Muriel Bowser

Muriel Bowser Wants to “Make Good Neighborhoods Great”

"...[W]e want people to have sustainable jobs," Bowser said

D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser, a fifth-generation Washingtonian, won the April 1 Democratic primary, defeating incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray and several other challengers.

Bowser has said her interest in first running for office stemmed from "a desire to make good neighborhoods great." She's represented Ward 4 on the D.C. Council since 2007, just the fourth person to represent the ward since D.C. got home rule in 1973.

Bowser would not sit for an interview for this piece. Instead, her publicist emailed a detailed list of her activities on council.

Nearly every member of the 13-member council heads a committee. During her time on the council, Bowser has chaired Government Operations and the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs. She currently serves as the chair of the Committee on Economic Development.

In her campaign for mayor, Bowser has won the backing of several labor groups, including the city's firefighters (IAFF Local 36) and the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization for about 175 local unions in the Washington region. She also recently received an endorsement from President Barack Obama.

Bowser has said that as mayor, she would continue school reform efforts begun by former Mayor Adrian Fenty and current Mayor Gray.

But Bowser has also rejected Gray's controversial plan to change the District's school boundaries, saying earlier this year that the proposal was "not ready" and will "exacerbate educational inequality."

In a statement in August, Bowser said of the plan, "It lacks the necessary budgetary and leadership commitments to bring about a truly fair neighborhood school assignment policy." She said the next mayor should be the one to make those determinations.

Bowser, who represents one of the wealthier portions of the District, says she has supported increases in the city's minimum wage for lower-income workers and efforts to provide tax incentives for businesses to move into D.C.

"I will say that my skills as a legislator were most tested when we had theses ethics crises in the city," Bowser said earlier this year. "We had a mayor under investigation; several council members under investigation. I decided to create a Board of Ethics and Accountability ... that would have to judge and investigate and enforce our code of conduct for all public officials."

Bowser's campaign has hit a few snags. A high-level consultant to Bowser's campaign was removed from her campaign in early September after he and his company were publicly linked to a mayoral campaign scandal in Philadelphia.

Tom Lindenfeld, a veteran strategist for national and local campaigns, including several D.C. mayoral races, helped Bowser win the Democratic primary and was on her team for the November general election through June before he resigned.

Bowser declined to comment to News4 on Lindenfeld, but told the Washington City Paper, which first disclosed the story, "I'm quite surprised by the allegations out of Philadelphia. ... Tom no longer has a role on the campaign."

Problems at the Park Southern apartment complex in southeast D.C. have also become an issue in the D.C. mayoral race. Park Southern, one of the District's largest affordable housing complexes, is home to about 700 low-income and no-income tenants.

Last April, the nonprofit management team that had been running the complex was fired. Housing officials and lawyers for the city cited mismanagement, missing funds, overdue mortgage payments amounting to millions of dollars, rundown facilities, and rat and roach infestations as some of the reasons.

The displaced managers had been, and remain, strong supporters of Bowser. One management official, Phinis Jones, has given Bowser about $20,000 in campaign contributions from a group of management companies he owns.

Bowser's opponent and fellow councilmember, David Cantania, has said that Bowser, in more than 18 months as chair of the council housing committee, has done little to nothing to help low-income tenants deal with substandard housing or rising costs of living.

Bowser, who could have held hearings on the Park Southern project, instead asked the D.C. Inspector General to investigate allegations of wrongdoing. That investigation is just getting underway.

In the meantime, NBC4's Tom Sherwood says, Bowser has benefited from good field organization and significant fundraising in a city that is overwhelmingly Democratic with its voter rolls.

In recent weeks, Bowser has been criticized by several community groups for declining to attend their mayoral forums. Bowser contends she was vetted in the Democratic primary and has limited her appearances to only four candidate debates.

"Bowser is well ahead in fundraising, but Catania has raised enough to mount a spirited campaign against her," Sherwood said. "Schwartz has raised little money and is depending on volunteers to run her campaign that she directs herself."

As she seeks to make "good neighborhoods great," Bowser has made a few high-profile appearances designed to show her common touch -- including recently spending a day as a housekeeper at a hotel.

Bowser says the next mayor has to make sure there are jobs available to everyone who wants them.

"Of course we want people to have sustainable jobs," Bowser said as she changed a pillowcase. "...[H]aving a good job and a good company is a start."

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