- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2001

Tonight, in his second address, "Building a City That Works for Everyone: Neighborhood by Neighborhood," Mayor Williams will continue the work on his blueprint to improve neighborhoods and increase the District's tax base.

Indeed, the mayor initially laid out his ambitious plans last year, essentially promising to deliver economic prosperity, better education and recreation facilities, and a more efficient (and polite) bureaucracy. The public knows he failed to deliver on several fronts.

He also said, "Even with almost 50,000 households and a combined income of almost $2 billion, there are only two supermarkets east of the Anacostia." And: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is going to change. By the time I give my next State of the District address, we will have broken ground for two additional supermarkets east of the river. You can count on that." As things have happened, the new supermarkets have not materialized either, nor have the six new recreation centers the mayor spoke of.

The Williams administration did, however, accomplish much which will, in the long term, prove to be invaluable. The Williams administration demolished more than 500 uninhabitable housing units, and either renovated or built a few thousand others. More new housing is situated across the Anacostia than anywhere else within the District's borders. As a result, families who never dreamed of owning their homes and outsiders who were paying taxes elsewhere now pay those taxes to the District. Downtown and upscale housing are on the upswing, too. Moreover, the poorest of the poor, who thought they had no other choice but to raise their families in squalor, are reclaiming renovated housing as well.

Still, there is a ways to go toward making this city more hospitable toward the bread and butter of any urban area and that is the middle class. It is the middle class that is clamoring for more housing, better schools, safer and smoother streets, less crime and better libraries and recreational opportunities. They, with their expendable incomes, drive into Montgomery, Prince George's County and Fairfax to shop at new supermarkets, and it is the middle class as well who hold the decision-making jobs in the Williams administration yet live in Maryland and Virginia. Those are the very taxpayers the mayor must address tomorrow night.

He must tell them his 2002 budget policies speak to them economically and politically. He must tell them that, despite projections of flat revenue growth and a fragile fiscal recovery, he will be responsible. He should point out that the national economy remains in good shape, the regional job market remains resilient, and Wall Street just this week upgraded the city's bond status.

Mr. Williams must remind listeners that some D.C. lawmakers will not always grant the mayor his way. Nonetheless, the true battle is over the District's tax base, and the mayor must, in his speech tonight, step up to that challenge.

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