The Council just took the first of two votes on our revisions to the Mayor's proposed FY24 budget -- in total, more than $19.7 billion, with about $10.7 billion in local dollars.
I'm writing to share some quick thoughts on the budget we just approved (to take effect beginning this October) and a lot of exciting city-wide and Ward 6 wins. The final vote will be on May 30, and I'll fight to protect everything below.
Big Picture Reflections
While the District is in a very strong financial position, our revenue growth is slowing post-pandemic. That means our belts have to tighten, and this budget called for some tough decisions.
That said, the budget the Council approved today is both responsible and bold. This is my 20th budget as either a public health advocate, a Council staffer, or now a Councilmember, and more than ever before, this budget process revealed big differences in competing visions for our city's future. We received a proposal that slashed funding for lifesaving emergency rental assistance and for the legal aid lawyers who fight for our most vulnerable neighbors. Grants for domestic violence and other crime survivors were gutted. It would have eliminated half our Circulator bus program overnight (including the L'Enfant - Eastern Market line), which serves people who need that inexpensive bus service to get around the city or get to work. And we saw a budget that invested in the downtown of yesterday, not tomorrow. Nothing to tackle climate change, funding for safe streets improvements was taken to balance the overall budget, and there were no new housing vouchers to get people off the street and out of homelessness.
What was sent to us had to change. And it did. What the Council approved meets our needs as much as it is visionary. We can invest in both the future of downtown and still fund our critical safety net. We can fully fund a public safety response that includes law enforcement and also other tools. We can take big steps on climate and also help residents and businesses take those steps. In fact, we chose not to continue kicking the can on moving away from fossil fuels - instead we're going to be leading on clean energy, electrification, and sustainability projects, especially for those most impacted or who can't afford to make the change without support. And while WMATA's board disappointingly stood in the way of starting fare-free buses this year, the Council's making 13 major bus lines run 24/7 and restoring the cuts to all Circulator lines, at least until we have a bigger conversation about the Circulator's future.
All in all, the Council's budget sets the stage for the DC of tomorrow, not yesterday.
So with the rest of this note, I want to quickly highlight some city-wide and Ward 6 wins.
Delivering on Citywide Priorities
Housing Stability: The Council approved increases of $35M for emergency rental assistance (for a total of $43M) and $18.6M (for a total of $31.6M) for civil legal services and $9M in new permanent supportive housing vouchers (instead of zero). Homelessness is up across the region, including in the District, and we shouldn't walk away from our best tools to keep people in stable housing. This is the right thing to do and also saves us short- and long-term costs in other areas.
Public Safety: The Council is again funding MPD’s full budget ask for officers and recruitment and retention incentives, as hiring nationwide and here at home continues to lag. Within MPD, the budget also makes smart proposals to hire or use civilians for more behind-the-scenes jobs to free up officers for patrols and investigations. The Council's budget also restores $10.5M in critical funding for crime survivors that was proposed to be cut. And while the proposed budget reduced funding for some violence prevention and interruption programs, both our violence interruption programs at the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement will largely continue their work as they stand today.
Expanding 24/7 Service to 13 WMATA Bus Lines: While WMATA asked the Council to delay fare-free buses for one year, we found funding for 13 bus lines to run 24/7 -- that's a really big deal whether you're a worker getting off your shift late at night or you're looking to stay out late at one of DC's great restaurants, music venues, or theaters. Those lines are the 32, 33, 52, 70, 90, A6, A8, B2, H4, S2, V2, W4, and the X2. This is an important piece of my "Metro for DC" legislation. I'm excited we're expanding service and making it more affordable and accessible. I've included a map of planned routes to the right.
Transforming Downtown: The Council supported the Mayor's request for tax abatements for large commercial buildings to get them to convert to residential housing. I've talked about this a lot, but downtown needs to look more like some of our most successful and vibrant neighborhoods like NoMa, Capitol Riverfront, Mt. Vernon Triangle, and the Wharf. And we need to have a bold vision that meets everyone's needs. That's why I paused the proposed K Street Transitway DDOT project (which I wrote about Saturday in my most recent newsletter) - because it was designed more for a downtown of 1950 than 2050. We did include additional planning and design funding to get the project right and come back in next year's budget to reconsider it. I want to see buses move up and down the corridor effortlessly, but not in the middle of a freeway. Creating major 24/7 bus lines and restoring Circulator service will boost downtown right now.
Making Our Streets Safer: We have to curb reckless and dangerous driving, period. The proposed budget didn't fund "Vision Zero" street safety legislation and took traffic camera fines to balance the budget's bottom line - but that's not what they're for. Fines are supposed to change behavior and prevent crashes, not serve as a slush fund. So my Committee's transit budget funds more than 40 projects to improve street safety and restore that ticket revenue law. And to note: I'll also be holding a hearing on traffic enforcement strategies next Wednesday at 11 am that will be streamed live on the Council's website.
