Ward 1 Update - Budget Edition
A previous version of this post mentioned that the budget "Maintains funding for redevelopment of 1617 U Street". This was in error, as the 1617 U Street project is still in planning stages at DMPED. There is, however, funding maintained for the redevelopment of the Reeves Center at 14th and U Street: https://dmped.dc.gov/page/reeves-center-0. The post has been updated to reflect this correction.
At this point in the budget cycle, just after the Council took its first of two votes on next year’s District budget, I typically would be updating you on the changes to the budget since my initial overview last week – what we lost and what we gained and what I’m still hoping to make happen.
In an unusual turn this year, pretty much everything I shared with you last week about budget investments in Ward 1 is still in the budget.
On the citywide aspects of the budget, a lot has happened – we were able to restore funding to many programs and services that were cut in the Mayor’s original budget proposal, and would have been harmful to DC residents, especially those most in need. With overwhelming agreement on almost all of these issues, the Council restored $43 million to emergency rental assistance, added 230 permanent supportive housing vouchers, and rolled out 24/7 service on 13 major bus routes across the city (something I advanced in my committee) and we kept the three Circulator bus routes that would have been cut, including the Woodley Park/Adams Morgan line, which has the second-highest ridership in the system.
Because I reported to you last week on some of the big wins for Ward 1 – and those haven’t changed all that much – I'm going to start with what I and my colleagues accomplished in the citywide budget and then circle back to Ward 1.
One of our biggest and most immediate improvements was reversing the massive cut to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program in the Mayor’s proposed budget. All councilmembers agreed that we needed to bring that amount back to at least $43 million, the dollar amount in last year’s budget. We had already gone through all of that by the middle of the year and the proposed $8 million for next year was unconscionable. I am proud that the Committee on Public Works & Operations, which I chair, was able to come up with $3 million of that and I thank all of my fellow councilmembers for also finding funding within their committees.
As we saw in the recent point-in-time count, there have been increases in residents and families experiencing homelessness across the board, after many years of significant progress. This budget’s funding for ERAP is going to be critical to catch more people before they enter that free fall into the cycle of homelessness.
Chairman Mendelson added funding for more than 200 new permanent supportive housing vouchers to fully lift more individuals and families out of homelessness. This Council has funded new permanent supportive vouchers every year for the past six years, and I’m proud we can continue that streak.
My committee funded more housing vouchers for returning citizens. And the Council restored funds for free legal services to help people facing evictions, securing protection from perpetrators of domestic violence, and help with obtaining public benefits.
The budget includes a major shift of funding from the DC Public Schools central office to our schools and classrooms. This has resulted in restoration of funds in schools across the District including seven schools in Ward 1.
We advanced measures to support teacher retention and wellness. D.C. has one of the highest retention challenges in the country. We funded a study and pilot on flexible teaching schedules at District schools which will give teachers more downtime. It is my hope that investment in this pilot as well as reinvestment in classrooms by the Council will send a clear message to our educators that we want them to succeed and that we value their well-being.
And we restored cuts and increased funding for school-based behavioral health services.
This budget restores for one year the three Circulator bus lines that were cut in the Mayor’s proposed budget, including the one I mentioned above – the Woodley Park/Adams Morgan line in Ward 1.
You might have heard a lot in recent days about a proposal I made to charge a congestion management fee on ride shares that go into the downtown during morning rush hour and leave it in the afternoon/evening rush hour. That fee would have worked to influence behavior, reduce congestion, and raise funds to pay for 24/7 service on 13 major bus routes.
In its place, Chairman Mendelson proposed in the budget a 25 cent surcharge on all ride shares, with the money going to support the 24/7 bus routes. I’m glad to see the buses funded, as I had proposed, and also glad that we advanced a meaningful conversation about using congestion pricing to shape the city and downtown we want – something that Uber and Lyft have publicly supported. The budget also directs the Mayor to release the long-awaited congestion-pricing study by this time next year, allowing us to have an informed policy discussion on that issue.
An all-hours transit network forms a critical backbone of our transportation infrastructure and will be invaluable to many of our essential workers and our nightlife industry.
Watch, too, for legislation from me next week that will put an end to making cars the top priority in transportation planning.
The budget fully funds the street vendor bill, which I introduced with Chairman Mendelson, thanks to funds I found in the Public Works and Operations Committee, Councilmember Henderson and her Health Committee, and Chairman Mendelson, who completed the final puzzle piece. Finally, vendors will be able to work in a predictable environment that benefits them, their customers, and other residents.
