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Loose Lips Daily: Sounding Like Republicans Edition

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    Sounding Like Republicans Edition: Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander and Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry are sounding like Republicans these days, arguing that government assistance is creating dependency and perpetuating poverty. The pair, who represent the poorest parts of the city, have proposed a bill to limit how long residents can receive welfare cash payments. As the Post's Tim Craig reports, "'For far too long, we have cradled a large part of the population, and our cradling has actually handicapped people," Alexander said. 'Many of our residents view government assistance as a way of life, and in my opinion we are actually hurting our residents instead of helping them.' As part of the welfare reform act signed into law by former president Bill Clinton in 1996, the federal government placed a five-year lifetime limit on participation in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. But states are allowed to keep recipients on the rolls longer than five years if they use local funds. The District, long known for its generosity in providing and protecting social services for the poor, has embraced a limitless policy, costing D.C. taxpayers about $35 million a year. But Barry and Alexander, both of whom represent neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, say too many District residents now rely on their monthly check from the government. About 40 percent of the city's 17,000 families on TANF have been getting benefits for more than five years. They receive an average of $370 a month. 'We have to break the cycle,' Barry said. 'Part of the purpose of the bill is to start a dialogue about how ineffective our current system is.'" Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells said the bill isn't going anywhere, but it's interesting to see this topic come up. Almost Mayor Vince Gray sang a similar tune the other night at a little get-together on Capitol Hill, saying "I'm not sure that we haven't become enablers" when it comes to welfare distribution.

    AFTER THE JUMP: No COS for Charles; We're Not P.G.!; Are Elections Even Worth it? ...

    No COS for Charles: Tim Craig, who begat the rumor that mystery man Reuben Charles was expected to be Gray's chief of staff, has now taken that rumor away. Citing sources in the Gray camp, Craig reports that Charles is "is unlikely to become the new mayor's chief of staff, but could land another role in the administration ... Charles currently leads day-to-day operations for Gray's transition team, and jobseekers have been clamoring for his attention. He was featured recently in Washingtonian magazine as someone prominent residents should get to know. Despite his close-working relationship with Gray, Charles has been battered by a series of media reports about a series of liens and judgments that have been filed against him in other states. Many appear related to his business career. Although he's being more thoroughly vetted by Gray, the chairman has been telling friends that Charles is not a leading candidate to become his chief-of-staff. It's unclear whom Gray could tap for that position, but sources say Gray most likely won't be making major personnel decisions until after Thanksgiving."

    More DYRS Problems: The Times' Jeffery Anderson and Matthew Cella take a closer look at the embattled Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and report that "more than one in five D.C. homicides in a recent 12-month period involved a DYRS ward, either as a victim or a suspect ... [and] at least 14 of the city's 130 publicly identified homicide victims between Sept. 1, 2009, and Aug. 31 were under DYRS supervision at the time they were killed. ... Former federal prosecutor Robert Hildum, named interim DYRS director in July and the third to lead the agency this year, has harsh words for the agency he inherited from former director Vincent N. Schiraldi, a nationally known figure in the world of juvenile justice who just six years ago presided over a complete restructuring after the agency had become a national disgrace. Mr. Hildum, whose future at the agency is uncertain given the upcoming change of administration in city government, discussed a review he conducted while working as a juvenile prosecutor in the city attorney general's office of cases in which DYRS wards were accused of homicides.'The conclusion we saw was that they were lacking in oversight, they were lacking in services. There didn't seem to be any consequences for noncompliance. They seemed to reward noncompliance,' he said."

    Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: Zaminer's Harry Jaffe says the lesson to be learned from PG County Executive Jack Johnson's recent troubles is this: D.C.'s politicians aren't so bad, after all. "Everyone likes to tag politicians with 'corrupt.' So if you ask people outside the District about Marion Barry, they might say: 'Yeah, he was corrupt.' Really? During his 16 years as mayor and many more in city council, Marion Barry was never caught taking a dime from anyone. No bags of cash from developers, no fancy shoes from contractors, no jewelry from lobbyists. A bottle of cognac from friends who happen to be doing business with the city? Perhaps. Crack from girlfriends? Absolutely. Federal prosecutors, beginning with Joe diGenova, despised Barry. They knew he was flawed and vulnerable. They dogged him, bugged him, trailed him. They got zip in basic public corruption. Ask D.C. residents whether Mayor Adrian Fenty is corrupt, and many will glibly say: of course. They will point to the $80 million in recreation center development contracts that went to his friends, and they will assume he steered them and got something in return. If that's true, why did a city council investigation come up empty? Why has Robert Trout, the lawyer chosen by the council to dig deeper, not been able to report any incriminating transactions? Why are the feds who nailed Jack Johnson not on Fenty's tail?" Maybe Trout hasn't been able to report any incriminating transactions because he hasn't released his report yet...

