City Desk

Streetlight Fee No More, and Other Budget Potpourri

This morning, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray convened a press conference with 11 of his colleagues to go over their proposed markup changes to the FY2010 District budget. It was a standing-room-only affair, at least in the beginning, but as councilmember after councilmember rose to detail his or her recommendations, it got real tedious real fast. Be glad LL was there so you didn't have to be. Herewith, the highlights:

Marion Barry showed up by 9:45 a.m.—by far the earliest LL has ever seen him in the John A. Wilson Building. He explained he had come straight from the airport, after flying in from Oakland, Calif., where he was attending a conference of the National Association of Black Public Administrators. Harry Thomas Jr., the only councilmember not to attend the briefing, remained there. In a strong voice, Barry explained how he "almost jumped out chair" when he saw what the Fenty budget proposal did to charter facilities funding. "I called the chairman, said, 'Good afternoon; you got your $10 [million]."

Streetlight Maintenance Fee looks to be gone. Jim Graham, Jack Evans, and Gray all committed to finding the $12 million to make the proposed electric-bill add-on go away.

—As previously mentioned, Emancipation Day will remain a public holiday.

—No Class 3 property-tax relief—for now. The controversial hike on vacant-property tax rates was widely expected to be expunged though the budget process, but Evans says the council will take up the matter after the budget process. Same goes for reform measures at the Board of Real Property Assessment Appeals—everyone agrees it's necessary, but not necessary to deal with in the budget.

—The council is moving to appoint an independent evaluator of the District's school reform package. Gray announced he's tapped the National Research Council, a subset of the National Academy of Sciences, to convene a panel to start evaluations come Oct. 1.

—The Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs is back. So is the veterans affairs office.

—The council is providing $35 million in funding over four years for a UDC student center.

—The Rental Housing Commission is restored. Fenty had proposed abolishing it and letting D.C. Superior Court handle the cases it used to adjudicate. DCSC Chief Judge Lee Satterfield did not like that idea.

—Says Jim Graham, "We do have earmarks...but we have kept them to an absolute minimum." Wonder how many of them are for Ward 1.

—Evans says that when the new revenue projections are released in June (they've been delayed), he is expecting another shortfall, possibly in the range of $50 million. "We may have to revisit our budget and revise it downward," he says."

Phil Mendelson says he was once again able to repel a proposed hike on the 911 fee added to phone bills. He also has restored funding for the Motor Vehicle Theft Commission and the D.C. National Guard, which was essentially being abolished by the Fenty administration. And Mendo's planning restore FY09 funding levels to a program that helps poor people hire attorneys, and he's planning to nix controversial reporting requirements, too.

—LL concluded the press conference by asking Gray if he was only exacerbating tension with the mayor by taking $10 million from a program he loves (summer jobs) and putting it into a program he doesn't love (charter schools). "It doesn't have anything to do about these last three weeks," he said, referring to the recent stretch of interbranch tensions.

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  • Mike Licht

    Why not hike vacant-property tax rates? It's still a good idea.

  • Adams Morgan

    Silly Loose Lips...of course none of those earmarks were in Ward One...the Grahamstander gets his money elsewhere, like taking $2.1 million out of the Neighborhood Investment Fund and giving it to a bloody parking garage (oh wait, I think that's technically an earmark)...Oh Grahamstander...

  • Mike DeBonis

    Uh, trust me, there will be more than that. Here's what was in his committee report last year ( "$100,000 for the Lower Georgia Avenue Job Training Center, an employment services outfit located in...Ward 1; $190,000 to extend a business improvement district study into...Ward 1; $1 million for the Columbia Heights/Shaw Family Support Collaborative to support a project based at Bruce-Monroe Elementary, which is located in...Ward 1; $100,000 for the Columbia Heights Youth Club, which serves a neighborhood located in...Ward 1; $100,000 for the Reeves Recovery Group, a rehab program based in...Ward 1; $1.2 million for the Lincoln Theatre, located in the heart of the historic U Street corridor in...Ward 1; $100,000 to Neighbors’ Consejo, a nonprofit that does much of its valuable work in...Ward 1; $100,000 to Fiesta DC, which holds its splendid annual Latino festival on Mount Pleasant Street NW in...Ward 1; an extra $200,000 for a nonprofit called PROUrban­Youth, about which Graham once boasted in a listserv post as “a program that I have found the funds for and helped establish”—and a program that does much of its work in...Ward 1; $275,000 for the Office of Latino Affairs, which serves a population that is particularly concentrated in...Ward 1; $1.4 million for opening up Champlain Street NW at Marie Reed Learning Center, a school located in...Ward 1; $200,000 for an archeological team from Howard University to investigate lost cemeteries at Walter Pierce Park, located in...Ward 1; $140,000 to nonprofit Washington Parks & People to create a new park from vacant properties located in...Ward 1; $400,000 to rehab an alley that runs through Square 394, a plot of land located in...Ward 1; $450,000 to restore historic murals and the ceiling dome at the Tivoli Theatre, a fabulous facility located in...Ward 1; $200,000 to redevelop the old Source Theatre, an arts space located in the heart of...Ward 1; $300,000 for the Dance Institute of Washington, an arts-education nonprofit whose home base is in...Ward 1; $100,000 to the Ethiopia Community Service and Development Council, a group uprooted by the huge March fire in Mount Pleasant, which is in...Ward 1; $100,000 to the Vietnamese-American Community Service Center, a nonprofit headquartered at the Josephine Butler Parks and Recreation Center, located in...Ward 1; $150,000 to the D.C. Caribbean Carnival and Festival, which is held along Georgia Avenue NW in Ward 4 and...Ward 1; $100,000 for a “responsibility zone” pilot program in Mount Pleasant, located in...Ward 1; and $100,000 to preserve historic elements of the Avalon, an apartment building that burned last October in Adams Morgan, which is in...Ward 1."