Ward 6 Budget Update From Councilmember Charles Allen
Last week, the Council cast its first set of votes on our city’s budget for next year. Thank you to everyone that joined me at my Ward 6 Budget Town Hall and shared their priorities and feedback. As a member of the committees on Education, Transportation & the Environment, and Business, Consumer, & Regulatory Affairs, I was able to work on several priorities for Ward 6. Next Wednesday, the Council will vote on the entire budget. I’m delighted to share some of the progress and highlights from the committee budget work:
- Recognizing the significant health and safety concerns to residents as a result of shoddy construction, I worked with fellow new Councilmembers to add resources to DCRA to create two new illegal construction inspectors, and one new permit inspectors.
- Hearing from our small businesses and entrepreneurs, I amended a program that provides District-backed loans to small businesses to help them grow and have greater access to capital. As a result, the District is in a better position to help an estimated 3,000 small businesses open their doors and create new jobs.
- Tackling the significant gaps in early childhood literacy in the District, I worked with colleagues to pass and fully fund my “Books From Birth” initiative – ensuring that every child in the District will receive one book per month from age 0 to 5, and linking these books to the DC Public Library’s early childhood and adult literacy programs.
- Protecting our limited and important parks and public spaces is a priority across not just Ward 6, but the entire city. I helped keep funding intact for the NoMa Parks projects, and also created new investments in long-neglected parks such as the Southwest Duck Pond.
- Keeping a priority on transit needs, I helped ensure that WMATA has full funding to avoid service cuts or fare hikes, as well as protected the plans for the H Street and Benning Road line of the DC Streetcar, with an extension both east and west.
- Recognizing that our local library branches are important community gathering spaces, not just to check out a book, but for much, much more, I worked with my colleagues to maintain the full modernization funding plans for both the Southeast and Southwest DC Public Library branches.
There were many budget questions related to school modernizations. As I have mentioned before, the proposed budget delayed or removed important capital funds for many schools across Ward 6.
I have worked hard to restore as much of the lost funding as I could. And while I remain disappointed that full modernizations for middle schools were delayed, I was able to successfully amend the budget to add $3 million each for Eliot-Hine and Jefferson Middle Schools to begin the design process and engage their communities in planning for the future. Here’s a snapshot of what was included in the final budget recommendations from the Committee on Education:
- Full modernization for the long-delayed Watkins Elementary School.
- New modernization funds for Maury Elementary School to address their immediate space and classroom constraints.
- Additional funds needed to complete the modernization for the soon-to-reopen Van Ness Elementary School.
- New planning and design funds ($3 million each) to immediately begin the preparation process for Eliot-Hine and Jefferson Middle Schools’ modernizations.
- Stabilization funds dedicated to important health, safety, and infrastructure needs at almost every school in Ward 6.
- A new requirement for DC Public Schools to review and develop a plan for the future modernization and re-opening of Shaw Middle School.
There is a lot more, but I wanted to share some of the highlights. If you have any budget questions, please feel free to let me know. Our next steps in the budget process will be to vote on the full budget on Wednesday, May 27, followed by a final vote scheduled on June 16.
Spring Happy Hour
I have enjoyed the first few months of the wonderful opportunity to represent Ward 6. As part of my efforts to get out of the Wilson Building and into the community, my office hosts morning Office Hours at various coffee shops around the Ward. But this week, we’re trying a different twist by hosting Community Office Hours at an evening Happy Hour. Please join me and my staff at Smith Commons on Wednesday evening, 5:30 – 7:00pm, 1245 H Street, NE. Click here for more information or to RSVP.