- - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Knockoffs of the State of the Union addresses are all the rage now — we’re waiting for someone to make a State of the Precinct Address. Mayor Muriel Bowser delivered her first State of the District Address this week, and, following script, there was a recitation of the accolades bestowed on the nation’s capital. We’re cool with foodies, the tech community, the entrepreneurs and the city is in the top five cities in new construction.

All good, and we join the congratulations. The mayor will get an accolade here for herself if she moves quickly to fill the hundreds of thousands of potholes wrecking the underside of thousands of automobiles. Some of the potholes are already big enough to swallow a Mercedes or a small truck. This is her opportunity for a legacy.

But if you’re a low- or no-income family, an overtaxed middle-class family or a single mom or dad trying to make frazzled ends meet, or to find an alternative to a miserable neighborhood school, Her Honor delivered mostly promissory notes, with not-so-subtle hints that raising taxes is on the horizon. There’s a consistency to liberal promises.

“[W]e came into office with an estimated quarter-billion dollar budget deficit for the next fiscal year,” the mayor said. “That deficit means that we will have to make tough decisions about which programs to fund, which to cut back, and whether to raise taxes. I challenged my budget team to look for savings, to trim only those programs that could withstand it, and I tasked them to do more with less. This is what we have in store.”

Good news if she really means it. The details on savings and cuts will be forthcoming, followed by the usual cries and whispers from the chattering class — and the lobbyists, who sometimes speak loudest of all. The mayor’s speech, however, reveals her thinking on spending, and it resembles an all-inclusive plan.

The Bowser plan includes increased spending on several fronts. She wants to spend $15 million on the extracurricular, summer programs and international travel for middle-school students. She wants to turn the old McFarland Junior High at Iowa Avenue and Webster Street into a state-of-the-art middle school. She proposes that all school-age children ride free on Metrobus and rail, which won’t be cheap with 40,000 kids on the way to school.

If the D.C. Public Schools fail to produce employment-worthy and college-ready teens and young adults, Mayor Bowser wants to spend anew on the LEAP Academy, which would create a pipeline to D.C. government jobs. She proposes spending $5 million in “new money” to expand the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program to serve District youth ages 22 to 24.” That 24-year-old “youth” are to participate in a summer youth jobs program speaks volumes about where we are. She wants an additional $32 million for traditional and charter schools merely to cover enrollment expectations of 2,000 new students. Much of that new enrollment is for “pre-first grade.” Baby sitters, in plain English.

One proposal should not be controversial, but probably will be: an all-boys public school. This will require $20 million in new spending, and the boys of D.C. need it, common sense requires it and we all deserve it. The rest of her speech was intended to make Democratic and liberal hearts beat faster. She has created a new level of bureaucracy called the office of Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity. For special-interest groups, it does indeed sound like greater economic opportunity. For struggling families, homeowners and senior and disabled taxpayers on fixed incomes, it means only another reason to raise taxes. We promise to keep a sharp eye out. Let the shilling begin.

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