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Muriel Bowser has started throwing punches for this week’s coming budget fight, but it’s not clear whether Phil Mendelson wants to be on the other side of that rumble. While Bowser allies posed this morning with a sign blaming Mendelson for potential closings, the Council chairman insisted that there’s nothing controversial about his changes to Bowser’s budget.
“The mayor’s getting about 99 percent of what she requested,” Mendelson says.
Bowser disagreed this morning a morning press conference at St. Elizabeths East campus. Bowser officially came to Ward 8 there to sign a limited expansion of the summer jobs program to people as old as 24, but the press conference doubled as a public way to pressure Mendelson.
Bowser assembled administration bigwigs and four friendly councilmembers (Vincent Orange, Yvette Alexander, and new Bowser-backed freshmen LaRuby May and Brandon Todd) to call for further summer jobs expansion and myriad other programs.
Even the location in the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center made Bowser’s case. She claims that the facility would be closed because of Mendelson’s changes to her budget. In the lobby, a sign announced that the building had been closed “by order of the Council of the District of Columbia.” Below that, it listed Mendelson’s name and address.
But this afternoon, Mendelson insisted that proposed cuts to St. Elizabeths were a committee error that has since been fixed in his budget, which he claims will come out later today. Mendelson said he was confused that Bowser made so much of the facility potentially closing, saying that he told Bowser last week that its money would be in his budget.
“Perhaps it makes good press, perhaps it creates the appearance of a controversy,” Mendelson says. “But there is none.”
Both sides can agree that they disagree on at least two things: Bowser’s sales tax and parking tax hikes, and a further summer jobs expansion. While the Council has approved expanding the summer jobs program to 24-year-olds this year, they didn’t approve enough for everyone who wants to join it. The Council also didn’t approve the age expansion into next summer.
At her bill signing, Bowser insinuated that councilmembers opposed to the summer jobs expansion were abandoning the city’s youth outside of their own, wealthier wards.
“No matter what ward you represent, you have an obligation to support the young people in all eight wards,” Bowser said.
The full Council will take up the budget tomorrow morning, though it’s not clear how many more votes the mayor will have. In Mendelson’s telling, though, Bowser already has nearly everything she wanted in the first place.
“I feel like saying, ‘I’m sorry I can’t make it more controversial,'” Mendelson said.
Photo by Will Sommer