By MICHAEL T. SPENCER
On Oct. 2, 2014, D.C. mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser, David Catania and Carol Schwartz shared one of their common childhood Halloween costumes: all three said Wonder Woman. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the femme fatale, just conjure up an image of a Caucasian Beyonce who twirled around with a lasso and deflected bullets with golden bracelets. Yes, Wonder Woman was plenty fierce – and many of us still pay homage to her this very day.
There’s also something plenty fierce about each of the candidates running for mayor. Muriel led the passage of our city’s most comprehensive ethics legislation after corruption threatened to cripple city government. David ushered in the passage of our city’s forward-thinking marriage equality legislation, which afforded me the privilege to marry my husband in May. And Carol negotiated the passage of landmark legislation to provide workers with paid sick leave despite the (realized) threat of being ousted from the Council. Our next mayor, however, must encompass more than the characteristics of a throwback superhero or the competencies of a mere legislator.
Our next mayor must possess the right skills and sensibilities to diplomatically build, manage, sustain and leverage strategic relationships and coalitions across the District. She or he must develop initiatives, small and large, through collaboration instead of condescension and de facto coercion. And our next mayor must connect to citizens and communities across our diverse, ever-changing – and sometimes contentious city – and deliver on their behalf.
For these reasons, we must elect Muriel Bowser be our next mayor.
Muriel’s enviable endorsement from the architect of our city’s new economy, Mayor Anthony Williams, and the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, reflects the business community’s confidence in her ability to build public-private partnerships, and lead new developments in an economically viable and just manner. Muriel’s grassroots support from the LGBTQ, public safety, small business and faith communities are also noteworthy and shows the broad support her campaign continues to receive. These communities are intolerable of “establishment candidates” and “empty suits” — a covert chauvinistic charge that has been lodged at Muriel throughout this election.
Muriel prides herself on a common-sense approach to problem solving, and a practice of bringing all parties to the table. She’s not a theatrical show woman. There is minimal flashiness. Muriel does not bait others to a fight. She is not interested in silly spectators. And her ego does not unnecessarily demand dizzying details for dramatic effect. For example, there was little fanfare when Muriel worked with WMATA and her legislative colleagues to secure significant cost-saving transportation benefits for D.C. students; or when she ushered in more than $4 million to provide hundreds of affordable housing units in the District.
We often find comfort in our privilege and dismiss the real value of Muriel’s transportation legislation or her other value-added achievements. Many of us live in transportation-rich communities where sidewalks, Metro stations, car sharing stations, working cars, and Uber are just a few steps outside of our doors. Trust me, I bear witness to the positive impact of Muriel’s work on a daily basis as I travel by bike or Bimmer from my home in Hillcrest through Anacostia and to Congress Heights where I work.
Muriel’s commitment to solving our city’s problems and pushing its progress in a coordinated approach is critical. For example, Muriel will work with District vendors to provide job training to hard-to-employ citizens in exchange for reasonable subsidies from the city. These initiatives show that Muriel understands that we cannot boil this election down to one issue — education — like her main opponent, Catania. Such a focus would be grossly irresponsible even if well intended. The siloed approach ignores the workforce development needs of that child’s single mother; the re-integration of the child’s incarcerated father; and the housing needs of the child’s grandparents. Muriel is in touch with everyday Washingtonians. As mayor, she will attack poverty, improve our schools, grow our middle class, support small business and build a city that gives every resident a fair shot.
On a human level, Muriel is a lot more likeable and relatable than the other candidates. She understands the common narrative of the tenured Washingtonian. She is hospitable to those who are relatively new to D.C. She listens. She’s decisive not divisive. She will be a mayor for #all8wards because she is a seasoned leader — calm, real, and powerful without pretense.
I charge you to walk into your voting booth, spin around and then vote for Muriel Bowser. She’s a real Wonder Woman for D.C.!
I am confident Muriel will exceed my expectations – and yours, too.
Michael T. Spencer is a third-generation Washingtonian, native of Anacostia, D.C.P.S. graduate, and attorney. Spencer is a member of Leadership Greater Washington, and runs two youth development boards in his spare time. He lives in the East of the River neighborhood of Hillcrest with his husband Justin.