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Councilmember Kathy Patterson
Inaugural Address
January 2, 2003

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Councilmember Patterson’s Remarks
Swearing-In Ceremony, January 2, 2003

Many of you know Judge Ferren, as a lawyer, a jurist, and for far too SHORT a time, as the District’s Corporation Counsel. I am grateful to have John as a colleague, and honored to count him as a friend. He exemplifies what is best in public service – and John, your keen sense of justice, and the importance of using our positions to seek justice – is an inspiration.

Thank you, also, to my family – Dale, Patrick and Gillian, and from California, my mother, brother Don, and his girls, Anisa and Mikaela. Thank you for your support and for being here today. Let me acknowledge, also, my second family – my Council family – staff and advisers here today – thank you for all that you do for all of us. And a thank you to the voters in Ward 3 for your confidence and support in permitting me to serve a third term on the D.C. Council.

[I would like to ask for a moment of silence in honor and memory of Phyllis Campbell Newsome, a shining light of our community, who passed away the day after Christmas, and to whose memory I would like to dedicate my next four years of service]

As my colleagues have indicated, the District of Columbia has many serious challenges over the next four years. As we have had over the last eight. It is imperative that we secure the financial gains we have made, in working our way back from the brink of bankruptcy just eight years ago. We have to continue to be vigilant stewards of the public’s funds, and the public’s trust.

We have an obligation in the world we live in today to assure the safety of our communities – the safety of residents, families, visitors. The nation’s capital, and our home, must be as prepared as we can make it for every imaginable disaster.

There is a third challenge, though, that I would like to focus on in my few minutes here today. It is one we don’t talk about; we don’t admit to ourselves, but one that has been hovering during this holiday season. It is time – it is well past time – for the District government itself to take the Hippocratic oath – to say that first, we will do no harm. Before we balance the books, before we seek to attract new residents, we will do no harm to those we have.

We are losing far too many young men to gunshot violence in this city. But the danger apparently does not end on city streets. Lives are in danger while in government custody. A teenage girl, a runaway from New York, was harmed not once but twice after being taken off the streets and placed in District custody. These are headlines and they are real human beings – sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. They are our responsibility. These are not acceptable circumstances in the District of Columbia in 2003 and on our watch.

Mikal Gaither was 23, bright and appealing – and like too many others, on the wrong side of the law. He was arrested on drug charges and detained at the D.C. Jail. He was also a key witness in an ongoing homicide case, set for trial in the spring. On Saturday December 14 he was stabbed in the neck at the jail. He died the next day. He was the second death in December at the jail.

There are program and service and policy challenges before us – with program and service and policy solutions. But to get to those solutions, to have a government that finally stops doing harm, requires that individuals accept personal responsibility for their actions and the outcomes – starting at the top of the government. Murders at the DC Jail are not an acceptable part of government doing business. Period. Placing a runaway in juvenile detention is not acceptable. Period. And if any one of us, elected to public office, fails to do everything in our considerable power to at least assure safety to those whose lives we hold in our hands, then we violate the trust of the voters who sent us here.

There is a great deal of work to be done – starting here, and now.

Thank you.

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