Two things are true about the mayor’s debate at this point in the election season: they are much more interesting when all three major candidates appear. And they all start to sound the same.
During last night on the right at Gaston Hall Georgetown University, Mayor Muriel Bowser shared the stage with her two rivals the Council, a member of the Council at will Robert White and a member of the council of the chamber 8 Trayon Whitein the only televised debate of the race.
As in previous debates, two board members attacked Bowser for what she has failed to do over the past eight years and what she has done not to their liking. The list is long: reduce violent crime and deaths on the roads, build enough affordable housing and create a fair system of public schools to name a few.
Bowser generally responded to this criticism by stating that, of course, not all of the county’s illnesses can lie solely on her shoulders.
“If someone promises you that the government can do anything, he is very wrong,” Bowser said. “We know that strong children, healthy children, come from strong, healthy families. What matters is how we support families. ”
No matter how tired you are of watching these candidates fight over the same issues and the same conversations, this debate is a great way to find out how the candidates disagree on specific issues. But last night it was not something that did not stand out.
To the last question, the candidates were asked to explain one decision that they regret in their current job and that they would have done differently. Only Bowser did a significant job.
She said her parents’ advice to always defend herself forced her to oppose the re-election of a council member. Although she did not name names, she meant her support Dion Bussy-Reader over a member of the Special Commission Alice Silverman in 2018.
“I do not regret standing up, speaking out and defending myself and my administration,” Bowser said. “But I’m sorry it became personal.”
Silverman will be re-elected in the general election in November, and many of Bowser’s friends have lined up for one of her opponents, Graham McLaughlinaccording to financial statements.
In his response, Trayon White named his teacher, a lifelong mayor Marion Barry, and admitted that sometimes he was “very vague” that “cost me immensely”. It is unclear what exactly he meant, but it can be assumed that he meant his own anti-Semitic comments four years ago, or his support and participation in the 2020 protest that threatened Latinx builders on the MLK Gateway project. He later apologized for both actions.
Robert White said he prefers not to dwell on what “could, wished, should have done differently” and instead uses his mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
Some conclusions from the rest of the debate:
• Bowser advertised her work to establish the Office of Security and Neighborhood Interaction, where cessation of violence the program is contained.
“We started small and we grew up in every part of the city, making sure we have people from the neighborhood who know the challenges to connect people to the services we have,” she said.
But Robert White noted that the Council first worked to create a program to end violence in the Attorney General’s Office because Bowser “was an obstacle” to the program. “I’m glad she’s finally here,” he said.
• Trayon White attacked Bowser’s use of the Housing Trust Fund, the city’s main tool for building affordable housing. He said the District of Columbia has spent nearly $ 1 billion over the past 10 years, but some parts of the city – including Chamber 8, which he represents – “have not seen a return on investment.” He said the money “became a sludge fund for developers.”
The DC auditor and the Office of the Inspector General have published reports detailing the mismanagement of the fund. More recently, This was reported by OIG that is now a former director of the Department of Housing and Social Development Polly Donaldson did not use at least 50 percent of the fund’s annual budget for housing for extremely low-income residents, as required by law.
• Troy White also spent most of the time complaining that moderators interrupted his responses. “It’s crazy,” he said at one point.
• While talking about vacancies in the city center (approx 17 percent as of last fall, a record high), Robert White again attacked Bowser for rejecting a plan he unveiled many years ago to turn vacant office space into affordable housing. Bowser said the issue is an example of the most pressing issue in this election cycle: who do voters trust to bring back DC from the pandemic?
She said she would continue to work with the business community and the Council to bring people back to the city center. “We are going to attract housing, and we have a real plan to do it in the city center and bring people to the center, tourists, visitors to festivals, conventions,” she said.
Robert White jumped in to clarify, “because the mayor didn’t understand.”
“The mayor understands well,” said Bowser.
Robert White said Bowser continues to misrepresent her accomplishments. “That’s why we need a mayor who thinks ahead, not a reactive mayor,” he said.
• One of the areas that candidates agree on is the need for more and better mental health services. Robert White said DC lacks mental health professionals. He said he is working with the University of Columbia to create a scholarship for the county’s residents to get a master’s degree in counseling or social work for free.
Bowser advertised the opening of “sober centers”, probably in wards 1 and 6, to help homeless people join the services.
And Tryon White told the audience that he visits a therapist every Wednesday to deal with the trauma he suffered as a young black man who grew up in the District of Columbia and “buried 250 people right here in my community.”
Troy White expressed disappointment that when he arrives at the scene of the shooting, there are no mental health professionals.
“We say such things, we have it in the budget, but if I’m there, there is no power,” he said. “There are police, detectives and society, but there is no responsibility for the health that should be in society.”