Keeping DC's Department of Forensic Sciences Independent: This is an important fight that's not easy to explain in a quick email, but in short, the Council stood by my bill we had just unanimously passed a few months ago to make our "crime lab" - the Department of Forensic Sciences - an independent agency. The lab had lost its accreditation under poor management and politicization and has been working to get it back. This is important because this mismanagement has put hundreds of gun cases in jeopardy, with no forensic analysis the prosecution can stand behind. We have to retest those cases, and victims, defendants, and the community are left in limbo. So last year, the Council passed my bill to make DC safer by reforming the lab and making it independent. The Mayor's proposed budget would have carved up the lab and made it political again, turning the clock back years. We stood firm, because we need to protect the integrity of our violent crime investigations and prosecutions. A complicated issue, but a really big deal as we work together to drive down violent crime and close cases.
Ward 6 Budget Wins
Now, what you've been waiting for: Ward 6 wins!
Rumsey Pool & Senior Center: I added an additional $10M, for a total of $25M, for a full modernization of Rumsey Aquatic Center, including a second level. This is a big win, and thank you to all the neighbors, community leaders, and small businesses who worked with us to fight for what this space could become. It's centrally located and will serve seniors on the second floor, small businesses with new maker space on the first, and still include an incredible pool. I know I'm fed up with the constant pool closures due to failing equipment! The funding will come online in the fall, so stay turned for community engagement, the first step in the design process.
DCPS School Budgets Restored: The Council also restored funding to schools that saw their budgets decrease in DCPS's SY2024 proposal. Enrollment is growing, and we need - at the very least - to continue baseline funding. In Ward 6, that meant increasing from the DCPS proposals for Brent, Amidon-Bowen, Ludlow-Taylor, Maury, Jefferson, Peabody, School-Within-School, Stuart-Hobson, Tyler, Walker-Jones, and Watkins. I'm not happy with where every school landed, but we certainly shouldn't be backtracking.
Ward 6 School Modernizations: Modernizations for JO Wilson ($91M, FY24-26), Brent ($94M, FY24-27), Amidon-Bowen ($84M, FY26-29), Tyler ($90M, FY25-28), and a renovation at Ludlow-Taylor ($9M, FY24) are all on track!
Penn and Potomac Ave SE Circle Redesign: After years of waiting, I’m happy to share that construction costs are finally funded for a redesign of the traffic circle at Pennsylvania Avenue SE and Potomac Avenue SE, which has been a dangerous and confusing intersection for drivers and anyone trying to access the Metro station and several bus lines. I also found funding to move it up a year to our current fiscal year, FY23. We’re going to beautify the area, improve the flow of traffic, and make it safer, no matter your mode of travel. Thanks again to community leaders and neighbors for demanding more here.
Randall Recreation Center: The budget includes $17M to renovate Randall Recreation Center's campus, which serves both Southwest and Navy Yard residents. This means improvements to the pool, fields, and the indoor spaces. A big opportunity for the community, and we'll see progress on community engagement starting in the fall.
RH Terrell Recreation Center: The budget has $1M to connect this rec center and the Northwest One Library into one larger space. We'll be having a bigger conversation about what's next for this site and project and what the community needs and wants to see.
Eastern Market Metro Park: I’m happy to share that the live music and other activities I funded through a grant will continue at Eastern Market Metro Park next year. My office and the community put a lot of work into creating EMMP, and we need to protect the investment and also realize its potential. EMMP needs to be a vibrant, active place that's welcoming to all people, serving as a hub of community life. That said, we're encountering persistent substance use challenges on the metro side of the park, in particular, and in addition to working with the Department of Behavioral Health on outreach and engagement presence, I'm adding funding to the current grant I mentioned specifically to create regular substance abuse and behavioral health outreach and services.
Southeast Library: The budget includes an additional $10M in FY24 to fully fund the budget for the new Southeast Library.
Garfield Park Connector: Another long-stalled project is moving forward. I found $3.6M for the construction of the Garfield Park Connector, which will transform the underpass between Virginia Avenue, SE and Garfield Park. I had already funded the design work, but now we'll be able to connect both sides and activate the space under the freeway, including with pickleball! Thanks to all our neighbor advocates, the BID, and other leaders for their support on this project.
Buzzard Point Trail: I also restored funding - $2.8M - that had been cut to extend the waterfront trail past Nats Park and connect it with Buzzard Point and the entire neighborhood.
Sherwood Rec Center: There's also $4M in FY26 for much-needed repairs inside of Sherwood Rec Center and to update the surrounding outdoor space -- including adding a spray park and pickleball.
H Street NE Bridge: We're still advancing a critical replacement of the H Street NE Bridge, totaling more than $220M. This is a key step to our once-in-a-generation transformation of Union Station.
NoMa Metro Entrance: The Council also restored $50M that had been cut to create a new metro entrance at NoMa Metro Station to vastly improve access to Florida Avenue NE and Union Market. This funding is in FY27-28.
RFK Indoor Sports Complex: And a Ward 6 adjacent win and an investment that didn't get a lot of attention: $60M for a new indoor sports complex on the grounds at RFK campus, just on the other side of Ward 6's border. It'll include an indoor track, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, gymnastics, indoor basketball courts, events space, indoor rock climbing, a learning center, an indoor football/multi-purpose field, boxing, e-sports, and more. Planning begins in FY26 and construction in FY27-FY28.
Cobb Park and Kingsman Park/Field/courts: The budget maintains funding for both projects.
If you can believe it, these are just some of the highlights! It's a strong budget for Ward 6 and our entire city, and thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who spoke up for their community priorities. Never have I been more excited for the start of a fiscal year and all that it will bring for our community.