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"Wait 'til next year..."

Baptist Ministers Conference of DC | , President | , Vicinity | , Rev. Patrick Walker | 12/29/2011, 4:47 p.m.

"Wait til next year..." is the mantra we, in the District of Columbia, hear each year when the hopes of a new season are dashed by the dismal performance of one of our sports teams? Isn't it that perennial phrase, "Wait til next year" that resonates like nails on the chalk board? While this attitude tends to encourage and fill faithful fans with hope for the next season, it may actually serve as a potent parable when reviewing the condition of our City. Persistent promises from politicians, community leaders, and activists cajole citizens to focus on the future. But in reality, we know that yesterday's failures legitimize today's discontent.

The ushering in of a new Mayor and Council Chair, who, celebrated with all the fanfare, pomp and circumstance of a new season and with the theme of "One City," have only ushered us into a season of questionable use of taxpayers dollars and disappointing decisions. Sure, an outstanding Director of Religious Affairs has finally been appointed by the Mayor and he has reestablished the Interfaith Council. However, those are isolated victories after a string of losses. However, true dialogue and mutual engagement with the faith community on issues are lacking severely.

Prior to becoming Mayor, Mr. Gray promised more interaction with the faith community and to establish partnerships between the District's faith community and the city government in the New Year, that is 2011. Yet, here we are on the cusp of 2012 and find ourselves mired by scandals and what appears to be a blatant and continual oversight of the needs of the faith community. I supposed we'll have to "wait 'til next year" again.

The Council of the District of Columbia passed an ethics bill that pacified some, but can be judged as toothless when we consider the need for real ethics reform. We are still lacking the strict and independent enforcement to prevent and weed out the political corruption that is the apparent culture of the District Building. Wal-Mart and other corporate dollars are being funneled to wield influence among council members through the practice of "bundling." It is this bundling that allows entities to bypass campaign contribution limits. Perhaps the new ethics bill will soon do what it was intended to do. Nevertheless, it appears "we'll wait 'til next year."

And, what about the promises of education reform and better schools? Though an unpopular Chancellor is gone, many of her policies remain. The public schools of the District of Columbia continue to be among the most expensive, in costs per student, and yet the graduation rate is still hovering around 73 percent. Our students are some of the brightest and most gifted in the nation and they deserve better leadership from every stakeholder in the community. We owe it to them to expect and accept nothing less than the very best...now.

Here in our beloved city, these major issues take their place amidst the continuing problems of decreasing job opportunities and growing economic disparity. Despite the unprecedented wealth in the District itself and surrounding counties in Maryland and Northern Virginia, we continue to see the great gulf between the rich and poor, as well as, the disappearing middle class. Developers and contractors are bypassing the workers of the District of Columbia. As the chasm widens, there is no bridge in sight to begin the connecting process.

The lack of voting representation in Congress for residents of the United States capital has been a burdening concern since the federal district was founded. Additionally residents are underserved by our elected representative; one who is so out of touch with her constituents, that most would not recognize her standing next them at Eastern Market. That is a far great travesty. Well have to "wait 'til next year," next year.

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