The Domestic Worker Employment Rights legislation is fully funded, thanks to collaboration with Councilmembers Lewis George and Robert White, giving people who work in our homes the assurance of dignity, respect, fairness, and a safe workplace.
The Local Resident Voting Rights Act is funded, thanks to Councilmember Bonds and the Labor committee. Finally, all residents who live and work in the District will have the right to vote in local elections that impact their daily lives.
I was also proud to be able to identify funding for the POKETT Act, which will be transformative in improving the lives of children in our care, giving them a more financially stable start as they transition out of foster care.
PUBLIC WORKS & OPERATIONS COMMITTEE
In my committee, we restored over 50 positions in the Department of Public Works that will support waste disposal, graffiti removal, enhanced leaf pickup, and better booting and towing operations – all critical to quality of life and public safety. We also restored or added positions in other agencies under our purview, including several positions in the Office of Administrative Hearings, where residents go to appeal fines and actions by city agencies, a workforce development specialist at the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, and positions in the Office of Human Rights related to the domestic worker rights law.
And the long-awaited public restrooms will finally be installed! My committee found funding to launch a pilot to install five throughout the city, including one in Ward 1. We found a cost-effective, environmentally sound, and hygienic solution that employs ready-to-use and pleasant one-stall units. They support public health and a more livable city. I look forward to seeing more of these in the future.
The budget is not perfect – we should be putting more money into SNAP and I am disappointed that we have broken our pandemic promise to excluded workers, that we would give them relief that many of us received from the federal government, but for which they were not eligible. I am working with colleagues in hopes of finding those funds between now and May 30 when we take a final vote on the budget.
Here’s a rundown on what we can look forward to in the FY 2024 budget for Ward 1:
Public Safety, including crime prevention and traffic safety
From my Public Works & Operations Committee alone, we made $4.5 million in public safety investments in Ward 1 including:
- $200,000 for grant funding for a pilot program to provide substance abuse and behavioral health services in the vicinity of the 600 block of T St. NW
- $250,000 - Safe Commercial Corridors in Adams Morgan to support the hiring of additional Safety Ambassadors
- $750,000 to expand the targeted outreach ecosystem approach piloted in the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza. This funding will address the similar challenges of individuals in the adjacent neighborhoods to ultimately support holistic community development in Ward 1, including U Street, Lower Georgia Avenue, and Mount Pleasant Street.
- Two dedicated traffic control officers at 14th & Irving
Improvements to neighborhood life
Clean streets, better parks, walkable sidewalks!
- Expands the service area of the Shaw Clean Team to the 1900 block of 8th Street, NW
- $800,000 for structural and aesthetic improvements to streateries, with a focus on 18th Street and Mount Pleasant Street
- $1 million for a “Green Slow Streets” program in Ward 1, targeting blocks with poor sidewalk conditions, ADA issues, drainage problems, tree canopy needs, and traffic safety simultaneously
- Funds all Dept. Of Licensing and Consumer Protection-related costs of the Street Vendor law. This includes staff for the vending zone program; an additional Inspector for vending enforcement; and $125,000 annually to support the Columbia Heights-Mount Pleasant Vending Zone management contract
- $400,000 and two new community planner positions for public life study and streetscape design guidelines for Mount Pleasant Street and central Columbia Heights
- $500,000 for Phase 2 build-out at Amigos Park
- Retains funds for the Bruce Monroe development - new replacement public housing for Park Morton and new affordable housing on Georgia Avenue, plus a new permanent park and community space
- $1.6M for Open Streets which includes continuing Georgia Ave Open Streets every October
- Retains funding for Park View Recreation Center
- Maintains funding for redevelopment of the Reeves Center at 14th and U
Ward 1 Schools
The budget adds $3 million to support childcare at the Roosevelt STAY program at Garnet-Patterson, allowing parent scholars to have their children on site. This has been a high priority for me.
What a long and positive way we’ve come over the past two months!
When the FY 2024 budget was first presented to us in March, like a lot of my colleagues, I was not very optimistic. Grim revenue projections and the promise of being able to do little more than reduce harm. Instead, we were able to put money into the things our neighbors and fellow residents have told us were most important to them. I look forward to finishing off the budget season with the promise of a successful year ahead.