D.C. leaders discuss pot, policing and statehood on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’

WASHINGTON — D.C. Statehood, the state of public schools, the pressures of policing.

On Sunday, the three women who lead the District of Columbia got a national platform when they appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Newly elected mayor Muriel Bowser was asked how she’ll work with Congress. Noting that it has authority over D.C.’s budget, Bowser said she looks forward to working with the powers that be on Capitol Hill.

But Bowser staked out her position on the nature of that relationship, adding that Congress should focus on issues of national importance while local officials get to work: “We’re actually doing just fine governing ourselves.”

Recently, D.C. voters passed a law legalizing marijuana for recreational use. But there’s some opposition to that in Congress. Bowser was asked if the city would sue over the matter. “We’re going to explore every option,” she said.

The mayor said the status of the law has to be made clear so D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier “can be very clear with the officers of what’s legal in the District and what isn’t.”

Pressed on the District’s budget issues, including a shortfall, Bowser said, “we balanced it for the last 17 years and we’re going to balance it again.”

Bowser conceded there are some  tough issues ahead, but said “we’ll make those decisions and we’ll send up a balanced budget to the Congress. And all they really need to do is keep it clean.” By that Bowser explained, she didn’t want to see any riders attached to the budget bill.

D.C.’s lack of representation and Congressional oversight have long fueled a movement for statehood. MTP host Chuck Todd asked Bowser if she’d press for full statehood or if she would support “retrocession,” having the District absorbed into either Maryland or Virginia.

To that, she said, “we are Washington, D.C., Chuck. Residents of Washington, D.C. deserve full democracy and statehood.”

While New York City’s rift between Mayor Bill DeBlasio and the police union got national attention, D.C. police Chief Cathy Lanier’s department was noted for the way it handled protests that focused on police treatment of African Americans.

MTP host Chuck Todd asked her about that and Lanier said it boiled down to establishing strong relationships throughout the city: “You have to do it every single day. You can’t do it in crisis.”

“I had the good fortune of observing our community reaching out and hugging police officers and shaking our hands and we’re very fortunate,” Lanier says of the D.C. protests.

Todd also asked D.C. Chancellor of Schools Kaya Henderson about the changes in the school system.

While some critics say progress continues to lag, Henderson replied “if you ask the U.S. Secretary of Education, he’d tell you that D.C. is the fastest improving urban school district in the country.”

Henderson also said familes are moving back into D.C., reversing a 40-year trend.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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