Washington, D.C., like just about every other American city, is a city divided, with neighborhoods earning $91,000 and $32,000 separated by the Anacostia River. The neighborhood on the west side is primarily white, the one on the east, primarily black. With the racial wealth gap in mind, it’s not difficult to guess which neighborhood has the median income close to six figures (and access to a slew of trendy restaurants) and which one earns the much lower median and lacks access to a full-service grocery store.
The city’s economic and racial divides are the target of a new economic strategy from Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“I am confident that this framework will accelerate our progress as a leader for inclusive prosperity by creating opportunities that are accessible to all, supporting longtime businesses and residents, and benefiting our most disadvantaged communities,” Bowser said in a statement.
The wide-ranging proposal, which has its own website, is a kind of roadmap for equitable growth in D.C., focused on increasing the commercial tax base and creating jobs. It “outlines not only how we will grow our economy, but how we will make sure that growth benefits all Washingtonians,” according to the website.
The strategy centers on two proposals, which the initiative calls “measurable goals.” They include growing “private sector GDP to $100 billion [by 20 percent] by the end of 2021” and reducing “unemployment across wards, races and educational attainment levels, bringing rates below [10 percent] in all segments by the end of 2021.”
Specifically, the mayor’s office wants to create “an inclusive innovation fund” to award grants to local businesses, secure commitments from tech firms to host more internships, redesign certain permitting and licensing systems and support “the development of a collaborative of anchor institutions committed to increasing their procurement from local businesses,” according to a release.
As Amanda Kolson Hurley wrote for Next City last year, a focus on equitable development is much needed in D.C., where those two neighborhoods on either side of the Anacostia have “become emblematic of the extremes of poverty and wealth in a polarized city.”
“That is partly a result of the many thousands of young, white professionals who have flocked to D.C. over the past decade — but not hopped the river, so far,” she wrote.
Mayor Bowser’s plan can be viewed in more detail here.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.