this is temporary.

You probably know the House of Representatives is set to pass a bill giving the District a vote in the House. But the Senate must also pass this important legislation. And the President must sign it.

That distinguished Republican Senator I mentioned earlier – the one who talked about being the best in municipal government – made his comments while supporting voting rights in the House and Senate for the District of Columbia.

His name was Prescott Bush, and he was the current President's grandfather. He spoke those words more than 45 years ago.

Let's not wait another 45 years. In fact, let's not wait another 45 days.

I'm asking you to put on your walking shoes and spend two hours with me on April 16. We're going to have the largest march ever for voting rights in the District of Columbia, at 2 p.m. We're going to march from Freedom Plaza to the Capitol, where we'll demand our freedom and our voting rights.

Once we get our House vote, we'll keep marching until we get two seats in the Senate. And control over our own budget. And control over our own destiny, like the residents of every other state in the nation.

Come downtown with me on April 16 and put on your walking shoes. (I know where you can get a pair if you don't have any.) Thousands of people in the District of Columbia need to march to the front door of Congress to demand their rights. I'll lead the way.

Congress Heights seniors, will you join me? Will you bring your friends and neighbors too?

Seventy-eight days ago, I took office as Mayor of the District of Columbia, touched by the confidence, faith and optimism of those who elected me. I want you to know I'm prepared to face all of the challenges I have spoken about this afternoon and others. We have much work to do on human services, healthcare, affordable housing and infrastructure. I'm going to need your help.

Together, we have come this far.

And together we will move forward – smarter, stronger and faster than ever before. Thank you very much.

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