    You Call This An Election?: The Post's Mike DeBonis asks: "Does it make sense to pay several hundred poll workers to work an election that's likely to see many polling places serve only a handful of voters? Especially when the city is in tough fiscal straits?" Couldn't D.C. try having a "shorter early-voting period, maybe, or with some of those 143 polling places consolidated into "voting centers." Or, perhaps, even an election done solely by mail ballot, like in Oregon and much of Washington." The Board of Elections and Ethics is "preparing to provide some options to the council, possibilities that we might be able to do to save the taxpayers some money," said BOEE spokeswoman Alysoun McLaughlin — including the options mentioned above. But any changes, she said, will probably require the council to pass emergency legislation in the coming months." D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who oversees matters electoral, said she's 'hopeful' that money for a full-bore election will be found without much fuss. She raised the possibility last week of using federal grant funds; that's unlikely, however, since federal election grants are supposed to be used for improving elections, not for actually holding elections. Don't look to Cheh to propose any money-saving shortcuts, calling that 'the absolute last, last thing I would do. ... Philosophically, I don't think we can give this short shrift,' Cheh said. 'People need a full opportunity to vote.'"

    Pepco Denied: Pepco was refused permission to add a 15th surcharge to customer's bills to pay for energy efficiency programs that the District recently defunded, WBJ's Michael Neibauer reports.

    If it Keeps on Rainin', Levee's Going to Break: The government is going to build a levee on 17th Street to protect the National Mall, so that future generations can pay $7.50 to get into the Air and Space Museum.

    Do you know the difference between a house mouse, a field mouse and a deer mouse? Neither do snap traps covered with peanut butter, which makes Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh's Wildlife Protection Act the council just passed a royal nuisance, says a lobbyist for the National Pest Management Association.

    Cathleen Black, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's pick to head the city's schools is trying to fight "mounting skepticism" that she's the right person for the job. Who does she turn to for help? Former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, of course.

    Fenty Schedule: Unveiling the first electric car charger. 10:45 a.m., Reeves Center.

    Council: 11 a.m. "Mount Pleasant Street Small Area Action Plan Approval Resolution of 2010" 2 p.m. "Food, Environmental, and Economic Development in the District of Columbia Act of 2010" 4 p.m.  “Prohibition on Government Employee Engagement in Political Activity Act of 2010” “Corrupt Election Practices Amendment Act of 2010”

    Comments

    1. #1

      How are you going to break the cycle for people who have no job skills, no money to pay for child care while they train, and no jobs for them when their training is complete?

      Barry and Alexander don't just sound like Republicans. They sound like idiots. Teach these people how to find a need and fill a need. Teach them how to create small businesses. Provide them with technical assistance and microloans.

      Help them break the cycle with entrepreneurship...or say hello as they break into your homes to make up the cash they miss from TANF checks and non-existent paychecks.

    2. #2

      Has hell frozen over? Marion Barry AND Yvette Alexander finally displaying some common sense when it comes to DC's Democratic entitlement culture?

      @AMamiMus Business Services: VERY GOOD POINTS. The responsibility to work and survive MUST be enforced, but daycare and job assistance needs to be available as people get back into the work force (jobs in daycare right off the bat?).

    3. #3

      I disagree with the premise that Councilmembers Alexander and Barry sound like Republicans. I think that they are acting as reasonable elected official must when faced with a huge budget deficit. And, to continue to "give a man a fish" never has helped "teach the man to fish, so that he eats for a lifetime."

      As parents we would never continue to allow our babies to use a walker for fear that they may fall while learning to walk. This is part of the baby's development and learning to be independent. No matter much we want to protect them from falling, we must allow them to do so, pick themselves up, and try again.

      This is the lesson for all of us in life. Life has knocked many of us down, but we have gotten back up and tried again. when we constantly provide a hand out, instead of a hand up, we cripple people. They develop the worst of character traits, the traits of "expectation" and "entitlement." For most of us, if we do not work, we do not eat or have a place to live. Everyone must learn that leason. It is fine to help someone for a short amount of time, but it is not ok to promote and even, in some instances, encourage dependency.

      I am pretty liberal when it comes to social policy and programs; and more realistic (not to be read as conservative)when it comes to fiscal responsibility. Continuing this type of dependent expectation of entitlement is not sound fiscal policy for the District, or any other jurisdiction. We must stop the cycle of "giving a man a fish so that he eats for a day" and begin the cycle of "teaching a man to fish so that he can eat for a lifetime."

    4. #4

      1) I think Barry and Alexander are engaging in showmanship- threatening up front to cut TANF is the surest way to stir up opposition to cutting TANF.
      2) Good column by Harry Jaffe.

    5. #5

      I certainly don't think that they are sounding like Republicans. They sound like two councilmembers, representing adjacent wards, who is speaking to issues largely found in those Wards. How exactly is that republican sounding? Because they say we don't forever need all of what we currently have? No, as with other things they pay attention to, they are sounding responsible.

      DREZ, of course you would say that. Marion Barry is the subject so why wouldn't you. If they had introduced legislation extending the benefits for a max of 8 years, you would criticize him for pandering and coddling. Now since it's not that, you criticize him for showmanship.

      Seems like a lose - lose.

    6. #6

      AMamiMus Business Services

      ----

      DC also has the most expansive levels of job training skills programs. A simple google search would have should that but so much better to critize than research.

      In DC you can be a hair technician, mechanic, chef all well paid needed skills. And you can have a green job in the construction trade. A time limit sounds reasonable--well you are considering generational poverty.

