Today, the Council took a first vote on the FY2023 budget! I am proud to have worked with neighbors and colleagues to secure so many investments that will be transformative for the District. I’ve fought hard over the last several months to ensure that the priorities of Ward 2 residents were included in this budget. I want to share with you some of the items we are enthusiastic about on behalf of our ward and city below:
This budget will make critical investments in our education system and recreation facilities & programs. At the budget meeting today, I moved an amendment to expand literacy training for teachers to help their students learn how to read. I’m proud that this amendment passed unanimously and that our teachers will be equipped with the tools they need and deserve to help our children succeed in reading. I want to thank our Ward 2 State Board of Education representative Allister Chang for his partnership in this work over past last year.
The opening of a Center City Middle School in 2028 will be transformative for our families who have advocated for a standalone middle school for their children. Their hard work and dedication is being recognized, and our youngest learners and their parents can now look forward to this new school with assurance.
We’ve made a $9 million investment in out-of-school time programming, created more transparency for the status of repairs in our schools, and mandated a new funding model to move Duke Ellington teachers to pay parity. And we’ve made substantial investments in our parks, including at Hardy Field, Francis Field and Dog Park, and Shaw Skate Park. And we’ve invested in programming for our seniors through dedicated staff at Kennedy Rec Center and funding to determine a location of a new Senior Center to serve Wards 2 & 3.
I’ve also fought for this budget to include critical investments for public safety. As we all know, this has been a very difficult year for District residents as we’ve experienced an increase in gun violence.
We know the causes of gun violence are complicated, and that the violence we’ve experienced is a result of a failure to provide residents with economic opportunities, affordable housing, and support services. This is part of what makes so many of these investments I’ve already highlighted so essential.
We have taken a comprehensive approach to investing in all aspects of our public safety apparatus in this budget. This approach includes critical investments to expand our Department of Behavioral Health Community Response Team and to extend the Office of Neighborhood Safety & Engagement Violence Interruption Team to the Shaw Neighborhood.
We will also be able to hire hundreds of new Metropolitan Police Department officers, including dozens of new Cadets from our communities, and to invest in construction of a new DC Jail to protect the health, safety, and dignity of our incarcerated population.
One of my biggest priorities for this budget has been to make substantial investments to ensure that as we build back from the impacts of the pandemic, we support our excluded workers, support and retain our existing businesses, uplift our small, minority, & women-owned businesses, and invest in greater resilience for our downtown areas.
To that end, I am proud and grateful that one of the recommendations of the COVID Special Recovery committee has been adopted to support our excluded workers by ensuring that undocumented residents will now be eligible for the DC Earned Income Tax Credit. This investment in the highly effective EITC program will provide lasting and ongoing support for hard-working families in FY23 and, importantly, every year going forward.
We have made major investments in the resilience of our Downtown area in particular by extending support to our legacy businesses in Chinatown, funding pilot activations in vacant spaces, attracting and retaining businesses, providing family friendly attractions, and providing a one-stop shop for career services through an American Job Center.
A critical part of an equitable economic recovery, of course, is ensuring that all residents are able to live in safe, secure, and affordable housing. That is why I have fought to ensure that this budget includes major investments to prevent homelessness and to increase the supply of affordable housing. Folks who work downtown should be able to afford to live downtown, which is why programs like the Downtown Housing Tax Abatement are so important to our city. This program will accelerate conversion of commercial office buildings to residential housing Downtown, with First Source District hiring, CBE, and affordability requirements –– major ideas I put forth in the Recovery Act which we are now poised to be implemented in this year’s budget.
Just as we have sought to create more housing and affordability downtown, we have also made investments in this budget to support homeownership retention for our veterans who are disabled––through the Homestead Exemption––and for our seniors––by lowering the cap on real property taxes from 5% to 2%.
I am grateful for the committee’s support to secure 400 targeted affordable housing vouchers to ensure that families that need it have continued housing assistance when they exit the Rapid Rehousing program. Building on the historic investments made last year to end chronic homelessness, this investment is––for the first time––fully funding the request from housing advocates for Permanent Supportive Housing vouchers to meet the needs of our unhoused residents. Outreach workers, advocates, DHS, and DCHA continue to make progress moving residents into housing and we will continue to work to expedite this process for residents.
The budget also makes major investments in this budget on environmental projects and sustainability. Investments in stormwater management for the Mt. Zion and Female Union Band Society cemeteries, the oldest Black cemeteries in the city, will stop erosion and honor those who are buried there.
We are making our communities greener, cleaner & more sustainable with the installation of a new Dupont Circle Tree Plaza, the Chinatown Green Street Demonstration Project, continuation of the Trash Compactor program for small businesses, expansion of the Shaw Main Street Clean Team to 11th St., and expansion of the Dupont Circle & Glover Park Clean Teams. This budget will also allow us to construct a new trash transfer station at Benning Road, which serves residents across the District.
I am very excited about some major Ward 2 infrastructure projects included in this budget––including hiring 25 additional staff to assist with sidewalk repair & maintenance, and expediting the S Street Revitalization Project in Shaw and the Pennsylvania Avenue West Streetscape Project. The median along New York Avenue between 9th and 12th St. will also be renovated through partnership with the Downtown Business Improvement District.
This budget will also allow us to ensure safety and compliance with District traffic laws by expanding the Automated Traffic Enforcement program with 170 new cameras and tripling the Department of Public Works booting team capacity.
I know this was a long message but thanks for sticking with me! There is always more work to be done, and I look forward continuing to advocate for this budget to support period equity by providing free period products in all government buildings through the PERIOD Act and to expand access to restrooms to those with medical needs through the Medical Necessity Restroom Access Act. We hear the calls for more assistance for our excluded workers, Targeted Affordable Housing vouchers, and school based mental health, and will continue working with our colleagues on identifying funding within this budget for needed investments.
Please let me know your thoughts on the budget and how we can continue to make improvements next year to continue to build stronger communities throughout Ward 2 and across the District. I hope you share my enthusiasm for many of these major budget investments on behalf of our communities.
Yours in Service,