CM Robert White Advances Equity & Social Justice Agenda in Committee Budget

On Thursday, July 1, 2021, the Committee on Government Operations and Facilities, chaired by Councilmember Robert White, passed its budget report and recommendations on the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget for agencies under its purview. The proposed budget was developed based on feedback from residents over the last year. The budget report advances Councilmember White’s equity and social justice agenda.

With today’s budget markup, Councilmember Robert White said: 

“The District, like the nation, is at a crossroads. It would be easy to wish for a return to normal after the last year, but that normal was never good enough for too many residents to begin with. Our pre-pandemic normal rested on an unjust economy and a broken criminal justice system, housing instability and displacement, discrimination and systemic racism, and disenfranchisement. The pandemic has only heighted these issues and has further illuminated others.

The Committee believes the proposed investments reflected in this report will make real progress toward social justice by expanding opportunities for returning citizens, seniors, veterans, and the LGBTQ community, by reducing displacement, by strengthening local democracy, by protecting due process and human rights, by safeguarding our residents from lead and other toxins, and by enhancing oversight and accountability for the District government.”

Expands Opportunities for Returning Citizens

Returning citizens face many of the same challenges as other residents. They need stable housing and good paying jobs, but face additional barriers due to their criminal records and their long absences from the District. Our budget:

  • Funds reentry housing through the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants;
  • Provides 20 housing vouchers to help returning citizens avoid homeless shelters as they work to stabilize after incarceration; and
  • Continues the Council’s investment in access to jobs and paralegal career paths so returning citizens can have good careers.

Supports the LGBTQ Community

We need to continue protecting LGBTQ residents in the District from hate crimes and provide them with access to basic needs and services, such as safe housing and mental health. Our budget: 

  • Funds a full-time LGBTQ Coordinator at the Office of Veterans Affairs;
  • Fully funds the Bella Evangelista and Tony Hunter Panic Defense Prohibition and Hate Crimes Response Amendment Act of 2020 to strengthen protections against unlawful discrimination
  • Provides 20 housing vouchers for LGBTQ seniors, allowing them to age in place; and
  • Funds a study of the LGBTQ community business economy, which have been hit uniquely hard.

Strengthens Our Advisory Neighborhood Commissions

ANCs are an essential part of our government. Without additional support, it’s difficult for these volunteer representatives to meet their full potential. Our budget:

  • Funds a new Strategic Plan for the Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, to be developed in coordination with Commissioners from across the city; and
  • Establishes a new fund to support Commissions that need to hire experts to assist with their work, including legal assistance and assistance with planning and development

Protects Seniors, Veterans, and Residents from Displacement

Despite substantial investments by the city, affordable housing is getting harder to find with each passing year. The skyrocketing price of housing has exacerbated the underlying inequities in the District as many families have to make the choice between paying rent or buying food, clothing, and other necessities. Our budget:

  • Offers 15 housing vouchers for senior citizens to allow them to stay in the District, in addition to the vouchers for returning citizens and LGBTQ seniors identified above, totaling investments in 55 vouchers collectively;
  • Restores funding for transitional housing for youth experiencing homelessness; and 
  • Enhances the Vets Ride program to allow veterans to get 15 free trips a month to anywhere in the city in recognition of their service to the country.

Enhances Human Rights and Upholds Due Process

Now is a time of action, not silence. Despite profound and continuous discrimination, inequities, and even violence, we have started a new era of progress. My vision is to continue pulling our city together and bringing more people to the table so that we can make progress in this pivotal moment. Without change, there will be no justice. Our budget:

  • Funds the Bias in Threat Assessments Act, which I introduced at the beginning of the year in response to the January 6th terrorist attack on our city and our democracy;
  • Begins a study of the programs and interventions that successfully keep young people out of the criminal justice system;
  • Ensures full-time staffing for the Resource Center at the Office of Administrative Hearings; and
  • Allows the Office of Human Rights to hire four new staff members to address OHR’s case backlog, and funds continuous reporting and analysis of the backlog.

Invests in District Facilities and Removes Lead Dangers

The District must use the safest, most environmentally conscious, and easily maintained materials for our playgrounds, schools, facilities, and other government buildings that the city is modernizing or demolishing. Residents should not have to worry about harmful exposure to lead and other toxins in public places. Our budget: 

  • Requires testing of all public playgrounds for lead every three years;
  • Assesses all public buildings for environmental hazards every 10 years;
  • Invests $650,000 in public housing repairs; and 
  • Protects the historic character of Eastern Market with an additional $1 million in capital investments.

Protects the Environment

Climate change is real. It is happening now, and its effects are disproportionately impacting low-income communities and people of color. I have been focused on achieving our city’s climate goals by expanding renewable energy generation on District government properties. Our budget: 

  • Invests an additional $2,713,000 in energy retrofitting for District government buildings, bringing the District closer to compliance with building efficiency standards; and
  • Funds portions of the Zero Waste Omnibus Amendment Act to promote waste diversion at District agencies.

Promotes Oversight and Accountability

Without proper oversight, we have no accountability. District residents deserve a government that is honest and transparent. Our budget:

  • Fully funds the Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2017, enacting a prohibition on political contributions of District government contractors;
  • Enables the Office of the Inspector General to conduct a robust risk assessment to plan future audits and funds two additional staff members to reinforce the agency’s important work;
  • Completes the digitization of all Contract Appeals Board decisions, providing unprecedented transparency for those engaging with the Board; and
  • Requires the Office of Contracting and Procurement to provide a report that includes a detailed analysis of the use of emergency procurements during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The Committee’s investments could not be possible without the assistance of several other Committees, which accepted funds from our Committee for their agencies and provided investments to our Committee to advance shared goals. Chairperson White would like to thank the Committees on Judiciary and Public Safety, Housing and Executive Administration, Transportation and the Environment, Housing and Executive Administration, Human Services, and Recreation and Youth Affairs for collaboration with the Committee on Government Operations and Facilities on so many worthwhile endeavors. Chairperson White also applauds the Committee on Government Operations and Facilities staff, Shawn Hilgendorf, Kirti Suri, Estelle Mitchell, and Sean Cuddihy, who continue to work tirelessly on the committee budget recommendations. 

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