In his second State of the District address, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray talked about how his administration is making the nation's capital a better place to live despite the struggling national economy.
Gray delivered his address on Tuesday, Feb. 7 before hundreds of people that included federal officials, administration officials, D.C. Council members, neighborhood and civic leaders, and entrepreneurs from the private sector. He chose the Sixth and I Historical Synagogue in Northwest as the site of his speech because "this special place connects our past, our present and our future."
"I want to thank the citizens of the District of Columbia for being here tonight and for being so committed to the civic life of this great city," he said. "As we gather here this evening, we are all aware that today the District of Columbia is blessed with tremendous progress and because of that I am proud to share that the state of the District is strong and getting stronger." He said that the city is on solid financial ground after a few years of uncertainty.
"The financial health of our city continues to improve and just recently we announced that we ended 2011 with one of the largest budget surpluses in our history--$240 million," he said. "The fact is that we have made great strides over the last year engineering a major financial turnaround and stabilizing our fiscal house. For the first time in years, the District is not spending from our critical reserve fund, which has been depleted by $700 million over the prior four years."
Deborah Smith-Steiner, a resident of Ward 5, said that while she is happy the city is doing well, she has concerns.
"I would like to know how that $240 million was calculated," Smith-Steiner, a former candidate for Ward 5 D.C. Council and advisory neighborhood commissioner, said. "Some employees were furloughed and I think we need to know how did this happen."
Gray said the city is attracting residents-about 18,000 in 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics-because of its efforts in fighting crime.
"In 2011, the District had our lowest number of homicides in nearly 50 years," he said. "Although last year's 108 murders were still 108 too many, this was 18 percent lower than the year before. The Metropolitan Police Department posted an astonishing 95 percent homicide closure rate compared to the national average of just 56 percent."
When Gray campaigned for mayor in 2010, he made it clear that economic development and fighting unemployment east of the Anacostia River was important.
"Significant development is emerging east of the River," he said. "Walmart is building two stores in Ward 7, one on East Capitol Street and another in the long-awaited Skyland Shopping Center. And we have worked with residents and leadership of Ward 8 to establish an economic development plan for that important-but too long and too often neglected area of our city."
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