The Walter E. Washington Convention Center was abuzz Saturday when 1,700 D.C. residents came out to join Mayor Vincent C. Gray and America Speaks, a non-profit organization that engages citizens in governance, for the “One City Summit.”
The seven-hour conference began at 9:30 a.m., bringing together district residents and community leaders to pinpoint the problems affecting the city and what Mayor Gray could do to fix them. The event was inspired by community gatherings held by former Mayor Anthony Williams. It also included a fitness break at the mid-way point.
Moderated by Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, founder and president of America Speaks, and Don Edwards, principal and CEO of Justice & Sustainability Associates, the town hall focused on four main topics:
- Creating a more diverse and growing economy,
- Ensuring early success for infants and toddlers,
- Educating youth and
- Aligning job skills with the growing economy.
Participants were equipped with electronic keypads to poll their responses and one laptop per table to record their views electronically.
Mayor Gray urged the crowd to speak honestly and openly about the issues. He said the problems the city faces need to be resolved or else residents will continue to be divided.
“We are at a crossroads; take the opportunity to save our future,” Gray said. “What happens in Barry Farms and Deanwood affects Georgetown and Cleveland Park.”
Natasha Satchel, a resident of Ward 8, said that the people need to regain trust in their officials.
“We need closer monitoring and accountability,” Satchel said. “(Show us) these services are being provided.”