Crime, education take center stage in latest debate for DC mayor

Public safety in the D.C. and an increase in crime, as well as the state of the city’s education system, were the major topics in a debate Monday night between the four Democratic candidates for mayor.

During the debate — broadcast and hosted by WJLA-TV (ABC 7) — there were big promises made related to crime and safety from James Butler, a former Advisory Neighborhood commissioner, who says he’ll hire 500-700 new cops in four years.

“I will make D.C. one of the safest city’s in America,” Butler said.

D.C. Council member Trayon White said solutions start with more programs for the city’s youth including “after-school programs, mentoring, recreation centers.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council member Robert White sparred over whether her administration has been proactive. Robert White accused Bowser of not having a plan to keep crime from happening.

“We can’t wait to lose more brothers and sisters in our city before we have a plan,” Robert White said.

Meanwhile, Bowser said there are many parts of her proactive crime plan, such as “hiring violence interrupters from the community” to help stop crime before it happens.

On the topic of education, each candidate provided different opinions and insight on how the system can move forward. For example, Robert White said he wants to get rid of the mayor’s control of the city’s schools.

“What I’m going to do is work with the council to create an independent state Superintendent of Education,” Robert White said.

Bowser disagreed, stating that mayoral control is working.

“Our kids did better in the last 15 years because we know have accountability in our system,” Bowser said.

Butler, a newcomer to the debates, agreed with the mayor, added that instead of relinquishing control, “my plan is to run the entire city.”

Council member Trayon White said the fix is in focusing on more than getting kids into college.

“A career plan to include technical education and CTE (career and technical education), but also an entrepreneurship plan,” Trayon White said.

Topics that were also discussed included the homeless encampments in the city, affordable housing, cleaning up the Anacostia River and D.C. statehood.

The debate was interrupted for a few minutes by some protesters who got up and walked in front of the television cameras. The broadcast feed switched to a profile peace on Butler, so signs carried by the protesters were not seen.

As the profile piece played, Bowser could be heard asking the moderator, reporter Sam Ford, what was going on. Ford could also be heard telling the demonstrators to sit down.

The primary is scheduled for June 21.

Kyle Cooper

Anchor and reporter Kyle Cooper, has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana, and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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