“The call to defund the police is an abolitionist demand. But it reflects only one aspect of the process represented by the demand. Defunding the police is not simply about withdrawing funding for law enforcement and doing nothing else...It’s about shifting public funds to new services and new institutions--mental health counselors, who can respond to people who are in crisis without arms. It’s about shifting funding to education to housing, to recreation. All of these things help to create security and safety. It’s about learning that safety, safeguarded by violence, is not really safety.” --Angela Davis [20:01]
We stand with Black people nationwide in their calls for abolition. Despite what Mayor Muriel Bowser and Chief Peter Newsham say, Black DC residents continue to experience MPD reigning terror over our neighborhoods while siphoning critical funds from needed community resources.
The Fair Taxes and Public Deals issue group has complied revenue options to ensure a just recovery in D.C.
1. Acknowledge and direct funding towards communities hit the hardest by the pandemic
2. Prioritize preserving and increasing funds for programs that:
4. Recognize it is a rainy day now, meaning DC should tap into savings and surplus.
5. Identify budget savings that would have a limited effect on key services, such as delaying nonessential capital projects.
6. Increase revenue to stave off deep budget cuts and expand support for communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
7. For increases in revenue:
According to a study commissioned by The Urban Institute in 2016, titled A Vision for an Equitable DC, if DC were a truly racially equitable city:
Does the FY19 budget help us move towards a truly racially equitable District in which more Black and Brown District households could afford their housing, have access to adequate healthcare, living wages, healthy food, and safe communities?
You can click this link to view the full history of our FY19 recommendations.
The FY19 Budget makes important progress in the areas of Economic Justice, Food Access, Equality, and Justice, and Healthcare, and some smaller, incremental progress towards Housing Security and Community Safety:
Additionally, there are some notable highlights in areas outside of FBC’s purview:
However, despite these important gains, the FY19 Budget falls short in advancing a truly racially equitable District. FBC is not confident that by the end of FY19, 63,200 Black and Hispanic households will be lifted from poverty, nor will 26,000 extremely low income households have access to safe, affordable housing. Advancing racial equity in DC will require far more systemic and meaningful changes so that we will truly start seeing different outcomes for Black and other communities of color.
The FY19 budget does not add nearly enough funding in affordable housing to meet the full need, it does not fully support survivors of domestic violence in finding safe housing, it does not add funding to a program that provides start up financing to returning citizens aiming to start businesses, it does not start a carbon rebate program nor decriminalize fare evasion, nor does it fund the reforms to the Healthcare Alliance program to ensure that undocumented immigrants have continued and easier access to healthcare.
These numbers are most starkly manifested in the area of Housing Security.
Though affordable housing and homelessness represent the most important and pressing issue affecting District residents, the DC Council and Mayor continue to fail to designate the resources necessary to address the full housing need. The charts below, developed by the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and the Way Home Campaign show just how far the District is falling short:
We will continue to fight for a District budget that truly advances racial equity and addresses inequality. We will fight for full funding for Housing Security, Economic Justice, Food Access, Healthcare, Community Safety and Fair Taxes and Public Deals and insist that these programs be prioritized. That means meeting the full need before we offer massive subsidies to Amazon, finance stadiums, subsidize private luxury apartments, cut taxes for wealthy individuals, businesses, and elite financial executives.
We celebrate the small progress that we’ve made but continue to work towards a more just and inclusive District that prioritizes racial equity.
We received this insightful letter from community member, Tonya Crawford, which speaks to some of the glaring inaccuracies in Mayor Bowser's "Fair Shot" Toolkit.
Tonya Crawford is a native Washingtonian, who represents Ward 8. She is a business owner with extensive experience in both government and non-profit sectors.
So said Ward 1 Councilmember, Brianne Nadeau, chair of the Committee on Human Services regarding the time-limit for the District’s Rapid Rehousing Program, a highly criticized program that places families from shelter into temporary housing. When the subsidy cuts off, families often find themselves unable to afford the market rent of the unit they occupy and soon end up in eviction court, and then circle back to the shelter door with a new eviction on their rental history.
During debate on the proposed changes to the Homeless Services Reform Act on Tuesday, November 7, Ward 8 Councilmember, Trayon White, introduced an amendment that would extend the rapid rehousing time-limit and introduce common sense measures to assess whether a family received proper case management services or is financially stable enough to afford their unit. However, this amendment was rejected 6-7, with Anita Bonds casting the deciding vote because, as she put it, “I was told to vote no.” (The Councilmembers who voted against extending people’s time in rapid re-housing under these circumstances were Mendelson, Nadeau, Todd, Allen, Cheh, Evans and Bonds.)
Though earlier this year, Nadeau championed the legislation that ended arbitrary time-limits for the District’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF), she took a hard line on extending the temporary housing subsidy for the 1300 families currently in the program. “I understand your compassion,” she says, “but at some point we have to draw the line. This is a short-term program. We have other programs.”
A quick review of the housing programs funded in this year’s FY18 budget, reveals that this is not exactly the case.
There are currently 1166 families experiencing homelessness, according to the annual Point in Time Count. Additionally, there are over 1300 families in our rapid rehousing program, and an additional 40,000 families on the DC Housing Authority’s waitlist for housing.
In FY18, there was funding to support 174 families in the Permanent Supportive Housing Program and 186 families in the Targeted Affordable Housing Program and approximately 250 families from off of the waitlist. That means that there are permanent housing opportunities for about 610 families of the 42,266 families in the District who are not stably housed.
This basic math problem cuts to the core of our affordability crisis. Families don’t make enough money to afford market rate housing. The District has lost its stock of market-rate affordable units. Our Mayor and Council have not allocated enough money in the budget to provide housing for those who need it.
