Today starts summer recess at the D.C. Council!
Of course, the people’s business never stops, but for the next nine weeks the Council will not meet as a legislature. We’ll still be working on constituent concerns, as well as doing research on policy proposals and continuing oversight of executive agencies. Summer recess is also a time to give my great staff a chance to take vacations and spend some time with family and friends out of the office. I’ll be taking some time, as well.
Councilmember Silverman sent the following letter to her colleagues before the D.C. Council's July 9 Legislative Meeting regarding an emergency resolution she introduced on July 9 to remove Corbett Price from the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board of Directors in response to ethics concerns:
I am writing to explain my reasons for moving the emergency resolution removing Corbett Price from the WMATA Board of Directors. I ask for your support and vote in favor of the resolution.
I am moving this emergency because, especially at this time, the District needs a voting member on the WMATA board who is well-regarded, credible, and always acts in the city’s best interests. Mr. Price’s actions suggest he is not the right person for this role:
Councilmember Silverman made the following remarks on the dais at the D.C. Council's July 9 Legislative Meeting in response to the decision by Chairman Phil Mendelson to reorganize the Finance and Revenue Committee without consulting all members of the Council:
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank Councilmember Cheh for moving this amendment.
Today there is a spotlight on Council ethics, on how we as elected officials and public servants are supposed to act in the public interest and not get any direct or predictable personal benefit for our votes.
This is a sad day for the Council to have to take this type of action regarding a fellow member, and to have to reorganize the Council in reaction.
Goings-on at the Wilson Building have been front-page news, so let me begin with my thoughts on the controversy surrounding my Ward 2 colleague Jack Evans. As many of you may recall, when The Washington Post published a story in early March disclosing how Councilmember Evans used his Council email to pitch a private law firm on his public office connections, I joined two other colleagues in calling for an investigation. I renewed the call for investigation last week after The Post published a 20-page memo from a law firm hired by WMATA (Metro) to investigate Councilmember Evans’s conduct as a D.C. representative on the WMATA Board of Directors and its board chair. The evidence and conclusions reached by the firm are very troubling, and I am glad that Chairman Mendelson has decided to form an ad-hoc committee which will hire an outside law firm to investigate Councilmember Evans’s conduct on the Council.
D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) issued the following statement regarding WMATA Board Chair and Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans:
“I have just read the memorandum from Schulte Roth & Zabel regarding WMATA’s investigation into the conduct of Jack Evans, WMATA Board Chair and my Ward 2 colleague on the D.C. Council. In light of the report, it is the right decision for Councilmember Evans to step down from his role as a D.C. representative on the WMATA Board of Directors. The memorandum raises troubling questions about actions taken by Councilmember Evans in his role as a public servant on the WMATA board.
“I am also renewing my earlier calls for the D.C. Council to conduct an investigation into the conduct of Councilmember Evans. I have asked Chairman Mendelson to initiate this action. I suggest the D.C. Council hire an outside law firm to investigate any alleged violations of our law and Code of Conduct. Those findings and recommendations should be brought forth quickly, and Councilmember Evans should be given a chance to respond.
“In the end, we need to make sure that the Council acts with the highest ethics and follows the rule of law. Maintaining the public’s trust in our government is vital to our city and our democracy.”
Earlier today, the D.C. Council took the second and final vote on authorizing language for next year’s District budget, which includes provisions regarding a $46 million tax abatement for the Line Hotel in Adams Morgan. The Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) budget will redirect a little more than $1 million from the abatement to the D.C. Housing Authority for the repair of public housing in Ward 1, a move that was certified by the District’s Chief Financial Officer. The rest of the abatement will remain in place, contingent on the Line Hotel meeting all the requirements in its tax abatement law.
I promise, this is the second-to-last FY 2020 budget update! We are almost done (I hope)! Last week, my colleagues and I took the second and final vote on the Local Budget Act, which appropriates money for next year. A second and final vote on the Budget Support Act, which provides the enabling language for the now-approved budget numbers, will come later this month.
We face challenging issues in our city when it comes to funding our schools, providing health care, and financing the preservation and building of affordable housing. These were the flashpoints last Tuesday, and I’ll provide some updates below. You may have seen in the press that the Council went in a new direction by funding a new Banneker Senior High School at the site of the shuttered Shaw Jr. High campus. The current Banneker site was also reserved for a Shaw Middle School. You also may have seen that the Council slightly reduced the commitment to providing money for public housing maintenance because the city’s Chief Financial Officer disagrees that surplus reserve funds can be redirected from Events DC, the former convention and sports authority. You might have also read that there was a lot of debate about how to fund our city’s only hospital east of the Anacostia River, and there’s more on that below.
Silverman Presses for Transparency in Housing Production Trust Fund Dollars, Highlighting Concerns Over Competitive Process Raised in New Auditor’s Report
D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) responded to a new report released earlier today from the Office of the D.C. Auditor, which raises concerns about the integrity of the competitive application process for the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF). The report found that the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) often deviated from its own scoring system to select lower-ranked projects for the fund, which provides critical gap financing to developers of affordable housing.
Silverman Applauds New FY20 Funds for Public Housing Repairs, Affordable Housing, and Healthcare Needs in Ward 8
In Tuesday’s second and final vote on next year’s budget appropriations, D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) championed the redirection of $1 million to public housing repairs in Ward 1, the restoration of over $7 million to United Medical Center in Ward 8, and the allocation of $15.3 million to support early education and affordable housing needs across the District. These investments were largely part of a series of amendments wrapped into the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, which passed unanimously.
Attorney General Racine Says Line Hotel Needed to Meet All Legislated D.C. Hiring Targets for $46 Million Tax Abatement
In response to a request from two D.C. Council members, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has issued a legal opinion concluding that the Bowser Administration does not have authority to waive specific D.C. hiring requirements put in law in order for the Line Hotel to qualify for a taxpayer subsidy worth up to $46 million. Earlier this month, the Department of Employment Services (DOES) found that the hotel had not met two of seven specific requirements legislated by the Council but said the agency had the ability to create an alternative compliance plan.