After a tumultuous year for the city’s top elected officials, six D.C. councilmembers took their oaths of office Wednesday, hoping to start 2013 with a renewed vision toward the future.
The year 2012 was generally good for the District of Columbia. It ended with the lowest homicide rate in 50 years, the lowest unemployment number since 2009, and a superior financial outlook, with nearly $1 billion in reserves.
Yet, the year also exposed a level of criminal activity and political corruption never before experienced in 40 years of home rule. Two D.C. councilmembers, Harry Thomas, Jr., and former Council Chairman Kwame Brown, both pleaded guilty to various crimes.
The D.C. Council has been eager to lift the cloud of distrust and regain the confidence of District residents.
“Residents demand that we set new standards for ethics in public life, not just respond to the latest crisis. They want us to establish an ethical framework for conducting the people’s business now and into the future,” said David Grosso (I-At Large) as he addressed the audience after he was sworn-in.
Grosso won his seat over incumbent Michael Brown, who had a series of clashes with the media about his personal finances and who claimed to discover more than $110,000 in “unexplained expenditures” on his campaign finance books.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson wants to regain the confidence of D.C. residents in 2013.
“Citizens have the right to hold us to basic standards; standards of trust, of honesty and of integrity. Surely, we hold ourselves to exemplify these standards when we seek election to office,” Mendelson said.
All of the councilmembers, however, looked forward with a brighter vision for the city.
“I love the District of Columbia,” said Vincent B. Orange, Sr. (D-At Large), “Washington D.C., the nation’s capital, it’s a world-class city, it’s the melting pot of America. It represents one nation …”
Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans seeks to tackle challenges in the areas of public education, public safety, affordable housing, access to quality health care and jobs during his new term.
“We’ve produced tens of thousands of units of affordable housing in the last 10 years, Evans said, but there are still too many people who don’t have a place to live. My goal has always been to make sure that the people who were here during the hard times get to stay here in the good times.”
Muriel Bowser, who represents Ward 4, wants the city to be more inclusive for the coming year and years to come.
“We can have policies that leave none of our citizens behind,” Bowser told the audience. “We can have school reform where no child is left behind, economic development where no neighborhood is left behind, and growth, we no senior, no returning citizen, no one is left behind.
Better education and public schools was among the expectations for Ward 7 councilmember Yvette Alexander. “The Ward 7 and the District of Columbia that I expect, is one in which every zip code has quality, traditional public schools,” stated Alexander.
Marion Barry, Jr. reflected on his contributions to the city and overcoming adversity during his 10th swearing-in ceremony. Barry has served more than 30 years of service in elective office, including 16 years as Mayor – a record he asserts will not be broken in the near future.
“I knew that God was in the picture. Without his help, without his guidance, without his power, his mercy and his glory, I wouldn’t be here today,” Barry said. “I stand here demonstrating that you believe in God, if you have a strong belief in yourself and a strong determination, you can overcome the circumstances. I’m an example of overcoming grave circumstances,” he said to applause.