Rather than voting for solutions that would help solve this problem (funding more affordable housing), the Council took a punitive approach by supporting changes to the Homeless Services Reform Act that would make it more difficult for families to get into shelter, make it easier to get kicked out from shelter, and institute arbitrary time limits for the rapid rehousing program.
And to make matters worse, right before this vote, the Council voted to give $82 million away to developers to build around Union Market, including $36 million to fund a parking lot, with no evidence whatsoever that this huge subsidy was even needed. There was not a single requirement that the jobs created are good quality, or that the developers subsidize affordable housing. All while claiming that we don’t have enough resources to serve the families in our “hemorrhaging homeless services system.”
In reality, it is this kind of unchecked development that drives up the cost of housing and ultimately push people out of their homes either into homelessness or into more affordable regions like Prince George’s County. It is District residents who have been displaced because of publically subsidized development that are flooding our homelessness services systems. By continuing to fund development while narrowing the door to shelter, the Council is exacerbating the problem, not fixing it.
When At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman tried to redirect the parking lot funds to support affordable housing and transit options, she only got support from At-Large Councilmember David Grosso, and was repudiated by the rest of the Council. Chairperson Phil Mendelson referred to the affordable housing crisis as “rhetoric,” and the rest of the council rolled their eyes. They funded luxury housing instead of affordable. Then they pivoted to blame homeless people from outside of the District for flooding our system, and disparaged the homeless families who they claim are lying to get into shelter when they have safe places that they could otherwise go.
This post is about accountability. It’s about the fact that the Chair of our Council does not believe that there is an affordable housing crisis and propagates the stereotype that poor Black people are lying to get into shelter, taking advantage of the system, and don’t know what’s best for their families. He re-introduced a harmful provision of the HSRA that was removed during the Committee mark-up that creates a “presumption” that families are lying about needing shelter if they are on a lease or “occupancy agreement” and demands that homeless families provide “credible evidence” that they have no safe housing to get shelter on a freezing night. He believes that the Mayor knows better than they do that they have a safe place to go, and this harmful philosophy was supported by Councilmembers Nadeau, Cheh, Evans, McDuffie, Todd, Allen and Bonds.
What we saw at the Council was an affront to progressive values. To vote to give away that sum of money to developers while claiming there is not enough money to support homeless families was a slap in the face to every single District resident who has struggled to find affordable housing, who has come out to support homeless services, and who voted for “progressive champions” who would advance an affordable housing agenda. Hundreds and thousands of emails and phone calls and tweets, countless letters supported by scores of organizations throughout the city urged councilmembers to vote “no” on this bill. Elissa Silverman told advocates that she had not received a single e-mail telling her to vote for this bill. Yet, at the end of the day, the bill passed 11-2, with only Councilmembers Trayon White and David Grosso opposing.
In just a few hours, our Council drew the line by prioritizing corporate subsidies over the lives of homeless children.
Last weekend in Charlottesville, the country witnessed as white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and KKK members were emboldened to remove their masks and march in broad daylight, inciting and calling for violence against anyone who is not white. While many people expressed shock, we know that this violence is in fact old as this country itself.
Since the early Jamestown settlement in the 1600s, the Commonwealth of Virginia has nurtured the principles upon which White Supremacy stands. Sebastian Johnson, an author of the blog Unfettered Equality, wrote about this connection in January 2017 when he said, “no state boasts a better claim to being America’s birthplace than Virginia. It was in Jamestown that leaders first made white supremacy a matter of public policy. Leaders in Virginia promulgated the racial caste system that softened class divisions and made possible the notion of an egalitarian, free white society. Virginians reconciled the notion of universal equality with the persistence of chattel slavery. And it was in Jamestown that the logic of white supremacy was hitched to global capitalism through plantation agriculture. Massachusetts birthed the revolution. But Virginia, mother of presidents, sired America.”
And since the launch of Trump’s presidential campaign in 2015, the country has witnessed a bold resurgence of of hatred, racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism. Instances of hate crimes have skyrocketed since Trump’s election last November, including in the DMV. A Black man, Richard Collins III, was lynched at the University of Maryland in College Park in May. 17 year old Muslim teen, Nabra Hassanen, was murdered in Sterling Virginia in June. Anti-Semitic graffiti is visible to this day on Georgia Avenue, and nooses have been found hanging around the District from the National Museum of African American History and Culture to Beer Elementary School in the historically Black neighborhood of Hillcrest.
While some people consider DC to be a bastion of progressive politics and people, we have to examine how systems of white supremacy produce both the extremism of the KKK and the systems of racial inequality that are upheld in the District. The same ideology that cost Richard Collins III his life also murdered Terrence Sterling and let his murderers off free. It’s the same ideology that demolishes the homes of Black people to build luxury condos for white millennials. It’s the same ideology that builds a Whole Foods at the corner of 9th and Sherman NW but keeps grocers away from Skyland in Ward 7. Its an ideology that’s rooted in the prioritization of white comfort over the lives and communities of Black people and other communities of color.
We cannot call out the racism in Charlottesville but stay silent in Brookland Manor, Barry Farm, and as Black people continue to fill the cells of the dilapidated DC jail, and the rooms of the crumbling DC General family shelter. Dismantling white supremacy will take more than toppling Confederate statues and marching against Nazis. It must be dismantled in the public policy that governs our schools, banks, grocery stores, homes, shelters and streets. It also must be dismantled in the budget and the ways in which our resources are disproportionately concentrated in predominantly white communities and neighborhoods.