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Government and People
|MAYOR ADRIAN M. FENTY – Getting
the Job Done: 2008 State of the District Address
Washington Seniors Senior Wellness Center (Ward Seven)
REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
Let me start by thanking Erma Simon for that wonderful introduction. I understand Ms. Simon’s been coming to Washington Seniors for 23 years – and she’s a native Washingtonian and federal government retiree. Can we give her a round of applause?
Mr. Chairman, members of the Council, Washington Seniors, and my fellow District residents, good afternoon.
There has never been a better time to live or work in the District of Columbia. The population is growing, and the economy is robust. We are in the midst of our city’s twelfth consecutive balanced budget, and our bond ratings have never been higher – A-pluses at all three agencies. So the District of Columbia is strong, but we have much work ahead of us.
Since I took office nearly 15 months ago, I’ve traveled across the District of Columbia every day, listening to you tell me about your vision for the present and future of this great city. What I hear again and again is that what matters most is that your government is getting things done. You’re holding me accountable on important issues of education, public safety, jobs, healthcare, affordable housing and economic development.
Well, we listened to you, we rolled up our sleeves and, we got to work.
As I think everyone knows by now, I made education the centerpiece of my administration. It is my belief that the key to our future as a healthier city, as a competitive city, and as a dynamic and thriving city—is the education of our children. There is nothing more important than that.
So, on June 12 of last year, after 6 months of planning, consultation with District residents, and working with our partners on the Council and the leadership in Congress, the District of Columbia Public Schools came under mayoral authority. For the first time ever, we now know where the buck stops when it comes to realizing the aspirations of our children.
My first hire was a Chancellor whose brand of experience, talent, and management acumen was unprecedented in DCPS history. In just 9 months, Michelle Rhee has already taken dramatic steps toward restoring a world-class public schools system.
We hired 425 new teachers and 20 new principals for the new school year. With a new tracking system, 97% of textbooks made it to the right classrooms on the first day. We also scanned and filed nearly 5 million confidential personnel documents that were piled in boxes and strewn across the floor when we found them.
In barely two months’ time, my Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso and my school facilities chief Allen Lew rehabilitated hundreds of classrooms with public and private investment in almost half the schools. We built six new athletic fields and bought new uniforms for every high school sports team. The private companies that donated their resources to this process had sought to do so for years, but couldn’t find a way into the system. Now that they have, we will continue leveraging these public-private partnerships into the future.
We’ve instituted a new culture of accountability at the DCPS central administration. With a new management team at the helm and new personnel rules in place, we will make sure every single DCPS employee is focused on the one thing that matters: educating our children.
To fulfill that main mission, we’re making major changes to help students succeed.
We launched a Saturday Scholars program at 47 sites, and asked 7,500 students from 91 schools to take part. The 14-week program will help third- through sixth-graders improve their reading and math skills.
And we want to reward what’s working. So we’ve teamed up with the federal government to offer cash bonuses to staff at schools where test scores increase by 20% or more in a single year. This year, Barnard, Noyes and Tyler Elementary Schools were the first awardees. Everyone from the custodian to the principal received between $2,000 and $10,000.
We installed 6,374 computers in DCPS schools in a six-week period.
The Office of Nutrition Services served more than 1.5 million meals to nearly 30,000 students at 400 sites last summer.
We created an Office of the Ombudsman and named Tonya Kinlow to this critical post. It’s her job to investigate your concerns about the public schools, public charter schools, and the University of the District of Columbia.
We continue our aggressive push to get our graduating seniors into college and to make sure they thrive when they get there. Last September, the Mayor’s College Fair set a record with 4,000 young people in attendance. And we successfully lobbied Congress to continue the DC Tuition Assistance Program, which gives up to $10,000 a year to graduating District high school seniors who go on to college.
We’re continuing to work with nonprofits like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to double the number of Class of 2010 students graduating from college – and triple the number for the Class of 2013.
With the help of Police Chief Cathy Lanier and Fire/EMS Chief Dennis Rubin, we’re getting the job done in the area of public safety.
The Metropolitan Police Department dispatched almost 700,000 units to calls in the past year. And our Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department went out 165,000 times in the same period.
We’ve added 299 police officers to our force, for a total of nearly 4,000, and have taken sworn officers from behind desks and put them on the streets where they belong.
Policing involves lights and sirens, but it also involves prevention and community relations. So Chief Lanier created Operation Full Stride, which puts officers out on foot beats so they can see and hear what’s happening in our communities. They get to know you, the people they’re sworn to protect and serve. Since October, our officers have put in nearly 33,000 8-hour shifts on foot, bicycles, Segways and scooters.
