Muriel Bowser

Muriel Bowser Faces Scrutiny After Trips To Masters, Las Vegas

The mayor’s trips to the council of shopping centers have received scrutiny since at least 2017.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser faced criticism over a pair of trips alleged to have taken place using taxpayer money during May. Earlier in May, Bowser took a trip to The Masters that appeared on her public calendar of events as a “sports and economic development visit.” According to the mayor’s spokesperson, two women chairing a Gallery Place/Chinatown Task Force invited the mayor and her team to the event.

As Fox 5 reports, one of those chairs is the CEO for EDENS, Jodie McLean. EDENS does millions of dollars in business in Washington, D.C. When Fox 5 reporter Stephanie Ramirez asked Bowser for additional clarification, she bristled, telling Ramirez, “We tried to be transparent, so I don’t know what questions you have that remain. We disclosed – I don’t know what questions you have that remain; we expect an invoice if it hasn’t – we haven’t received it yet from EDENS… I believe that the estimated costs were in the range of $5-$6,000, and that’s for air travel … per person.”

Bowser continued, defending her trip to Augusta National Golf Course, “Listen, voters have placed their trust in me to make the best decisions for the District for the last 15 years, including three elections as mayor. We made no secret about the fact that we make sports investments. We are the sports capital, and we are going to promote the District in every corner of the world, and that has been my experience as mayor.”

When Fox 5 asked why the trip had so much secrecy around it, Bowser replied, “You know the reason why you know about the trip? Because it was on my public schedule. That’s not a secret.”

According to the mayor’s public calendar, the next trip is described as an “economic mission” to the International Council of Shopping Centers in Las Vegas, held from May 19-21. “On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Mayor Bowser will attend the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) LAS VEGAS to attract retail to the District of Columbia. This economic mission is coordinated by the Washington, DC Economic Partnership, which has organized the District’s presence at ICSC since 2001.”

The mayor’s trips to the council of shopping centers have received scrutiny since at least 2017. At the time, D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) defended the trip, telling the Washington Post, “It’s great. D.C. has changed, and we can make a different pitch than we could make years ago. It used to be that we had to tell them about the vision of what D.C. could become. Now, everybody wants to come open a store in the District. Frankly, if we weren’t here, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs.”

Others, like Monica Kamen, then the co-director of the D.C. Fair Budget Commission, believed there was a better way for taxpayer money to be allocated, given the gentrification concerns in the District. Kamen told the Post, “There’s been a lot of development in D.C. that has led to massive gentrification and a rise in the cost of living, and we need to be looking at how we continue development without further displacing people. A week before the budget vote, I would hope that that is where most of their focus was — on how to maximize spending for those in need . . . not in Las Vegas talking about giving away too many tax dollars to retailers.”

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