DC Mayor Bowser: Metro at 'critical juncture;' safety and accountability top priorities
WASHINGTON - FOX 5 invited D.C.'S Mayor Muriel Bowser to join us in studio to tackle the issues concerning the District:
Bowser believes we are at a critical juncture regarding the city's Metro system. She says that for several decades, issues such as safety and accountability haven't been addressed, and that they need to become the focus in order to grow and accommodate new riders.
"Paul Wiedefeld walked into this with his eyes wide open. He knew what he was inheriting with Metro and want would take to get it fixed. So far, his focus on safety - being very frank about what it's going take to do the maintenance work needed on Metro is important," she said.
She says that all of the jurisdictions know that operating costs will increase, but she expects the transit system to look within for ways to become more efficient.
Progress in schools and student safety are always at the top of the city's list of concerns. She says she is pleased that graduation rates have increased and believes students can continue to push to do even better.
"In terms of safety, we put that number one on the list as well," she said. "We expect the best from our kids, but we know that they need adults around. We have police protection in our schools and we've called for a step up in the presence of police around Metro stations for safe passage."
"We can go to parts of our city where we have the lowest levels of crime that we've ever seen. And then we can go to concentrated areas where we see spikes - troubling spikes - in violent crime and use of guns, especially."
Bowser said police efforts are concentrated in the areas of the city that need it the most and that human services programs and prevention programs are used to target at-risk groups.
"Absolutely. We want to see our football team back and we already know that we have the best location," Bowser said when addressing possible uses for the RFK stadium grounds.
"We want D.C. residents - like other states who have been admitted to the Union - to affirm that they want statehood, to draw the boundaries for the new state, keeping a Federal District, but the balance of the city would become the 51st state. We want to put that on the ballot."
SECURITY CAMERAS STUDENTS / METRO
"We want to work with Metro to see how we increase that presence on platforms and also on trains. It should be noted, however, that you don't go on metro property without being recorded. As soon as you pop on or enter into a Metro station or on MetroBus you are being recorded. That's why we see such quick turn around when there are crimes on Metro - because we know who is doing the crime. Having cameras does indeed enhance our police force. But we want people to know that - for kids, for everybody, - that the behavior and criminal activity will not be tolerated in our systems."
"I think more importantly we figure that we need not only a transit expert but we need somebody who can turn around a very large bureaucracy. I won't sugar coat the issues at Metro, and I don't think we can say it's the board governance or this one thing. I think it's 40 years worth - that have been chronicled recently - of things that could have happened differently."