(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser testified in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, sharing her story of DC and setting the record straight about Washington, DC. Below is the Mayor’s testimony, as delivered. Read the Mayor’s full written testimony HERE.
Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you Ranking Member Raskin. I want to recognize my Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and all members of the Committee.
I am Muriel Bowser, Mayor of Washington, DC. I am joined today by the Chief of Police Robert Contee and the City Administrator Kevin Donahue.
A lot has been said about Washington, DC over the past weeks and months. And as someone who was born and raised here, and served in elected office since 2005, I dare say I know more than most. So, I would like to start by sharing a little bit of my story and also setting the record straight.
I am older than DC Home Rule by one year. The DC I was born into didn’t have an elected Mayor or an elected Council. The residents of DC had no elected representation except for a school board. The DC my parents were born into – they could not even vote for President, despite my father serving more than 20 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, committed to protecting America’s democracy. My father is just one example of the indignities that DC residents have suffered but he is not alone.
When I was just one year old, in 1973 – Congress passed the DC Home Rule Act, creating a local government while retaining Congress’s power to overrule local legislation. Today, we have a mayor, an elected mayor, 13-member Council, and Attorney General, but we still lack any voting representation in Congress. But you have the power to fix this through DC statehood.
Since achieving Home Rule, we have made significant strides in moving DC forward:
I am proud to say with confidence that the state of our finances are strong and the state of the District is strong. We are currently in the process of passing our 28th balanced budget. I sent the DC Council a budget with no new taxes or fees, and one that reflects the sober reality of our time: declining revenue due to increases in remote work and increased costs due to inflation. Still, we are a donor state and give more to the federal government than we get back, and our finances continue to be the envy of jurisdictions around our nation.
We got here through a long history of balanced budgets and clean audits. In fact in January 2020, we achieved 60 days cash on hand. In just over 20 years, DC went from junk-bond status to having a triple-A bond rating.
We did all this with one hand tied behind our back. A Congresswoman with no vote in the House, and no representation in the Senate at all.
You see, we are not actually a city, not quite a state, not a colony, nor a territory. We are 700,000 disenfranchised Americans living in the shadow of the Capitol with all the responsibilities of citizenship.
And like every big city mayor in America, I tackle big city challenges all day, every day. I use every tool in our toolbox to address the most vexing among social problems troubling America. American cities and towns alike – gun violence being top among them.
No one can be satisfied with increasing crime trends in any category—I certainly am not.
In DC, like what is happening around our country, we’ve experienced some concerning increases in crime.
We see more illegal guns on our streets. And more repeat violent offenders using them. Those guns are being used in violent crimes like homicides and carjackings. And we’ve also seen an increase in car theft.
For me, these trends are unacceptable, and we do not accept this as a new normal.
To understand our response, you also have to understand our criminal justice system. Which is unique.
MPD makes arrests. Most adult cases are prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for DC, who is, of course, part of the U.S. DOJ. Our youth offenders are prosecuted by our locally elected Attorney General and committed to our local Youth Rehabilitation Services; but our youth and adult offenders are supervised by the court and federal agencies. DC Jail is local, but a majority of our residents who are serving time are at federal facilities across the country.
Our judges are also appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
So, I won’t be making any excuses here. I’m the Mayor and I’m responsible for making this very complicated, unique system work for my residents, businesses, and all Americans.
That’s why I authorized the Chief to use any overtime that he deems necessary for MPD.
We’ve launched regional and federal partnerships.
I created an Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement.
Just yesterday, I announced a package of legislation that will enhance penalties for violent crime, provide greater discretion for the courts to determine who should be held pre-trial, and to modify early release laws to ensure the voices of victims and the judgements of the Courts are not thrown by the wayside.
This legislation, coupled with my 2024 budget investments, will help fill gaps in our whole-of-government approach. Wrapping up Mr. Chairman, we know that the police in our system, and all of the local officials and mayors across the country, could use your help.
We know that access to firearms is a national problem. And we need commonsense gun reform.
We also need this Congress to give the Mayor control of the DC National Guard.
welcome your partnerships on non-public safety initiatives as well, and working with our congresswoman to help give more DC residents a fair shot by doubling the DC TAG scholarship to $20,000 and making UDC TAG-eligible.
You can help us with Washington Union Station; help us accelerate the plan to get federal workers back downtown and deliver a plan for repurposing underutilized federal spaces.
We can work together to reimagine RFK. The RFK campus can help us shape our future for both sport and a mix of uses, including housing and jobs.
So, let me end by saying this: I know that all of us here today won’t see eye to eye on every issue. But we can all agree on the promise of America, that our government should be for the people, by the people.
And I can assure you that there is no one here that cares more about public safety than we do.
My family is five generations DC and the next one is growing. Today is my daughter’s birthday and I’m raising her to be a life-long Washingtonian too.
It is my number one priority to ensure that Washington, DC is a place where all our children can grow up safely, enjoy their full rights as American citizens, and where they can live up to their God given potential.
I hope that any actions taken by this committee will advance that vision. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.