Bowser spoke to the crowd about her biography, accomplishments, and vision for the future. See a one-minute YouTube sample of the beginning of Bowser's address below.
If video will not display, see it on YouTube here.
16th Street Bus Traffic
ANC 2B/Dupont Circle Commissioner Kishan Putta (district 04) began the question-and-answer portion of the evening by asking Bowser about the difficulties that riders in his district were experiencing on the 16th Street bus (S1, 2, and 4). Putta told Bowser the buses were often full by the time they descended from Columbia Heights down to the area below U Street. Putta solicited another member of the audience to testify to the severity of the problem. The other member of the audience said on some mornings ten city buses pass by without stopping.
"We made some adjustments in the last year," Bowser said. "It sounds like we need to do more."
Bowser went on to say there was not a lot of extra space to add buses on 16th Street during rush hour, and special lanes were really not an option. However, Bowser said there could be improvements in "bus prioritization". Federal money had gone to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for this purpose. WMATA had in turn transferred to funds to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).
"But DDOT hasn't done anything about it," Bowser said.
Bowser also mentioned "bus signalization". This would enable approaching buses to send signals to traffic lights, which would help keep buses moving more smoothly through congested areas.
Reeves Center Land Swap
Bowser touched on the state of the proposed land swap that would trade the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets) for a parcel of land in Southwest Washington, in order to allow the construction of a stadium for the D.C. United soccer club. (See SALM blog post of January 7.)
"With the soccer stadium, it's not a fait accompli," Bowser said. "There are many moving parts to that."
Bowser called D.C. United "good neighbors" in D.C. and said they had approached the land swap deal thoughtfully. However, she was not enthusiastic about the land swap deal.
"It's not perfect. A land swap is a bad idea because we don't know the true value of the Reeves Center," Bowser said.
Bowser concluded that the $150 million that D.C. is putting into this deal would be better spent rebuilding the District's middle schools.
"What we should be doing now is challenging all the council members not to rubberstamp a deal that they haven't seen," Bowser said. "That's number one: let's get a good deal for the residents."
Charter Schools vs. Community Schools
An audience member objected to the way charter schools were developing, especially the way the students with the most involved parents ended up in charter schools, and the rest ended up in community schools.
"This is the problem of not being able to put the toothpaste back in the tube," Bowser said.
Bowser said she expected to continue to see a lot of charter schools attempt to open, but not always serving the people who needed them.
"We ought to be able to limit the number of charters that open and be able to direct what part of the city they open in," she said.
She continued: "You also probably know I have the unpopular idea that charter schools have to educate kids in their neighborhoods."
Bowser recalled that she had a big argument with journalist Tom Sherwood on this issue on WAMU's "Kojo Nnamdi Show". However, her opinion was unchanged.
"I do think we have to have a neighborhood preference for charter schools," Bowser said.
At the end of the question-and-answer session, ANC2B Commissioner Stephanie Maltz (district 03) thanked Bowser for coming to speak.
Also attending were ANC2A Commissioner Jackson Carnes (district 07), ANC2F Commissioner Chris Linn (district 03), ANC2B Commissioner Mike Silverstein (district 06), and Jack Jacobson, Ward 2 representative on the DC State Board of Education.