During a George Talks Business Event, the mayor shared plans she has to attract businesses to D.C. and solve some of the problems the District is facing with affordability.
By Briahnna Brown
For anyone interested in public service, being the mayor of your hometown is “the best job you can have,” Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said.
There is a rhythm to the job, she said, and in her second term leading the District, she has learned a great deal about having the courage to make tough decisions to the benefit of the people she serves.
"Being a local government official puts you in front of your constituents each and every day—and in your day-to-day life,” Ms. Bowser said. “Being able to understand their vision for how our city will go into the next generation is critical to winning their trust and keeping their trust."
Ms. Bowser discussed her leadership role on Monday during a George Talks Business event. The event series, which the George Washington University School of Business hosts and live-streams, features regularly-scheduled interviews with respected thought leaders in multiple fields.
GWSB Dean Anuj Mehrotra interviewed Ms. Bowser on her plans for the future of the District as it works to meet the region’s population growth and infrastructure needs.
The District must also keep up with technological advancements that impact local government as well as residents, and Ms. Bowser said her office’s biggest concerns are privacy and security. A number of cities across the country experienced ransomware attacks this year, and ensuring that D.C. is prepared to prevent and combat that is one of her priorities.
She also hopes to see technology used to streamline the delivery of human services in the city, such as income-enhancing benefits like food stamps and welfare, or connecting expectant mothers to better prenatal care.
GWSB Dean Anuj Mehrotra (l) speaks with Mayor Muriel Bowser (c) and GW President Thomas LeBlanc at Monday's George Talks Business event.
Another major issue facing the region is housing affordability and creating more housing for lower-income individuals. Ms. Bowser said an average of 800 people are moving to D.C. each month, and that demand has led to a surge in the cost of housing.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments estimates that the region must create 320,000 housing units between 2020 and 2030 to meet expected demand, and Ms. Bowser pledged to create 36,000 of those units by 2025. She also said she set neighborhood-specific targets to meet this need for residents. Reaching these targets will require multiple partnerships with the private sector, she said.
"Sometimes, especially in housing and development, we think we have a silver bullet, but in fact it takes layers and layers of financing and partnerships to get affordable projects done," Ms. Bowser said.
The need for these partnerships is part of the push behind the #ObviouslyDC campaign, she said, which was originally designed as a pitch for Amazon’s HQ2. With the new HQ2 complex opening in Crystal City, Ms. Bowser said it will bring tens of thousands of tech jobs to the region, but the District will need to keep persuading tech giants on the West Coast to establish outposts in the area to encourage the city’s economic growth.
As young people continue to flock to D.C. to pursue mission-focused careers, Ms. Bowser said, that talent will help attract those businesses to the District. However, this is also why the focus on affordable housing creation is especially important in keeping those younger people in D.C.
"We're going to be a city that continues to attract people,” Ms. Bowser said. “Our challenge is our ability to be able to compete with other regions who are going after those same people.
“So, affordability is very, very critical to how we will continue to grow."