Three things the mayor’s bud­get needs

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS Bazinga! Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­

The open­ing salvos on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s fis­cal 2018 spend­ing plan were fright­en­ingly tame, con­sid­er­ing there’s noth­ing on the chop­ping block, noth­ing bol­ster­ing par­ents’ cries for school choice and noth­ing that de­clares a war on stren­u­ous over­sight.

Seems the Bowser plan is beg­ging for a fight.

If mem­bers of the D.C. Coun­cil want to prove them­selves wor­thy of be­ing la­beled law­mak­ers and not rub­ber stam­pers, here’s what they must do:

1) Prove sup­port for the city’s young peo­ple by boost­ing per-pupil spend­ing in public char­ter and tra­di­tional schools.

The city’s public school’s chief, Ant­wan Wil­son, said he is “confident that we have what we need.” That’s baloney.

The mayor’s own ad­vis­ers rec­om­mended a 3.5 per­cent in­crease, but the pro­posal she re­leased on Tuesday came in at 1.5 per­cent, which means the kids, through no fault of their own, draw the short straw.

Ex­plains Ra­mona Edelin, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the D.C. As­so­ci­a­tion for Char­tered Public Schools: “Half of Dis­trict public school stu­dents are de­fined as ‘at risk.’ Nearly three­quar­ters live in eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged homes — al­most 80 per­cent in D.C.’s char­ters. The Dis­trict’s tax base and public school en­roll­ment are ex­pand­ing, so must its in­vest­ment in D.C.’s chil­dren.”

2) Stop the street­car project in its tracks.

This is a hard line, for sure, but the city and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion could save mil­lions (re­port­edly $280 mil­lion) by fo­cus­ing on the needs of mo­torists and Metro in­stead of pro­gres­sive pipe dreams.

Mary Cheh, the coun­cil’s Trans­porta­tion Com­mitte chair; Charles Allen, the Ward 6 rep, and U.S. Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Elaine Chao should en­gage in a triple-threat match: Hop onto the street­car near Union Station (in the dark of night) and ride it to tracks’ end in nowhere land (in the dark of night). (I’m will­ing to wa­ger they’d call Uber and Lyft in the name of safety.)

The street­car project is a waste of public dol­lars, public re­sources and public plan­ning. Junk it now, and fo­cus on mean­ing­ful projects, such as mov­ing res­i­dents, truck­ers and buses from Point A to Point B with­out be­ing jammed by grid­lock.

3) Beef up over­sight. Law­mak­ers must re­mem­ber this: It is their job to leg­is­late and dis­pose and it’s the mayor’s job to ex­e­cute and pro­pose.

When nei­ther branch per­forms its law­ful re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, ac­count­abil­ity dis­ap­pears — and that’s where the city stands right now.

Surely all pro­grams for D.C. stake­hold­ers are not ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient. The coun­cil should in­ves­ti­gate as much.

For ex­am­ple, are so-called work­force pro­grams ac­tu­ally train­ing and hir­ing D.C. res­i­dents? No. D.C. un­em­ploy­ment rates are stag­ger­ing in Wards 7 and 8, 10 per­cent and 12.9 per­cent, re­spec­tively.

Put an­other way, law­mak­ers must stop al­low­ing the mayor’s crew and their ad­vo­cates from merely say­ing “We served X amount peo­ple dur­ing fis­cal year such and such.” Pop­py­cock.

Over­sight means ask­ing the tough ques­tions and get­ting re­li­able data to ex­plain to stake­hold­ers pre­cisely how agen­cies and non­prof­its spent tax­payer money.

Think of it this way, too: If law­mak­ers do their job, the mayor would be forced to do the same.

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