Who is Muriel Bowser?
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Muriel Bowser, the eighth mayor of Washington, DC, is getting national recognition amid disagreements with President Trump over the George Floyd protests.
The feud started when security forces in Washington forcefully removed protestors from Lafayette Park, located across from the White House, on May 29 by using tear gas and flash bangs. This was done so President Trump could make his way to St. John’s Church, a historic place of worship for generations of American leaders, for a photo-op.
The next morning Mayor Bowser and her aides were in a conference call with the city’s police chief when Trump started tweeting about events from the previous night. In one of his tweets, he wrote that the protestors would have been met with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” if they had tried to breach the White House fence.
In another, Trump explicitly called Bowser out, tweeting that she “is always looking for money” and that she “wouldn’t let” the Washington police get involved in securing the city.
The Secret Service, the United States law enforcement agency tasked with protecting the president and other US leaders, later confirmed that the city’s police forces “were on the scene” during the events.
In response to Trump’s accusations, Bowser tweeted that the Washington police would “always protect” the city “and all who are in it” whether she agrees with them on political issues or not. She also tweeted that Trump was hiding “behind his fence afraid/alone.”
Since then, the city’s government has made attempts to show solidarity with the protests. On June 5, it was announced that a section of 16th Street near the White House, including the area outside of St. John’s Church, would be named “Black Lives Matter Way.”
In addition, the city’s Department of Public Works commissioned a street painting spanning two blocks that featured “black lives matter” in large yellow letters, also near the White House.
Bowser adopted her two-year-old daughter, Miranda, in mid-2018. The mayor has been open about her personal life and has testified to the difficulty of being a single mom.
Rise to elected office
Bowser is a native of the nation’s capital and was born there in 1972. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in History from Chatham University in Pennsylvania and her Master’s Degree in Public Policy from American University in Washington, she was later elected to her first office as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the Riggs Park neighborhood in 2004, an area in the northern part of the city.
After leaving her position at the Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions in 2007, which acts as a bridge between local communities and city officials on matters related to the neighborhood, Bowser served from 2007 until 2015 on the Council of the District of Columbia.
This council is the main legislative body of the city of Washington. As a council member, Bowser was criticized for an allegedly thin legislative record.
During her first race for mayor, she acknowledged that her approach might not be “dramatic” but argued that it was “effective” and impacted people’s lives.
Some of the bills Bowser sponsored as a city legislator were requirements for contractors to notify residents when they would raze a building, regulations on pawn shops and street vendors, and the Kids Ride Free bill, which gave all Washington students the option to ride city buses for free.
She was first elected mayor of Washington in 2014 and was reelected in 2018, becoming the first woman to be reelected to the Washington mayor’s office since the creation of the mayorship in 1974. In the 2018 elections, she defeated her opponent in a landslide, winning over 76% of the vote.
A “fair shot for every D.C. resident”
Since taking over as mayor, Bowser, a Democrat, has sought to broaden her agenda. Her current slogan in office is a “fair shot” for every resident, which was emphasized in the name of Washington’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020.
As a part of that budget, US$116 million was set aside for affordable housing, up from $100 million in 2019. In addition, Bowser has an ambitious plan to build an additional 36,000 homes within city limits by 2025, with a portion of those dedicated to affordable housing.
In 2015, Bowser signed legislation that made it mandatory that city police wear body cameras when dealing with the public. Initially, the mayor supported a plan to limit public access to footage over privacy concerns raised by officers, but this was later amended by city legislators.
In 2016, she signed a bill that raised the city’s minimum wage to US$15 per hour, a level that some advocates suggest constitutes a “living wage.”
Her administration is also pushing to make Washington, DC the 51st state in the US. In the 2020 race for the democratic nomination for president, she initially supported former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but has since endorsed Joe Biden.
In light of the protests following the death of George Floyd, there is new legislation in the Washington Council that would ban the police from using chokeholds. It would also speed up the release of officers’ body camera footage. A separate bill would make it illegal for police to use tear gas.
For now, it is unclear if Mayor Bowser would support either of these pieces of legislation in their current forms. As protestors call for Washington to defund the police, Bowser has received criticism for increasing funding for the city’s police department in its newest budget.
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