We’ve learned that we can’t simply arrest and incarcerate our way out of the deeply-rooted social problems that lead to crime in our neighborhoods. In our new Focused Improvement Areas, we’re bringing our human services agencies together with law enforcement to increase employment opportunities, engage young people, and improve the appearance of these neighborhoods.
This year, we’re also rolling out 800 “smart patrol vehicles.” These are police patrol cars with computers in them, which give officers access to local and national criminal databases and let them do their administrative reports online in the field. This will mean more police out on the streets more often, faster investigations, and faster arrests.
MPD’s new Gun Recovery Unit took nearly 2,300 firearms off the streets last year, and this year we’re on track to take 2,500 guns out of our neighborhoods. We had 636 guns turned in during amnesty events and we’re starting a GunStat program to follow gun cases through the criminal justice system. Working with our colleagues in local and federal law enforcement, and in the courts and supervision agencies, we’ll be able to develop strategies to keep guns out of the District and have charges and sentences that stick. We can capitalize on one of our greatest successes of 2007, a 70% homicide case closure rate, which was higher than the national average.
When gunshots do happen, we need to know where and when – and we need to know it quickly. It’s always helpful when residents call 911. But we also have a scientific way to isolate the source of gunshots using ShotSpotter technology. It’s already in use in several neighborhoods and in 2008 alone, ShotSpotter has detected 382 gunshots. This year, we will expand it to new areas in parts of the First, Third and Fifth Police Districts.
We’re implementing the recommendations of our Task Force on Emergency Medical Services. The end result will be a department that responds to calls with fast, compassionate and competent care. Through its new Street Calls program, Fire and EMS will work to connect repeat callers to 911 with appropriate preventive, non-emergency assistance, while reducing the number of inappropriate 911 calls for medical assistance. This will leave staff and equipment free when emergencies do happen. The department is also developing a world-class workforce to serve you better – by bringing in new cadets from our high schools in a new partnership with DCPS.
In the last 12 months, FEMS has had 12 fire safety awareness events across the District and installed more than 2,300 smoke detectors in the homes of residents. As you know, this department risks life and limb every day to ensure our safety. The bravery and commitment of our firefighters and EMS workers is awe inspiring. >From the fires at Eastern Market, Georgetown Library, and the tire warehouse on K Street, and most recently, the 5-alarm fire in Mt. Pleasant early yesterday, they provide comfort and care to our neighbors during the most difficult of times.
We have more plans to keep you informed during emergencies. We’re developing an outdoor mass notification system so we can let the public know anytime an evacuation needs to happen. We have ward-specific evacuation and emergency guides coming to a library, police station and fire house near you.
Healthcare and Human Services
Over the past year, our Administration has made tremendous progress in improving the health and wellbeing of all District residents. We’re working hard to get the job done in healthcare and human services.
Access to quality healthcare should not depend on where you live. So we finalized the sale of Greater Southeast Community Hospital in a public-private partnership that will improve the facility and keep it open for patients east of the Anacostia River.
Last year, in addition to operating Senior Wellness Centers like this one, the DC Office on Aging served more than 52,000 seniors at least once and served more than a million meals. We took almost 80,000 trips to the doctor, the grocery store and other places around the District.
After the deaths of four young girls from Southeast whom we all came to know under tragic circumstances, we took steps to shine a light on areas where we need to work even harder.
We immediately laid out a timeline of all contacts the family had with the District Government. We took action to hold our workers accountable and immediately implemented a series of systematic reforms to our child welfare agency. We’re going to review cases more closely, do a better job of documenting calls into the system, and close no case until every child is accounted and cared for.
We’re working to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS. East of the Anacostia River, where infection rates are highest, we’re partnering with nonprofit health and community organizations to strengthen education and prevention efforts. We’ve given away 1.1 million condoms in the last year, and we have 125,000 more on the way.
We know that one in five new HIV/AIDS cases comes from the sharing of infected needles among drug users. Needle exchange has worked in other cities for years – cutting new infections in half in the target population in Chicago -- and it’s worked in the District on a smaller scale. Now that Congress has lifted its decade-old ban on using local tax dollars to fund needle exchanges, we’re able to dedicate $650,000 to this program.
We’ve developed our first-ever Childhood Health Action Plan. We’re going to improve children’s health in the areas of obesity, asthma, substance abuse, lead poisoning, well-child visits, infant mortality, oral health, and HIV/AIDS. And we’re excited to see the plan implemented by our new Department of Health Director, Dr. Pierre Vigilance.
