Lilyana Acharya '21
The Black Lives Matter movement has a newfound foothold in the turmoil of the present. Many people feel they must speak out about the issues that would otherwise, at best, be ignored. The movement has garnered many champions, some of whom find much of their claim to fame in the backlash that carries them to the forefront of public interest. One of those spokespeople is Muriel Elizabeth Bowser, the D.C. mayor. Though Bowser has risen to a key public figure recently, she is not a stranger to the position she holds.
Muriel Bowser started her District government career in 2004 when she was unanimously elected as a representative to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC). She was re-elected again in 2006 while serving as the Ward 4 campaign coordinator during Adrian Fenty’s successful run for D.C. mayor. Fenty’s succession to the office of mayor left a vacancy in his previous seat as the Ward 4 representative in the D.C. Council, and Bowser was elected to the Council in 2007.
Contrary to her previous elusion from the spotlight as an ANC commissioner, Bowser’s run for the D. C. Council even brought her to the editorial page of the Washington Post. Bowser’s near-immediate rise from campaign coordinator to Councilmember induced controversy surrounding her motives. Some believed Bowser would serve as Fenty’s mouthpiece rather than advocate for her constituents. Bowser’s friendly attitude toward rich campaign donors caused suspicion that Fenty was one among many which Bowser would prioritize in her work as D.C. Councilmember. This issue followed her through her re-election in 2008.
In 2012, Bowser ran for re-election again. However, the situation this time was further complicated by the Ethics Reform Bill passed by the D.C. Council, which condemned the pervasive malpractice of elected officials, creating policies which primarily benefited their donors. Bowser consistently denounced the bill’s proposal to ban corporate donations.
Bowser escalated her ambitions in 2014 when she ran for D.C. mayor. This campaign marked the beginning of her staunch, outspoken defense of policy promoting equal opportunity in the District of Columbia. She used her campaign to speak out against student Metro fares, the corruption of the District’s government, and the selective increases in the minimum wage. Having such a broad focus, Bowser’s campaign was criticized for the lack of details. However, Bowser won with over half the vote.
Bowser now uses her position as D.C. mayor to support the Black Lives Matter movement, dedicating a street section in front of the White House to the cause. However, the D.C. chapter of the Black Lives Matter organization says this is not so much a sufficient display of support as a distraction from what should really happen. It seems that these policy changes which Black Lives Matter activists have campaigned for all summer may not come to fruition, for Bowser recently proposed a budget that supports traditional policing, and an increased Metro Police Department budget, at the expense of initiatives to reduce violence in the community.
Bowser may not have moved beyond being a sponsor of the ideals she supports yet, but as many other issues have in her previous years in numerous offices, egalitarian causes like the Black Lives Matter movement will, at least, continue to find a voice in her.
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