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Mayor seeks unity to rebuild neighborhoods

(Published November 1, 1999)

By EMORY JULIAN MILLS

Staff Writer

Mayor Anthony A. Williams has a new program to revitalize the city and is urging Washingtonians to unify behind him to help outline a broad vision for the District’s future while creating concrete plans to rebuild their neighborhoods.

"We believe we have a critical opportunity in our city," the mayor said.

"So many people in this city give their hearts and souls to improve the neighborhood they love, the place they call home. I want everyone to know that this government will do its part to support their efforts. I want to work directly with citizens so that their priorities are heard."

The program, called Neighborhood Action, is intended to be an ongoing initiative aimed at empowering residents to rebuild their communities by coordinating the efforts of citizens, government, neighborhood leaders, business, nonprofit organizations and the religious community. The program is designed to build on existing neighborhood plans, using realistic deadlines and aligning the District’s budget with residents’ priorities. The mayor also hopes to build partnerships among all community members.

Neighborhood Action will begin with a two-day "citizen summit" at the Washington Convention Center. On Nov. 18, the mayor plans to announce his goals for the city. On Nov.20, residents from throughout the District are invited to participate in a day-long planning session.

The mayor plans to ask residents to make recommendations based on past planning efforts. Those ideas would become part of the mayor’s strategic plan, which the government expects to implement in January.

Beginning in January, neighborhood forums will be held citywide to create action plans to discover what specific needs of neighborhoods should be addressed within citywide goals. The forums also are expected to address who should respond to those needs, who will be held accountable, what the D.C. government can do and what deadlines should be set.

"Through Neighborhood Action, we will bring together a broad spectrum of our city…(to) build upon the work that so many people have already done in our neighborhoods," the mayor said. "We will establish a vision for our city and develop a concrete plan to accomplish that vision…we will roll up our sleeves to come together, work together, succeed together."

Williams criticized the administrations of former mayors Marion Barry and Sharon Pratt Dixon for continually holding meetings that he said resulted in no action and vowed that his Neighborhood Action summit will yield tangible results.

"One legacy I want to leave is not just a government that works, but a government that works together," the mayor said.

Williams was joined at the Oct. 20 press conference announcing his plan by members of the city council, community activists, representatives of the business community, student leaders, Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey and D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

Ward 5 ANC commissioner Bob King praised the initiative and urged all residents to join him in supporting the mayor’s program.

"Our challenge is to get on board because that train is moving," King said. "There’s room aboard for every citizen regardless of where you live, where you work or how you look."

Pamela McKee of the Greater Washington Board of Trade urged small businesses to participate in the initiative.

"The time is right as we move toward a new millennium for neighborhood business owners to play a critical role in rebuilding this city," she said.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator