Challenges and Choices for the New Mayor

Today, the District of Columbia ranks among the nation’s most thriving and vibrant cities. But DC’s prosperity and growth have not reached every neighborhood or benefited all its residents. Poverty, hardship, and isolation persist—and in some places may have worsened. Some long-time residents feel excluded from the new economic, social, and cultural opportunities springing up around them. Some neighborhoods remain severely distressed. And disparities between rich and poor are widening.

A leadership transition is a time of change and an opportunity for reexamination. As a new mayor takes office, the Urban Institute seeks to encourage evidence-based policy development with these goals:

  1. To provide compelling information about the city’s challenges in a form that supports greater participation in conversations about how to address those challenges
  2. To offer evidence-based solutions to the challenges facing the city
  3. To encourage and support the city’s commitment to an inclusive and fact-based conversation about solutions

Urban Institute experts have prepared memos offering the new mayor specific recommendations that draw on research evidence and discussions with civic and community leaders. Six issues were selected for examination, each of which is important to a more equitable future. The first set of memos focuses oninclusive housing, DC schools, and open data. Later this spring, we’ll release three more memos, on our vibrant economy, social and economic mobility, and partners in public safety.

Featured Research

Preserving and Expanding Inclusive Housing
The city’s population has grown dramatically over the past 15 years, increasing the demand for housing. To keep up, DC needs to build more housing and preserve existing affordable housing.

Sustaining and Strengthening DC Schools
DC test scores are rising across the board, even after accounting for changing demographics. The mayor should channel this progress by ensuring stability for all students and equity for DC’s poorest students.

Leveraging the Power of Open Data to Improve City Services
Open data—data that can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose—is key to creating an accountable and effective government. Mayor Bowser and her staff will need to firmly establish the policy and practice of open data, catalog current data assets, build a supportive culture, and engage external stakeholders.


"The Promise of Open Data," Sarah Rosen Wartell for The Washington Post, January 16, 2015
“Solutions to many of the problems facing the new mayor depend on getting up-to-date information into the right hands and using it well. To make good on Mayor Bowser’s promise to expand opportunity to all eight wards, the District should strive to become a data-driven city.”


Challenges and Choices for the New Mayor is an initiative of the Urban Institute, and is part of Talking Transition DC. Funding is provided by the Open Society Foundations. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to Talking Transition DC or to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.