Budget season is in full swing! These last few weeks have been filled with performance oversight hearings, in which residents like yourselves have had the opportunity to tell both the Council and the Mayor’s office how you think DC government agencies are doing. Thanks to all who have come down to the Wilson Building, submitted written testimony, or sent me questions and feedback via email. The list of remaining hearings is here.
Do not fret if you have missed an agency you care about; there’s a second bite at the apple! In late March, Mayor Bowser will submit her proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget to the Council, and then we will begin our second complete round of agency hearings.
I want to alert you to a very important hearing on March 24 about the amount of District tax dollars paying for a practice gym for our NBA team, the Wizards. More details are below. I hope you can come. And many of you have been asking about next steps on paid family leave; I have details on that below too! Keep reading!
UPDATE: Councilmember Silverman Introduces Legislation to Limit Tax Dollars Spent on Wizards Practice Facility and Resolution to Extend Contract Approval
At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced a bill today that sets a $50 million cap on District taxpayer dollars to be spent on the proposed Wizards practice facility at St. Elizabeths in Ward 8. The bill, the Wizards Practice Facility Cost Containment Act of 2016, was co-introduced with five D.C. Council colleagues: Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), David Grosso (At-Large), and Anita Bonds (At-Large).
If construction and completion of the facility exceeds $50 million, the legislation allows only Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the owner of the Wizards, or another private entity to pay the additional costs.
Also this afternoon, Silverman, along with Cheh, Grosso, and Nadeau, filed a contract approval resolution, which will delay the deadline to approve the contract on the Wizards facility until April 7. This will give time for the Council’s Committee of the Whole to hold a hearing on the bill.
This year, along with Valentine’s Day, we get an extra day in February to perform a yearly ritual that all District residents should look forward to and participate in, if possible: performance oversight hearings! Throughout the past year, many of you have asked me when you can come and tell me and my colleagues the real deal on how an agency is delivering services and your suggestions on how we can do better. To that I say: The time is now!
Here is the schedule of hearings. This is part one of a two-part process in which we examine how we did in the past year and then use that information to inform the building of next year’s budget. At every community meeting I attend, I encourage residents to sign up to testify, or, if you can’t make it in person, submit written testimony for the record. It is influential to the thinking of Council members and included in the committee’s written report. Thanks to those who have already signed up. It is with your help that we will make the District a city of opportunity for all.
At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced the Vacant Property Enforcement Amendment Act of 2016 at today’s legislative meeting of the D.C. Council. Co-introduced by Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers Allen, Bonds, Cheh, Evans, May, McDuffie, Nadeau, and Todd, the legislation aims to deter owners from neglecting their properties and encourage them to bring their properties into compliance with the District’s vacant property law.
“I frequently hear from residents how vacant properties harm their neighborhoods and present public safety hazards. Absentee property owners need to take responsibility for their properties and comply with our vacant property laws,” said Silverman during her opening statement.
The District's efforts to clean up and recover from Jonas continue. I appreciate your patience as our crews work to clear your streets. Below is an update on our progress. Feel free to share with me your thoughts and concerns. I've also included a brief legislative update and preview, because we'll be back to the Council's regular business tomorrow.
Thanks so much for helping shovel and staying off the streets so our plows can clear the snow. Big thanks as well to our DPW, DDOT, and HSEMA workers, as well as the dedicated team from the Mayor's Office of Community Relations.
The meteorologists were right about this one! The District received 22 to 24 inches of snow, with higher totals in Wards 3 and 4. I hope you and your loved ones have been safe and sound during this historic and hazardous blizzard and remain so as we move into clean up and recovery.
I want to update you on a few items. I've been on a daily morning call since Thursday with the City Administrator about our city's operations. The District has moved into the response and recovery phase of this storm. I implore you: Please stay home or close to home while our hard-working DPW and DDOT crews work to clean the streets and our MPD and FEMS officers respond to our emergencies.
Thanks so much, and feel to free to let me know how I can help.
Earlier today, I joined a call for councilmembers with City Administrator Rashad Young. D.C. government is in all-hands-on-deck mode for this potentially hazardous and historic storm. Our first priority will be to ensure the health and safety of residents and visitors, and then to begin the recovery, which likely will take multiple days.
Below is information to help you in case of emergency. I join Mayor Bowser, City Administrator Young, and my colleagues in urging you to take this storm very seriously, to complete all travel by early this afternoon, and to enjoy your home or that of family members or friends for the next 72 hours.
Thanks very much, and please let me know if I can be of assistance.
Strong workforce programs are critical not only for the District's young people to lead healthy, productive lives but also for the health and welfare of our city. Today I introduced the SYEP Wages Amendment to make sure that participants who are in the new 22-24 year old group of the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program are paid at least D.C.’s minimum wage, which is $10.50 right now but will rise to $11.50 during this year’s SYEP program on July 1, 2016.
I was surprised to learn that this wasn’t already the case and that the D.C. government was paying only $9.25 an hour, which is less for these young adults than what we require of private sector employers. I think that participants aged 22 or older are clearly adults and shouldn’t be paid $1.25 or $2.25 less than D.C.’s minimum wage. They need to be able to earn at least the same minimum wage that every other adult employed in the District earns.
Thank you to Committee Chairman Vincent Orange and my committee colleagues, Councilmembers Charles Allen, Brianne Nadeau, and Brandon Todd for voting unanimously in favor of adopting my amendment.
Happy 2016! I hope you and your family had a fun and restful holiday season and a good start to the new year. I’m excited for what’s next. My first year in office certainly was exciting (and at times a bit terrifying) because every experience was new. What truly jazzes me about the year ahead is that I’ll be building upon the institutional knowledge accumulated in Year One about District policy and programs, about the budget, and about how the Council and executive branch work to move us closer to a city of opportunity for all. Our staff of eight came with eclectic backgrounds and experiences, and I’m thrilled every day to work with such a talented group.
On Tuesday, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced the Living Wages for Publicly Supported Jobs Amendment Act of 2016, legislation that requires recipients of government tax benefits to pay living wages on their contracted projects. Co-introduced by Councilmembers Allen, Cheh, May, McDuffie, and Nadeau, the bill seeks to expand the benefits of the living wage law to many District workers currently excluded by a tax benefit loophole.
“D.C. tax dollars should not support poverty wage jobs—jobs that do not allow D.C. residents to live and support families in our city,” said Silverman on the need for more comprehensive legislation.