    7. #7

      Whatever their motivations may be, in my view their points are largely valid. This is one of the few threads where I pretty much agree with virtually all commenters. Including the point made by several folks that many long term welfare recipients need more/better job training and other life skill help.

      Now, let's see if any reforms of substance are implemented. Discussions are useful, but actions speak louder.

    8. #8

      What? You mean Ah cain jes sit in da howse and watch Real Housewfes of Uhlanna and dat Fantasia show and haf AWL da kids Ah won't bah difrint babee daddees?

      Ah don't wunna werk and I already git free day care threw my TANF training program, but I don't go to da traynins, I jes stay at my hows and wait on Dontavian becuz we want to make some twins for him and his brudda.

      Oh and By de way, I am on Seckshun 8 and I have been in my 'partmint for 6 years and NOBODY makin me go to werk not even my homeboy Barry.

    9. #9

      Now, to the liberal. guilt-ridden, well-to-do whites who think they know what's best for us poor black people that society ahs punished, Barry and Alexander sound like black people. Not the project bunnies you people like to use as poster children to advance your own agendas relat3ed to alleviating that white guilt.

      Why not push some people off of the public dime who have made NO CONCERTED EFFORT to better themselves or their families in ANYWAY?

      Work training programs in DC are FREE and abundant... where are the welfare recipients who should be in them? Probably someplace creating yet another mouth to feed and an afterthought/bargaining chip for some more free housing, foodstamps, or TANF.

      Prior to the implementation of Social Welfare programs, black people in this country were poor, but ahd more stable familial units. Even thouse from single parent households had some measurable value system that compelled them not to take handouts. 99.4 percent of tthe people receiving TANF in DC are black... I wonder why?

      People MAKE decisions to breed children like roaches that they cannot afford. They should be held accountable for those decisions.

      And if any of those TANF bastards try to break into my house that I OWN and work hard to pay for, they'll meet their maker at the end of my exercise of my 2nd Amendment right to bear arms... and use them.

      Taking care of oneself and one's family ISN'T republican... It's a black thing and people better get into it. The governement is TIRED of case managing the stupid and lazy.

    10. #10

      SEIs4Me
      I'd like to be proven wrong.
      It would be a very good thing.
      We'll have to wait and see.
      I notice Jason Cherkis is already calling this "draconian".
      I wonder what dcfpi and save our safety net will say.

    11. #11

      DCFPI testified at the hearing - as did many others who rely on TANF or poor people - and said the idea of cutting TANF is worse than Hitler.

      I have no idea what Barry and Alexander's motivation is on this since large numbers of their constituents would be directly affected by any time limitations. But a broken clock is right twice a day.

    12. #12

      cutting TANF worse than Hitler? The Jews who lived in concentration camps would have WISHED they' had it so good.

      Of the nearly 18,000 families on TANF half have been baby making on the taxpayer dime for at least 5 years. Of that amount, 2500 families have been baby-making for at least 8.

      Get them off and ship them to PGC or some remote place in VA.

    13. #13

      They don't sound like Republicans. As I recall, it was Bill Clinton who made measurable reforms to the requirements of federally subsidized public assistance funding in the states. The District just didn't follow suit.

      Barry and Alexander are on the right road here. I don't demonize everyone on welfare, or who receive public assistance. Particularly, those who really need it for the "temporary" assistance it is designed to be.

      I recommend that they enforce a 5 year maximum but add to it a cap in aid to woman with dependent children at the amounts awarded beginning at year 1. This takes away the financial incentive to have more children. It would force them to do more with less or, worse, loose their children to the foster care system due to an inability to care for them.

      Realistically, we will have to temporarily subsidize day care to remove the excuse of not being able to leave children home alone.

      We have to remove every barrior to getting gainful job skills and employment and if, even then, they do not follow through, after 5 years, they would DESERVE to have their benefits cut.

      The free welfare train ride needs to end.

    14. #14

      It's so refreshing to have a (mostly) civil discussion among frequent contributors to this site.

    15. #15

      TH, it could happen more if the two opposing sides, instead of offering tested talking points, were willing to budge. To see an example of such, check Drez' post.

    16. #16

      Amen! Amen! for all of those nay sayers all they have to do is visit the area and talk to the people one would be suprise to see two and three generation of welfare receipants a large percentage of whom will make no effort to receive training and or find gainfull employment without a swift kick in the butt. Once we take care of this, the next step force all of the sperm doners-aka- dead beat,absence fathers to further contribute to their children support problem solve, my tax dollars save for a more useful purpose.

    17. #17

      From Tim Craig at DC Wire yesterday:
      "At a hearing on the bill Monday, council members Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) both said they opposed it. About 8,000 families would immediately lose their benefits and other government help, such as child-care subsidies, if the bill was approved, they said."
      So, my question is Why did Barry and Alexander write the bill in such a way as to immediately cut funding to 8,000 families? This guarantees it will fail. Why not write it in such a way as to phase in the 5 year limit? Then it might have a prayer of success.
      Simple, obvious, things like this are what makes me so cynical about the actual intent here.

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