Jul 29, 2014
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Show Me The Money

Council members push ambitious initiatives, but where is the money coming from?

Show Me The Money Show Me The Money

Recent initiatives brought forth by some DC Council members have me scratching my head. With a massive budget shortfall, with millions of dollars in spending cuts being proposed, and with the never-ending threat of a federal government shutdown, it’s beyond me how they expect to fund these well-intentioned, but extremely lofty ideas.

Council member David Catania is proposing legislation to create an entirely new system aimed at monitoring at-risk youth. The bill would provide for comprehensive behavioral health screenings for children in the city’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs. It would also revamp the city’s truancy laws for kids.

It basically cuts dramatically the number of days a kid can skip school before he or she is referred to Court Social Services. Catania believes if you prevent kids from skipping school, the better the chances they will stay out of trouble down the road. 

He may be right, but the fact is these programs would require new directors with new rules and would take years to implement. How can the city afford to implement this new layer of bureaucracy at a time of financial crisis? 

Didn’t Catania get the memo for Gray’s proposal to cut more than $113 million from social services? The Council member and the mayor just don’t seem to be on the same page here.

Council member Jack Evans wants legislation requiring at least 4,000 sworn in Metropolitan Police officers at all times. Good luck with that.

Both the mayor and Evans have come forth with ideas on how to compensate for attrition in the police force, yet the mayor’s proposed budget calls for more than $18 million in cuts to public safety.

How about we just face the fact that having 3,700 sworn-in police officers at any given time will have to be enough to provide for the public’s safety?  It may not be ideal, but Police Chief Cathy Lanier can surely make do with the force she has until new funding can be identified. Lanier works well with adversity, and she’s done one heck of a job so far. If only the government were run as well as Lanier runs her police force, maybe we’d have a lot less homicides, AND a budget surplus.

In the meantime, let’s come up with more ways to raise new revenue.  Mayor Gray already has some good ideas. Some of them may prove to be unpopular (like raising the Circulator bus fee and increasing income taxes), but they’re necessary.

The mayor should then look in the mirror and cut his staff salaries even more, which would at least give the public the perception that the city is taking its finances seriously. Further raise the penalties for traffic infractions, especially for running red lights and speeding. All those traffic cameras are a cash cow. 

Stop planning your political future! If you’re able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for your campaign (and in Kwame Brown’s case, not report it) then you can surely come up with new budget revenue.

Seriously. Get your priorities straight, meaning the city’s priorities. 

With lack of federal funding constantly looming these days, I’d be worrying about how to pay the police officers I do have, and how to keep the streets clean of trash. 

A tough budget situation requires tough choices. Those are the mayor’s words. The question isn’t whether we should have more police officers or whether we should revamp child services programs.  The question is whether we can afford it at this time.  The answer is no. 

Let me give you some more of the mayor’s words. “Of course, there’s a perception of a government spending more than it should.” That was Gray’s response during his when asked about his hiring practices.

Gray is right. There is that perception. In this case, it’s exactly how the District got into this budget mess. For years, the city has spent more than it has taken in. 

Now do the right thing, and stop spending money that just isn’t there.

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