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It took seven hours and tense (sometimes terse) debate, but the Council cast its first of two votes and advanced a budget for fiscal year 2021. Members were working with a $16.7 billion dollar budget that Mayor Muriel Bowser sent them in May, $8.5 billion of which is actually under local control.
The hearing on Tuesday began shortly after Bowser sent an open letter to the Council, warning against tax increases or police cuts. But the Council voted to raise taxes and make cuts to the Metropolitan Police Department in a revised budget anyways. And some advocates would argue these cuts and taxes don’t go far enough in the time of “defund the police” protests and COVID-19.
The debate around taxes was most revealing. There was a lot of confusion. Tax policy is complicated, as is the budget process, but several members pointed out that Chairman Phil Mendelson released the final version of the budget at 6 p.m. on Monday, less than 24-hours before the big vote. So members were late to share their amendments to the budget, giving their colleagues little time to read and fully understand what they were voting on.
Then there were the contentious conversations about the taxes themselves, once members read the language on the dais, so to speak. Mendelson set the tone up top: No new taxes. Not until we get a revenue report in August. “It is easy to raise taxes,” he said, “the prudent thing is to wait.” Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau noted she was “flabbergasted” by Mendelson’s hypocrisy. He included three tax proposals in the final budget that raised $37 million in revenue. (He later admitted he did this to stave off additional taxes.)
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen’s amendment to modestly increase taxes for high-income earners ultimately failed. However, amendments aiming to eliminate tax breaks for businesses prevailed, including Nadeau’s amendment to scale back a tax incentive program for technology companies and Allen’s amendment to delay a large corporate tax cut. Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White’s amendment to slightly increase estate taxes on wealthier residents also passed. Here’s a roll call on the amendments.
Why talk about taxes? “This economic crisis is uneven,” says At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman. And tax revenue is going to social services and programs like public housing repairs. The second budget vote is July 21.
—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? email@example.com)
CITY DESK LINKS, by Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
At Wednesday’s press conference, the DC Hospital Association President Jacqueline D. Bowens says there has been a decline in utilization, suggesting some are staying away from the hospital even if they may need care. DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt says D.C. is seeing individuals being diagnosed with HIV at a later time than it has historically. “It’s not alarming at this point,” she says. But this could set back gains. [Twitter]
As of July 8, D.C. reported three additional deaths related to COVID-19 and 73 new positive cases, bringing the total numbers to 564 and 10,642, respectively. [EOM]
The unintended consequence of hospital visitor restrictions related to COVID-19: A woman must choose between birthing with her husband or doula. [WCP]
- Triple homicide in Southeast. [WUSA9]
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Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White’s bill to remove race and gender from equations for economic damages in lawsuits gains support. [WUSA]
Advocates push for stronger rent control law. [DCist]
A breakdown of councilmembers’ budget votes. [Twitter]
At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds voted against tax increases because they weren’t big enough? [Twitter]
YOUNG & HUNGRY LINKS, by Laura Hayes (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
The owner of The Greek Spot says a customer hurled plexiglass, tip jars, and dessert at an employee after being asked to wear a mask. [WCP]
The human cost of preparing Le Diplomate’s famous burger during a pandemic. [Post]
Roaming Rooster is coming to the former TaKorean space on U Street NW. [Eater DC]
A “ghost food hall” is coming to D.C. with sushi, pizza, ramen, and fried chicken. [Washingtonian]
ARTS LINKS, by Kayla Randall (tips? email@example.com)
How COVID-19 has shut down social dancing. [Post]
Better Said Than Done is presenting Black Stories Matter, a live storytelling show benefiting Black Lives Matter DC, this Friday. [DC Metro Theater Arts]
Children’s author and poet Judith Viorst has a verse for Republicans. [Washingtonian]
SPORTS LINKS, by Kelyn Soong (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
Five-star basketball recruit Makur Maker’s commitment to Howard University is a game changer. [WCP]
The Wizards head to Orlando without Bradley Beal, who is sitting out the season due to a shoulder injury. [Bullets Forever]
Major retailers have stopped selling the Washington NFL team’s merchandise. [USA Today]
NBC Sports Washington’s Peter Hailey pens a letter to fans who say they’ll abandon the local NFL team when it changes its name. [NBC Sports Washington]
We’re bringing you the best things to watch, read, make, and do from the comfort of your home while social distancing.
The National Gallery of Art has a mini-documentary about the construction of its East Building to, ahem, help you put a finer point on your understanding of it.
Gordana Geršković is back with a new online exhibition, Texturescapes.