Mayor Vince Gray held a press conference this morning on sequestration’s impact on the District’s employment numbers. That’s just in time for his potential veto of the Walmart-centric Large Retailer Accountability Act, which opponents say will eliminate D.C. jobs. But don’t read anything in to that.
“I hadn’t even thought about it that way,” Gray said of the connection between job cuts and the living wage bill, which he received from the D.C. Council Friday. Mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro insists the press conference was planned a month ago.
The sequestration numbers are grim enough on their own, with the cuts to blame for everything from fewer federal housing vouchers for D.C. residents to less funding for breast cancer screenings. The District’s 8.6 percent July unemployment rate would be as low as 8 percent if not for sequestration, according to the District’s Department of Employment Services.
Gray says he wants to use the press conference to “send a message” to Congress to end sequestration, but the District isn’t planning any formal lobbying on Capitol Hill.
Instead, the Gray administration wants a “double down” on the city’s Five-Year Economic Development Strategy. Which conveniently brought everything back to the living wage bill, since one of the plan’s six points is keeping retail spending from “leaking” to Maryland and Virginia.
“We lose about a billion in retail sales every year,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Victor Hoskins. Hint, hint. For his part, Gray claims that he hasn’t even looked at the bill yet.
While Gray finished the press conference, supporters of the legislation gathered on the steps of the Wilson Building to deliver a stack of papers they claim shows 36,917 people asking the mayor, in emails, phone calls, and petition signatures, to sign the bill.
“I would just want to say to the mayor, ‘On April 1, 2014, I’m sure you would love to have 36,917 people standing behind you,'” Councilmember Vincent Orange told the crowd. “That could be your base today.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery