July 2017 marks the 7th month of the Trump presidency. This federal landscape set the stage for what FBC hoped would be an FY18 budget season that asserted DC’s values that stand in stark contrast to those being shopped around on The Hill and in the White House. These federal policies could have devastating ramifications for the District of Columbia, particularly low-income communities of color that have already been teetering on the edge as the city has pursued an agenda of massive development. As the District saw record revenues, Mayor Bowser and the DC Council had an opportunity to present a progressive, proactive agenda that ensures dignity for all DC residents.
In addition to these looming federal threats, DC’s history has also set the stage for this year’s budget fight. Over the past 20 years, drastic racial and socioeconomic demographic changes have been enacted through policies that prioritize attracting white, college educated millennials to the District over providing basic human needs to low-income communities of color. As we see the tenants of Brookland Manor and Barry Farms fight to stay in their homes, as we see shelters and motels overflowing with people experiencing homelessness, it is clear that the word gentrification, could not begin to describe the harsh reality that continues to tear apart families and communities.
This year, Coalition members continued to pursue an agenda that fought for policies to support long-time DC residents and begin to halt the extreme gentrification machine that has made DC one of the most income unequal cities in the country and displaced more than 40,000 DC residents of color.
Rather than giving tax breaks to wealthy estate holders and businesses and subsidizing more development projects, we called on the council to address basic human needs. We pushed for housing security for DC residents, economic justice through good jobs, income support, and removing barriers to education, civil rights by fighting discrimination against returning citizens and enhancing language access, access mental and physical healthcare, and food security. You can view our full list of recommendations here.
These measures represent a small snapshot of the policies changes and budget investments needed to meaningfully create a more equitable city and change policies that create the crises of poverty in the first place.
We have moved the needle in many regards. We were pleased to see our economic justice and food recommendations fully funded. It is imperative that the Executive Branch begin to rigorously implement these measures so families can have access to paid leave, TANF, and transportation benefits as soon as possible.
However, both the Mayor and the DC Council fail to meaningfully fight the root causes of poverty or the drivers of income inequality. This year, with our coffers full, DC had the opportunity to present a radically transformative vision for the District that would have stood in contrast to the truly draconian policies coming from both ends of Pennsylvania Ave. Instead, both branches of government delivered a budget that maintains the status quo: more condos and more poverty.