I have been looking forward to this hearing for a long time.
First, thank you to Councilmember Grosso and his staff for introducing versions of a small donor match bill in 2013 and in 2015. I think with this bill in 2017, the third time’s a charm. I am thrilled to see nine colleagues co-introduce this version.
Thank you, as well, to Chairman Allen, for prioritizing this legislation and the additional campaign finance bills you will be holding a hearing on in coming days.
My biggest thanks is to the many DC residents who have collected signatures, door-knocked, phone-called, and worked so hard to make campaign finance reform of urgent importance. I have some insight into how difficult a task this is when I worked with some of you in the very hot summer of 2012 to bring a voter initiative to the ballot, Initiative 70, which would have allowed only individuals to contribute to candidates in DC elections. I am still a believer in that approach, because I think that it is fair, transparent, and simple to enforce. Yet I am equally enthusiastic about a small-donor match program because in states and cities where it has been implemented it has proven to achieve several reforms desperately needed in the District of Columbia:
Summer is finally here! For many with youngsters in their family, summer began with the final days of school last week. Tomorrow, June 21, is the summer solstice, the longest day for those of us north of the equator. However, the D.C. Council remains in session until July 15, so we have a few more weeks of official business left to conduct.
Summer also means that D.C.’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) is in full summer mode! Summer camps have begun, and D.C.’s outdoor pools are open! A listing of DPR hours is here. As some of you know, I’m a big fan of our outdoor pools; I’ve seen many of you at East Potomac, Hains Point, and Volta Park to name a few regulars of mine. But I will make a confession: I’m not that strong a swimmer, though I love the water and have started to kayak these past two summers on the Anacostia. It’s a bit embarrassing for me, as I never went to a traditional summer camp or learned as a kid. Luckily, our DPR camps have great programs for kids, and DPR has many great learn-to-swim programs for adults. In a bit of self-improvement, and because I was so moved by the story of Zaan Scott, the beloved DPR swim instructor who was tragically murdered, I’ve decided to make learning to swim one of my goals of the summer. Please hold me accountable!
On another sad note for the city, as you may have learned, former Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham passed away last week. In a city of big personalities, Jim Graham stood out as one of the most unique and memorable figures in District politics. His impact goes way beyond District borders. He was relentlessly committed to bringing healthcare, legal services, and compassion to the battle against HIV/AIDS as head of the Whitman-Walker Clinic. He was a fierce advocate and leader for LGBTQ rights and marriage equality. And he was certainly a champion for his Ward 1 community. I never served with him on the Council, but I did work with him before my time on the Council to make sure our most vulnerable have a place in our city, from creating a local rent supplement program to keeping a focus on homeless services and TANF. I extend my sincere condolences to his family and friends as the city remembers his legacy and public service.
At-Large D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman today released the following statement after learning of former Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham’s passing:
“I am saddened to hear of the passing of former Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham. He led a fascinating life: clerking for Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, later coming out as a gay man and leading the Whitman-Walker Clinic in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and being a champion for not only LGBTQ rights but also equality, inclusion, and diversity on the Council.
I admired his advocacy on behalf of some of our most vulnerable residents, fighting for poor and working families in our city on issues such as TANF. He was also a fierce defender of the needs of Ward 1 and his constituents.
I had a special appreciation for him as a colorful and dramatic figure in our city when I authored Loose Lips for Washington City Paper.
I offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends at this difficult time.”
Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) today introduced legislation to get District funds for building and preserving affordable housing into use more quickly. The “Housing Production Trust Fund Advanced Solicitations Amendment Act of 2017” was co-introduced by eight other members: Councilmembers Anita Bonds (D-At Large), David Grosso (I-At Large), Robert White (D-At Large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), and Trayon White (D-Ward 8).
The Housing Production Trust Fund is one of the most important affordable housing programs in the District, but it can take up to two years for approved projects to receive money from the Fund. Under the bill, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) would be able to request applications from developers for funding from the Housing Production Trust Fund starting one fiscal year before the money would be granted. DHCD would then be able to award the money at the start of the next fiscal year—an improvement that moves the application, funding, and building process forward more quickly and efficiently.
