February 28, 2023 | Update

Performance oversight season gives way to budget season

A few sample takeaways

February has kept us busy with annual agency performance oversight hearings. The Committee on Public Works and Operations, which I chair, has held hearings for 23 agencies. Performance oversight hearings are the Council’s way of reviewing D.C. government agencies to learn what challenges we are facing and ensure we are achieving progress toward our goals. It is also a time for us to hear from residents about where they see agencies doing good work or in need of improvement or changes.

Screenshot of a public oversight hearing of the Committee on Public Works and Operations.

Here’s just a small portion of what we heard:

In the hearing on the Department of For-Hire Vehicles (taxis, ride-shares, etc.) we heard from several people with disabilities who said they routinely have to wait hours for a wheelchair-accessible taxi, even as companies are required to have them available. They said they can’t go to events because they have no guarantee of getting home. It was hard to hear. We talked with agency staff about how we can make sure that the department will hold companies accountable for meeting their obligations and will follow up with them.

Because the Department of Public Works handles some of the most basic and most important services in the District – trash pickup, recycling, leaf collection, and parking enforcement, for starters – it makes sense that the public had a lot to say about the agency and its services. I was encouraged to hear from Acting Director Spriggs that he recognizes many of the issues that have long plagued the agency – from low employee morale to missing litter cans to inadequate prioritization of waste diversion – and is committed to fixing them. Improving how DPW functions is a priority of mine and while it’s clear from the hearing that we have a long way to go, I believe we can get there.

Our committee also oversees the agencies that deal with IT, procurement, licensing, and the offices that handle human rights, veterans, religious, and LGBT affairs.

When we spoke with the Office of Human Rights, we asked about language access and how to make sure that residents for whom English is not their first language are made aware of their rights and understand how to access resources.

In that office and the Office of Administrative Hearings, I am concerned about the backlog of pending cases. We discussed the need for modernizing agency systems and adding more staff.

Much of the work of the agencies we oversee on this committee is not the stuff that grabs headlines. It is, however, work that impacts the lives of our residents every day and I’m thrilled to be digging in on the nitty gritty. Getting District government to work efficiently and effectively for residents is what I came here to do, and I’m excited about the work ahead. 

The Mayor will submit her proposed 2023-24 budget to the Council on March 22, after which the Council will hold numerous hearings, take public feedback and ask executive agencies to explain how they will use their budgets. Building on the lessons learned from testimony of agencies and public witnesses during performance oversight hearings, each Council committee, including the Committee on Public Works and Operations, will analyze the budgets of the agencies under its purview and recommend changes to the rest of the Council, which will vote on a final budget, most likely in June or July.