Thanks again to Jared Johnson for another great roundup:
- Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas resigned early this year after it was confirmed that he had used $300,000 in bribes, campaign contributions, etc for his personal use. This was the final outcome in this case that had been going on for almost a year. The DC and US Attorney General’s Office were investigating the scandal and were in the process of formalizing conviction charges. The DC Republican Committee was also examining the case and were advocating for his resignation. The Council seat is open and a Republican, Tim Day, is running for the open seat. This election will take place during the general election on November 2.
My opinion: It is about time Thomas resigned. He should have never used these funds for his personal use. He should be supporting the interests of the people of Ward 5 instead of himself.
- The DC Primary occurred April 3. The primary chose candidates for the Presidential general election, some Council seats, as well as the Delegate to the U.S. House and Shadow Senators (two). Jack Evans, our Councilmember for Ward 2, won re-election by a landslide, as did Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
- The DC Council is drawing new boundaries for Advisory Neighborhood Districts and within those Single Member Districts. This is occurring in committee. The re-districting, as it is called, is happening because of the new 2010 Census that was taken. The re-drawing has to be done by the end of this year and will take effect soon after. GW and the surrounding neighborhoods will still be in Ward 2.
- Mayor Vincent Gray submitted his Fiscal Year 2013 (July 1, 2012- June 30, 2013) budget proposal to the Council. The total proposed budget for the District is $11.3 billion, the largest in the city’s history. The District would receive federal money in the budget. 80% of the annual budget is used for social services, education, and public safety.
Mayor Gray is taking a somewhat fiscally conservative approach to this year’s budget. Councilmen Jack Evans, Ward 2’s Councilmember and Chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, says that there is “the absence of any tax increases. I am also pleased to see at least a token increase in . . . standard income tax deduction, and personal income tax exemption.” Evans would go further. He states that, “Due to our large surplus from the past fiscal year and an increase in our . . . revenue estimate, an argument could be made that we should return these tax dollars to taxpayers, and return the furlough money to our government employees. I also have concerns that certain revenue raising proposals in the Mayor’s budget may not generate the projected levels of funds.
Councilmen Evans also wants an expanded police force. There are roughly 3,900 officers now and Mr. Evans wants that number raised to 4,000 officers. He also would like to see “$10 million in funding for the Commission on Arts & Humanities as well as additional funds for libraries and parks.”
My opinion: This looks like a fairly good budget. There will be no tax increases, and income taxes for Districts residents and workers will go down. It is my hope that the government will continue to lower taxes so that the more money stays in the pockets of those who earn it.
- A new study came out with information from the Census Bureau that finds that the District has seen an increase in the number of residents over the past ten or twenty years. This is primarily from students who move to the District, attend college and then stay here, and from recent graduates who obtain a job.
My opinion: This is a great place to study live, and to find a job after graduation. The unemployment rate for the region is still lower than the national average, and there are many organizations hiring.
- The debate over the DC and National World War I Memorial is still going on. The memorial will not be expanded, seeing as the National Park Service said nothing more can be built on the Mall (it is all filled up). Also, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton signed onto a bill that would provide for the minting of commemorative coins for the memorial, charging a ten dollar fee, and that money would be used to support the memorial. She opposes the bill and wouldn’t have signed on if she knew what it was about. The legislation to establish a permanent monument occurred after Franck Buckles, the last surviving WWI veteran, died last spring. The centennial of the First World War is occurring in 2014.
- A bill has been brought forth in the House sponsored by Representative Trent Franks of Arizona that would allow abortions to occur up until the 20th week of life in the District. This has to make its way into the House Oversight and Government Reforms Committee, which has jurisdiction over the District.
-The Government of DC is pushing for statehood during this general election in November. They are going to urge state legislatures across the country to support them in this movement. This is an ongoing process that will happen throughout the rest of the year.
- Construction is still occurring on the Metro system. They are replacing tracks, replacing train cars, updating the air-conditioning and ventilation systems in the train cars, and replacing switches, among other things. Metro has also held hearings in regards to increasing their fares, which is due to the still moderately weak economy and states not wanting to contribute more money to the WMATA.