Newsletter: We Passed The Budget!
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.
What I took from last week’s meeting is that we need to spend the next year drilling down more into the budget for our public schools. It just doesn’t make sense that we increase the per-pupil funding formula and that schools—particularly those east of the Anacostia River—see a budget cut. This deserves focus and attention so we do not face the same issue next year. If you have thoughts and ideas on this issue, please feel free to be in touch. It is one of the policy areas I will concentrate efforts on, in addition to ongoing work in jobs, housing, and health care.
Line Hotel: As I wrote in my last newsletter, I recently sent a letter with Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau to D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine asking for his legal opinion on a $46 million tax abatement for the Line Hotel in Adams Morgan. This was after a Department of Employment Services (DOES) audit found that the hotel didn't meet its requirements for hiring D.C. residents. Attorney General Racine determined that DOES could not alter or waive any of those hiring requirements.
Last week, my Ward 1 colleague and I put forth an amendment to redirect those dollars to benefit Ward 1 residents by using the funds to help with maintaining public housing in the ward. I look forward to working with the D.C. Housing Authority on a workforce program to hire residents to conduct the repair work and will be working with my Council colleagues to pass final legislative language supporting the already-approved appropriations later this month.
You can catch up on why this case is especially concerning for District workers with this recent Washington Post article.
Providing Quality Patient Care in Ward 8: I continue to be extremely concerned about the Council’s decreased investment in United Medical Center (UMC) next year. After several months of debate, there was an effort to repeal language that would no longer guarantee Howard University’s medical school an academic affiliation with the new Ward 8 hospital coming to the St. Elizabeths campus. Removal of the language would also take away job protections from workers at UMC. I did not believe that we should go back on our commitment to workers and to Howard and worked with Chairman Phil Mendelson and Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White on amendments that successfully restored these provisions.
I also continue to have concerns about the severe cut of $25 million from UMC’s operating subsidy last month. While I agree that the hospital’s leadership will have to be held accountable for mismanagement, there’s a human cost when we do not make every effort to ensure patient safety while UMC is still serving residents. That’s why I supported restoring $7 million to continue operations at UMC and was glad to see my colleagues move forward with this critical funding.
We need UMC to be a functional, safe hospital until the new facility opens. I want to emphasize that UMC is not just a Ward 8 issue or an east of the Anacostia River issue. What happens at UMC has an impact on our entire hospital system.
Spending Affordable Housing Dollars Well: A new report from the D.C. Auditor last week raised additional concerns for me about how the District spends its designated affordable housing dollars through the Housing Production Trust Fund, our primary source of affordable housing funding. The Auditor’s report outlines multiple instances of lower-ranked projects being selected for funding and raises red flags about whether the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has consistently and fairly assessed all applicants. Most concerning is the reality that 353 fewer affordable units were developed as a result of DHCD’s selection process last year.
As a member of the Housing Committee, I started asking last year for information on how trust fund applicants have been assessed and selected for funding. DHCD has refused to provide that information, which is why I introduced the Housing Production Trust Fund Transparency Amendment Act in February. My bill would require DHCD to release the scoring of applicants to the fund and will have a hearing on Monday, June 17, at 10:00 a.m. You can read my full press release and find hearing details on my website here.
DC Water Town Hall Meetings: DC Water is hosting a series of community meetings for residents to learn about proposed rates and fees for next year and share concerns, comments and ideas. In the new fiscal year, the Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge is projected to drop from an average of $23 per home to $20.94 per home, with increases in the sewer rate from $7.75 to $8.89 per month for the average home. Upcoming meetings are below:
- Ward 6: Wednesday, June 5, at Kennedy Recreation Center (1401 7th St. NW)
- Ward 7: Thursday, June 6, at Deanwood Recreation Center (1350 49th St. NE)
- Ward 8: Monday, June 10, at Bald Eagle Recreation Center (185 Joliet St. SW)
- DC Water Board Meeting: Wednesday, June 12, at 6:00pm at 1385 Canal Street SE
- Labor Committee Roundtable on Office of Employee Appeals Nomination: Wednesday, June 5, at 2:30pm at the John A. Wilson Building (Room 123, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
- DC Jazz Festival Kickoff: Saturday, June 8, from 12:00-6:00pm at locations in Historic Anacostia (2015 Martin Luther King Ave. SE)
- Capital Pride Parade: Saturday, June 8, from 4:30-8:00pm in Dupont and Logan Circles NW
- Politics & Art: Thursday, June 13, from 5:30-8:00pm at the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
- 11th Annual DC Housing Expo: Saturday, June 15, from 10:00am-3:00pm at the Walter Washington Convention Center (801 Mount Vernon Pl. NW)
- Hearing on Housing Production Trust Fund Transparency bill: Monday, June 17, beginning at 10:00am at the John A. Wilson Building (Room 500, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
- Kennedy Street Festival: Saturday, June 22, from 12:00-4:00pm along Uptown Main Street (4618 14th St. NW & 518 Kennedy St. NW)