Dr. Vigilance will bring new energy and focus to a vital District Government agency. Across your government and all of its agencies, our staff is getting the job done.
Infrastructure and Environment
They’re getting the job done in our Department of Transportation. This week, we just re-dedicated the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and a new look for South Capitol Street. Not only did DDOT’s employees get the job done, they did it on budget and a week ahead of schedule.
DDOT has also started construction on the Anacostia Riverfront Trail and finished the Canal Road, Florida Avenue and LeDroit Park streetscape projects. We’re seeing the installation of 788 state-of-the-art, weather-resistant bus shelters all over the District.
In the past year, DDOT has filled 225,000 potholes, paved more than 6 miles of roadway and added 5 miles of bike lanes. We increased the ridership on the DC Circulator bus by 400,000 passengers, with additional routes being added. And we planted more than 4,500 new trees.
Our Department of Motor Vehicles has processed more than 116,000 driver’s licenses; 209,000 vehicle registrations and 211,000 inspections.
Based on extensive input from thousands of you, we’re changing the taxi-riding experience. In just a few weeks, you’ll have an electronically displayed fare and a receipt every time you ride in a District taxicab. I believe the new time-and-distance meters will make taxi rides a much more attractive transit option, and will enable the hardworking drivers to continue to make a living.
Our Department of Parks and Recreation has been busy this year. It opened two new community centers in Trinidad and Columbia Heights, and fully renovated Banneker Recreation Center. We also opened three new parks and playgrounds and two new athletic facilities – including the first soccer field in the District with artificial turf.
And I’m proud to say we’re on our way to becoming one of the nation’s greenest cities. This starts with the government itself. In the last year, we’ve collected nearly 1,200 tons of recycling from District government buildings – and nearly 25,000 tons from homes in the District and we’ve placed recycling bins in all Parks and Recreation facilities. We’ve added green roofs to two District Government buildings and are looking for places to add more. I’ve convened the Mayor’s Green Team to look for ways to lower the ecological cost of doing government work. We’ve also partnered with our neighbors in Maryland and Virginia to work on real solutions to a clean up the Anacostia River and Chesapeake Bay.
Jobs, Affordable Housing, Economic Development
And as we’re working hard to be a green city, we’re also continuing responsible economic development.
We are about two weeks away from welcoming 41,222 baseball fans to the most environmentally-friendly sports facility ever -- at our brand new Nationals Park on the Anacostia River. We also brought the wrecking ball to Waterside Mall in Ward Six and have begun more neighborhood-friendly development there.
I’m excited to report that in Camp Simms in Ward 8, Giant Food has opened its doors as the first new grocery store east of the Anacostia River in 10 years. The store employs more than 200 District residents, 98 percent of whom are from Ward Eight.
We have the largest public-private development project the District government has ever taken on, Poplar Point, which will inject approximately $2.5 billion east of the river. We’ve called for new offices, housing and retail. And to put our words into action, we have announced plans to move our Department of Housing and Community Development to Martin Luther King Avenue in Historic Anacostia, and our Department of Employment Services to Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road here in Ward Seven.
The Council passed the legislation for our Park Morton New Community. And during the next several weeks, we will kick off the first phases of development for the Barry Farms/Park Chester/Wade Road New Community and the Lincoln Heights/Richardson Dwellings New Community.
We are bringing Radio One back to its ancestral home in the District of Columbia, and we are keeping National Public Radio here in the city where it began 40 years ago.
We’ve begun to set plans in motion for other large-scale projects such as The Yards, the Old Convention Center and the McMillan Reservoir. And we broke ground on the H Street/Benning Road project, which will bring a great look to a great corridor and send streetcars down H Street for the first time in decades. And of course just last week, we opened the city’s first Target store as part of the DCUSA shopping center in Ward One.
But economic development cannot be all about large-scale projects. It must reach every neighborhood, and it must protect small businesses. That’s why we’ve started a neighborhood tax increment financing program. We allocated up to $95 million for storefront facades, upgrades and utilities for our great commercial corridors like Georgia Avenue, Nannie Helen Burroughs and Martin Luther King Ave.
We’ve developed aggressive plans to create new jobs with a green economy in the District of Columbia. Businesses and government are going to need experts and trained workers as they continue to reduce their impact on the environment. I have appointed a Green Collar Jobs Advisory Council to work with the business community, nonprofits and all of our great high schools, colleges and universities to get the next generation of skilled employees trained and ready to go. We’re talking about everything from engineers and architects to green building contractors, lead paint abatement technicians and brownfields cleanup crews. Those jobs should go to District residents, and they will.
