D.C. Coun­cil says 2018 bud­get leaves be­hind vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens.

Mem­bers ar­gue pro­posal won’t help city’s poor

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY RYAN M. MCDER­MOTT

D.C. Coun­cil mem­bers from the city’s poor­est wards slammed Mayor Muriel Bowser’s pro­posed bud­get for con­tin­u­ing to leave be­hind the Dis­trict’s most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents.

Just days af­ter re­ceiv­ing Ms. Bowser’s fis­cal 2018 bud­get, ti­tled “D.C. Val­ues in Ac­tion,” law­mak­ers east of the Ana­cos­tia River said the pro­posal does lit­tle to help health care, ed­u­ca­tion and public safety in Wards 7 and 8 de­spite the Dis­trict’s boom­ing econ­omy.

“Af­ter read­ing most of this bud­get, I can’t rec­on­cile the ti­tle with the ac­tions pro­posed,” Vin­cent Gray, Ward 7 Demo­crat, said Thurs­day at a bud­get hear­ing with the Bowser ad­min­is­tra­tion. “This should be a pol­icy doc­u­ment re­flect­ing what the res­i­dents want.”

The mayor and leg­is­la­tors have trum­peted the Dis­trict’s fi­nan­cial suc­cess this year, not­ing a $128 mil­lion sur­plus and more than $1 bil­lion in the rainy day fund.

“The poor are get­ting poorer, but there are cranes in the sky and we are grow­ing by leaps and bounds,” fresh­man law­maker Trayon White, Ward 8 Demo­crat, said from the dais Thurs­day.

Mr. White said the bud­get pro­vides enough fund­ing for pro­grams to give res­i­dents in Ward 8 a taste of the city’s pros­per­ity but not enough to cel­e­brate the spoils.

“A cup that is al­most empty, filled with a few drops of hope, is still a ne­glected cup,” he said.

Both Mr. Gray and Mr. White chided Miss Bowser for a lack of in­vest­ment in ed­u­ca­tion, af­ford­able hous­ing, health care, job train­ing, the arts and public

safety for res­i­dents in Wards 7 and 8.

De­spite mil­lions of dol­lars al­lot­ted for re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion of po­lice of­fi­cers, Mr. Gray said the bud­get ac­tu­ally would di­vest the de­part­ment. He said the pro­posal falls about $60 mil­lion short of the money needed to bol­ster the po­lice force to rec­om­mended staffing lev­els.

The Metropoli­tan Po­lice De­part­ment has been los­ing of­fi­cers at a sig­nif­i­cant rate due to re­tire­ments. Cur­rent staffing around 3,800 of­fi­cers, and of­fi­cials have said the city needs at least 4,000.

“The pro­posed FY 2018 bud­get cuts the base­line bud­get for MPD by $15.3 mil­lion in the mid­dle of a public safety cri­sis in cer­tain neigh­bor­hoods of this

city, with Ward 7 ar­guably hit the hard­est by the surge in vi­o­lence,” said Mr. Gray, a for­mer mayor.

He pointed to a ris­ing num­ber of homi­cides in Ward 7 over the last two years: 32 slay­ings in 2015 and 39 last year. Ward 7 saw 22 slay­ings in 2013 and 26 in 2014 — the last two years of the Gray ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Miss Bowser stood by her pro­posal, which sets out $11.7 mil­lion for re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing po­lice of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing $1.8 mil­lion to in­crease the po­lice cadet pro­gram from 35 to 70 par­tic­i­pants and $3.7 mil­lion for a stu­dent loan for­give­ness and hous­ing pro­gram for of­fi­cers.

But Mr. Gray, who is mulling a run for mayor next year, made it clear how

he feels about the numbers, us­ing one of Miss Bowser’s sig­na­ture phrases against her: “This bud­get is not a road to in­clu­sive pros­per­ity, it’s path that leads to nowhere.”

The crit­i­cism of Miss Bowser’s ed­u­ca­tion pro­posal isn’t rel­e­gated to east of the Ana­cos­tia River. The mayor’s bud­get calls for a 1.5 per­cent in­crease in per­pupil pay­ment to D.C. Public Schools. But that in­crease is less than the 2 per­cent hike that has been the stan­dard in the city over the last 10 years.

Cur­rently, base fund­ing per stu­dent is set at nearly $10,000 be­fore fac­tor­ing in ex­tra funds for stu­dents with spe­cial needs or who are deemed at-risk.

The D.C. Office of the State Su­per­in­ten­dent for Ed­u­ca­tion rec­om­mended a 3.5 per­cent in­crease, but most city ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cates said they would have set­tled for the stan­dard 2 per­cent hike.

“By fail­ing to in­crease per-pupil spend­ing by at least 2 per­cent, city lead­ers would short­change our stu­dents: teach­ers would lose jobs, cru­cial ex­tracur­ric­u­lars would face cuts, and school bud­gets would not keep pace with ris­ing in­fla­tion,” the lo­cal Democrats for Ed­u­ca­tion Re­form said in a state­ment.

The pro­gres­sive D.C. Fis­cal Pol­icy In­sti­tute said Miss Bowser should “de­lay some or all of the sched­uled tax cuts if that is needed to ad­e­quately sup­port schools.”

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