This Tuesday, we passed the budget! Over the last eight weeks, I’ve worked with my staff, colleagues, advocates, and residents to help craft an FY18 budget that helps working families, workers and jobseekers, adult learners, and small businesses. Thank you for your continued engagement on these issues and others. As I wrote last month, your advocacy and dedication is extremely valuable to me as a legislator and I will continue highlighting these efforts.
This month’s Neighbor(ly) News focus is on George Washington University (GWU) rising junior Adam Graubart. Adam tirelessly advocated for the passage of last year’s paid family leave law and has been focused on ensuring that the bill is fully funded—all while balancing a full academic course load, a leadership role at GWU's Roosevelt Institute Chapter, and participation in the GWU Band. It’s not every day that the Council hears testimony from college students, but it is an important visual reminder for me and my colleagues that all District residents are affected by our legislative decisions. And, it is people like Adam who we want to stay in the District to help keep it thriving. Because of programs like paid family leave, residents like him will want to stay and build their lives here.
Thanks to Adam and the many champions of paid leave, the Council not only passed the law last year but also fully funded the program this week—adding an additional $20 million in the FY18 budget for start-up costs and infrastructure. Keep reading to see what else is included in next year’s budget!
STATEMENT ON PROPOSAL TO CUT THE ESTATE TAX
I add my voice in support of removing the estate tax cut and changing the business tax cut to focus on small businesses. I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your leadership on the overall tax revision package, which has significantly increased the progressivity of our tax code. Because of these reforms, I think we have one of the most progressive income tax systems in the nation, which is something to be proud of.
However I don’t think that significantly raising our estate tax threshold is compatible with either the goal of increasing progressivity or our goals as a District. The estate tax is the most progressive tax we have. It only affects the wealthiest, and it is an incredibly effective tools for combating income inequality. If you say you want to fight income inequality here in the District, I just don’t know how you can support raising the exemption for the estate tax.
Councilmember Silverman Puts Adult Learners, Jobs, and Working Families First in FY18 Budget Recommendations
Later today, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman, who chairs the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, will present her FY18 budget recommendations during the Council’s all-day budget work session. These recommendations, which were developed over five weeks and approved unanimously at the Committee mark-up last week, include supporting adult learners seeking to go back to school, expanding job training opportunities for District workers, and aiding working families living in the city.
It’s an exciting time in our city, with the Wizards in the playoffs, the Nationals on a hot streak, and, well, the Capitals had a great season. There might not be thousands of cheering fans at the Wilson Building, but there are hundreds of advocacy calls and emails I’m receiving—which are even more important in helping me and my staff keep focus through the final budget vote.
Today, on the first of two legislative votes, the D.C. Council committed to addressing the need for more affordable, non-traditional child care options for District families by unanimously passing the Child Care Study Act of 2017 at its regularly scheduled legislative meeting.
Originally introduced by At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman as the Non-Traditional Child Care Needs Evaluation Act of 2017 and supported by seven colleagues, the legislation seeks to respond to resident concerns about the rapidly increasing need for affordable child care options for families working outside the standard hours of 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
“No family should have to take on excessive financial hardship to make sure their child is safe while they earn a paycheck,” said Silverman. “Every District family should have the opportunity to grow and thrive in our city. Access to diverse, affordable child care options is essential to making that possible.”
Budget season is in full swing! Agencies are appearing before the Council for the next few weeks as we make decisions about how to spend your tax dollars. Community meetings I’ve attended throughout budget season have brought timely conversations with District neighbors across the city about what my Council colleagues and I should be putting residents’ taxpayer dollars toward. I’ve visited at least one community meeting every week over the last couple months, and have been continually reminded of why I ran for office: to bring more transparency and accountability to the District’s budgeting and policymaking process.
Thank you to each of the residents that have attended meetings and asked questions, written in with their advocacy, called to voice concerns or support, and even showed up in-person at my office. These efforts are invaluable to me as a legislator and—in hopes of inspiring more people to do the same—I’ll be highlighting a neighbor’s efforts that stand out every month!
So for this week’s Neighbor(ly) News: Thanks to Ward 4 resident Eric Atilano for organizing last week’s #KidsLobbyDay at the Wilson Building! I met Eric at March’s ANC 4B meeting, and he followed up with my office about providing more opportunities for some of our youngest residents to be exposed to the legislative process at an early age. I heard from both kids and parents on the need for funding for a variety of issues—from full NEAR Act funding to school modernization. I had a lot to think about afterward and am looking forward to the next one.