To keep that economic engine going, we are also working to place our residents in all the jobs that are being generated so we can keep our tax dollars at home. Just this week, the Mayor’s Citywide Job Fair brought in 21,000 participants. We had more than 150 District government, federal government and private-sector employers taking part. In the past year, we placed more than 600 District residents in construction jobs at the new baseball stadium.
We’ll provide more opportunities for our young people to work this summer. Last year, our Summer Youth Employment Program brought in nearly 13,000 summer employees. This year, I’ve made it clear that every student who wants a summer job will have one. We just signed up our first group of workers, and we’re adding public and private sector employers to the program every day.
We’re adding more vocational training in the schools. The Department of Public Works and Ballou High School are teaming up on a new program to teach ASE certification for car repairs. This is the gold standard for automotive technicians in the industry, and we hire ASE technicians in the District Government too.
We’ve begun delivering above and beyond our pledge of 10,000 units of affordable housing in four years. There are 14,300 units of affordable housing in the pipeline right now, including 5,500 affordable units to be preserved, and 8,800 units to be built. We’re also helping to finance the dreams of new homeowners in the District. In the last year, we provided 513 no-interest loans for down payments and closing costs through our Home Purchase Assistance Program. The District Government tripled its investment in these loans last year. We gave comprehensive housing counseling to more than 19,000 residents in the last year as well.
We’re also making great progress in our mission to end homelessness across the District of Columbia. Last October, we closed the notorious DC Village shelter and moved its families to apartment-style supportive housing.
All told, in the last year, the District moved 361 of our homeless neighbors and 220 homeless families into transitional or permanent supportive housing programs.
I am personally very proud of that effort -- and I have heard good feedback from many of you about the work we’ve done on these issues.
In fact, I’ve heard lots of feedback from across the District. I have attended hundreds of community meetings in the last 15 months, but for every meeting I’m unable to attend, my Office of Community Relations and Services has gone to many more.
Last year, they attended more than 2,000 community meetings– 650 or so of them in Wards 7 and 8. I started this office when I became Mayor, to work on the ground in every ward, every day, with a simple mandate: Just Fix It.
In the last year, they have held more than 315 Fix-It operations bringing in multiple agencies to address trash clean up, abandoned properties and many other constituent service requests.
And you can now make those requests by dialing a single number, 311. We’re making it easier than ever to reach your government. The Mayor’s Citywide Call Center is now a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year operation. In the last year, we’ve taken more than 2.5 million calls. We’re answering 911 calls within 5 seconds -- 95 percent of the time, with non-emergency calls being answered within 30 seconds -- 87 percent of the time.
The Call Center has fielded more than 310,000 service requests – everything from abandoned cars to yard waste collection. That’s more than one service request every two minutes, every single hour of every single day.
Meanwhile, when you write, we answer. The Mayor’s Correspondence Unit has answered nearly 23,000 emails, postcards and letters.
You are our most valued customer, and we will keep getting better at responding to your requests.
Meanwhile, it’s been another year of Taxation Without Representation in the District of Columbia, but we’ve made some real progress in educating Congress and the rest of the country about our lack of democracy in the District.
Last spring, thousands of you joined me on a wet and chilly afternoon as we marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol to demand our voting rights. Just a few weeks later, a voting rights bill that had already passed the House made its way to the Senate floor. The bill didn’t make it through, but we did get a majority of Senators to vote for it. While this is the first time a civil rights bill has fallen to a filibuster since the era of segregation, we haven’t come this close to a House vote in decades. I’m optimistic about our chances in the new Congress.
By this time next year, we’ll have a new neighbor down the street at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. You know it’s my hope that we’ll make history in this November’s election. But no matter who the new President is, I look forward to working with him--or her--to advance the cause of our local democracy.
In closing, let me first say that none of these accomplishments or goals would be possible without the talents of an extraordinary group of public servants. I want to acknowledge the dedication and efforts of the 34,000 District Government employees who work for you and for me. They’re led by City Administrator Dan Tangherlini, Deputy Mayors Neil Albert and Victor Reinoso, Chief of Staff Tené Dolphin, and a fantastic cabinet. Please give them a round of applause.
All of us come to work every day because we share the same vision. We share the vision of a world-class capital city – with voting rights in the House and Senate, budget and legislative autonomy, freedom and self-determination. We share the goal of setting a shining example here for the rest of the world to follow.
Together, with one voice and a unity of purpose, we will achieve what the generations that came before us never even dreamed possible.
We have some big plans for the District of Columbia. And with your help, we’ll continue to get the job done.
Thank you very much. May God bless the District of Columbia.
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