- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2007

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday used his first State of the District address to tell residents that the city is “stronger than ever” after his first months in office and that they should continue fighting for congressional representation.

“I took office as mayor of the District of Columbia with a promise of a better future for the entire city, a future that recognizes the extraordinary progress our city has made along with the challenges we must face together,” Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, told a standing-room-only crowd at the Congress Heights Senior Wellness Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue Southeast. “There is much to accomplish, but much to be proud of as well.”

In a wide-ranging address that touched on nearly every aspect of city government — from the police department and troubled public schools to the responsiveness of the city’s call center — Mr. Fenty heralded reforms already taking place and promised that “the best is yet to come.”

His remarks read like a laundry list of statistical accomplishments during his first 78 days in office: His administration has laid the groundwork for 21 affordable-housing projects, placed 140 more police officers on street patrols and put about 1,900 residents into jobs.

City workers also have filled 3,400 potholes, picked up 21,000 tons of trash and processed nearly 45,000 traffic tickets.

Mr. Fenty, 36, said he gave the speech at a Ward 8 wellness center to symbolize his commitment to “a great quality of life for District residents of all ages.”

He began by detailing library, court-system and retail improvements that are appearing east of the Anacostia River, and later highlighted the opening of wellness centers and other improved services for senior residents.

“My vision is one of a world-class city with no neighborhood left behind,” Mr. Fenty said.

Mr. Fenty gave the address two days before he is slated to deliver his first budget proposal to the D.C. Council, whose members likely will hand over control of the city’s public school system to the mayor’s office in the coming months.

Mr. Fenty said yesterday that his $8 billion budget will include funding for 300 more police officers and seeks to increase per-pupil spending in the District by 4 percent without increasing taxes.

Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, a Democrat who attended the address with seven other council members, said he has yet to see Mr. Fenty’s budget proposal but hopes it will include “an emphasis on children and youth.”

An official with the D.C. Board of Education said board members have sent a $1.1 billion operating budget request to the mayor and council.

Mr. Fenty also said he will propose a pilot program to put emergency medical services staff at six D.C. hospitals to ensure faster responses by ambulances.

Mr. Fenty, who began his inaugural address in January by pledging to fight tirelessly for statehood, closed his speech by urging residents to march to the Capitol on April 16 and to call on Congress to grant the District full voting rights.

The House is expected to pass legislation tomorrow granting the District a vote in that chamber, but prospects are less certain in the Senate. The White House on Tuesday said President Bush would be advised to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

The march in April is scheduled to coincide with D.C. Emancipation Day, which commemorates Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves in the District nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation.

“So it can be said that we were the first to be free, but the last to get a vote in Congress. And we’re sick of it,” Mr. Fenty said to loud applause.

After the speech, Mildred Lockridge, a 76-year-old Southeast resident and member of the wellness center, said she was impressed with the accomplishments listed by the mayor but was guarded in her optimism.

“If in fact all the things he talked about that have been done in the 78 days really have been done, it’s fantastic,” she said. “I hope it continues.”

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