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After a “shitshow” of a debate, the Council unanimously passed a $8.5 billion local budget for fiscal year 2021. Some highlights, lest we forget: a 3 percent increase to the per-student funding formula; a modest 5 percent cut to the Metropolitan Police Department; and select tax increases to pay for social services.
It’s been an unprecedented three months. The mayor and Council had to solve for a $770 million pandemic-induced budget hole, with a very engaged public watching (the judiciary committee saw 16,000 testimonies), debating almost entirely over Zoom. Ideally, we all learned something. At the very least, Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray learned you can’t shout loud enough to overcome mute.
Budget watchers hope the Council learns from its 11th hour debate debacle, where Chairman Phil Mendelson and his team identified $18 million worth of cuts in 24 hours to scrap an advertising tax that the Council passed on first reading earlier this month. (Disclaimer: City Paper, along with other media shops, was against the 3 percent tax on advertising sales and personal data.) After delaying the vote for a day, his amendment to kill his tax ultimately passed. Only two members voted against it: Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) and David Grosso (At-Large).
Nadeau called the process “opaque.” She wasn’t invited to the “cool kids” table, she says, even though Mendelson shaved dollars from programs under her oversight. (She shared her thoughts on the cuts and budget process in a Twitter thread.)
Nadeau had the support of groups like Miriam’s Kitchen, Jews United for Justice, Many Languages One Voice, and DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI).
“Mendelson’s reckless move to cut $4 million from mental health services during a public health and economic crisis is wildly inappropriate,” said DCFPI in a statement. “A supermajority of Councilmembers agreed to these cuts after the Council rejected an extremely modest income tax increase on the wealthy.”
It’s true, during the first of two budget votes on July 7, the Council rejected an amendment, 8 to 5, that would have someone pay an extra $125 if they earn $300,000.
—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? email@example.com)
CITY DESK LINKS, by Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
At Friday’s press conference, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a new order that says anyone coming into D.C. from a “high-risk area who was not traveling for essential activities” will have to self-quarantine for 14 days, beginning July 27. This includes college students and excludes travel from Maryland and Virginia. DC Health will publish a list of areas on coronavirus.dc.gov every two weeks. [Twitter]
As of July 24, D.C. reported no additional deaths related to COVID-19 and 78 new positive cases, bringing the total numbers to 581 and 11,649, respectively. DC Health acknowledges community spread is increasing over time, but paused its dashboard’s day count so the agency can make adjustments to address delays in test results. Hospital beds are at 81.4 percent of capacity, as of July 22, meaning D.C. is over the 80 percent threshold needed for phased reopening. [EOM]
The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is investigating D.C. protests, including federal law enforcement’s use of tear gas to clear crowds for President Trump’s photo op. [DCist]
Librarians say reopening was handled poorly. Managers struggled with cleaning protocols and mask requirements. [Post]
Metro will distribute 500,000 masks, seeks solutions to overcrowded buses. [WAMU]
It would cost $5.2 million to cover one month’s rent for D.C. renters most likely to face eviction. [Brookings]
LOOSE LIPS LINKS, by Mitch Ryals (tips? email@example.com)
Is the Council’s racial equity bill another piece of “feel-good legislation?” [DC Line]
Bowser formed a task force to review public statues and spaces. [Washingtonian]
Chairman Phil Mendelson is on the Politics Hour this afternoon. [Kojo]
YOUNG & HUNGRY LINKS, by Laura Hayes (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
Its name may be Binge Bar, but the H Street NE business won’t serve any booze. [WCP]
Armani Johnson is the new executive chef at ABC Pony in Navy Yard. [WCP]
Inside the world of the millennial investors that are funding fancy D.C. restaurants. [Washingtonian]
Critic Tom Sietsema has some seafood recommendations. [Post]
Across the country restaurants are shutting down again. Will they survive? [Eater]
ARTS LINKS, by Kayla Randall (tips? email@example.com)
Our critic says The Rentalis predictable and forgettable. [WCP]
The Kennedy Center plans to resume indoor concerts when D.C. enters its next reopening phase. [DCist]
The newly renovated MLK Library is slated for a fall reopening. [WAMU]
SPORTS LINKS, by Kelyn Soong (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recap of Day 1 of the Nationals’ season: Juan Soto tests positive for COVID-19 the morning of the game (before later tests show up negative), Dr. Anthony Fauci doesn’t quite throw a strike for his ceremonial pitch, and the Nats lose, 4-1, to the Yankees after a weather delay forces the game to conclude at the top of the sixth inning. But hey, baseball is back. And for fans, that counts for something. [CBS Sports, Federal Baseball, Post]
The Washington NFL team is now officially called the Washington Football Team—pending adoption of a new name—and will retain its burgundy and gold color scheme. [Hogs Haven]
Reigning WNBA Finals MVP Emma Meesseman and the Mystics begin their 22-game pandemic shortened season tomorrow at 5 p.m. against the Indiana Fever. Even without key players due to medical and personal reasons, the defending WNBA champs should be a strong contender this season. [Bullets Forever, ESPN]
We’re bringing you the best things to watch, read, make, and do from the comfort of your home while social distancing.
Check out a virtual puppet show hosted by Rhizome DC. Don’t worry; the puppets will be safely behind the screen, not that it matters, since they’re definitely not haunted.
Muriel Hasbun’s affecting exhibition Pulse and Memory/Pulso y Memoria is available online.