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PITCHING THE RICH: Yesterday morning, Councilmember Michael Brown pitched the so-called “millionaire’s tax” to the city’s elite in a meeting arranged by Children’s Law Center Executive Director Judith Sandalow, D.C. Wire reports: “Brown (I-At Large) pitched his version of the tax to more than a dozen wealthy residents. He said he wanted to see if there would really be the “rich flight” that opponents have predicted, and wanted the chance to convince them that the tax would not be as much of a burden as believed. The council member is proposing the creation of new income tax brackets: 8.9 percent for residents earning $250,000 and more annually and 9.4 percent for residents earning $1 million or more. The current tax rate is 8.5 percent for residents earning $40,000.” Key quote: “Burke Stansbury, 33, a Mount Pleasant resident and wealthy heir, said people left with a different view. ‘It’s kind of ridiculous when you look at the numbers,’ he said. ‘In my case, it would be $200 a year. It’s not the kind of thing that would get people to uproot themselves and leave their neighbors and friends.'” Key line involving the city’s gentrifying class: “Younger residents who attended the breakfast meeting — mostly attorneys — were opposed.” Save Our Safety Net has more words and video. Not convinced that any of this matters? You should read this op-ed in the Examiner.
LEGAL SERVICES CUTS PROTESTED: D.C. Bar members are calling on Mayor Fenty to restore funds for legal-aid services that have been cut as part of his proposed budget. Legal Times reports: Eleven of the D.C. Bar’s 21 sections have issued a public statement to the D.C. Council, calling on it to block Mayor Adrian Fenty’s proposed budget cuts to legal services for the poor. Fenty’s cuts would reduce the program’s budget from $2.86 million in fiscal year 2010 to $1.8 million for fiscal year 2011. This year’s reduction would be a further cut from the $3.6 million budget the Access to Justice Program had in 2009. It provides legal services for indigent D.C. residents, as well as a community legal interpreter bank, and a loan repayment program for lawyers serving people living in poverty. Fenty proposed similar cuts last year, but the council ended up restoring some of the money that would have been cut. The effort to block the budget cuts this year was led by the Litigation Section, which, with 3,400 members, is the bar’s largest. The Litigation Section circulated the statement to all 21 of the bar’s sections. Each section had a week to vote on whether to sign on. David Fauvre, an Arnold & Porter associate and co-chair of the Litigation Section, said reducing the program’s budget by $1 million this year would likely result in 20 fewer lawyers funded by the program.”
AFTER THE JUMP—-Metro approves historic fare increases, the D.C. Council’s progressive trend, the latest on the proposed budget, Robert Wone, and much, much more!
THE NEW PROGRESSIVES: WaPo’s Tim Craig makes the case the D.C. Council is in the midst of quite a stretch of progressive legislation. I’m not sure it all makes sense. Especially when Craig fails to include Councilmember Phil Mendelson in his group of councilmembers leading the progressive charge—that would be, according to Craig, Councilmembers Cheh, Catania, and Wells. Anyway, here are some of Craig’s key graphs: “Gay and lesbian couples can now marry in the District, and the city is poised to become the first jurisdiction in the nation in which every resident, regardless of immigration status or income, has health insurance. The city overhauled election laws to usher in same-day voter registration. Lanes on some major byways, including Pennsylvania Avenue, are reserved for bicyclists. Through a bag tax, residents have a personal stake in the cleanup of the Anacostia River….The new regulations illustrate the rebranding of the nation’s capital in the past year in one of the most significant legislative sessions since Home Rule was enacted in the 1970s, observers say. The shift can be attributed to an active group of progressive D.C. Council members, little federal intervention in city matters that emboldened some leaders to tackle controversial issues, and a subtle shift from traditional liberal ideals steeped in social justice to those that stress their view on quality of life. “
TAX BACKLASH ROUNDUP: D.C. Wire reports that a national anti-tax group is using Fenty to fight bag-tax initiatives in another jurisdictions: “An anti-tax group is pointing to a plan by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to rally opposition to proposals in at least 15 states for a bag tax similar to the one enacted in the District earlier this year. The Tax Foundation issued a release Wednesday noting Fenty wants to use some of the revenue from the city’s 5-cent bag tax – which was promised to go into a newly created Anacostia River Cleanup Fund – to pay for street sweeping. The city has been paying for street sweeping for years from the general fund. Now, the Fenty administration argues bag tax revenue can be used because trash often washes in the Anacostia River. Using Fenty as an example, the Tax Foundation is now calling proposals for bag taxes in other states ‘another general revenue grab by public officials.'”
The anti-soda-tax lobby—-which includes Blimpies!—-has started an online petition campaign reports NC8. Cue b-roll of soda cans! The anti-soda-taxers declare the tax “discriminatory.” NC8 notes: “If approved, the soda tax is supposed to help pay for healthier school lunches in D.C. Public Schools as part of the D.C. Healthy Schools Act passed by city council this month. Another group called supportdchealthyschools.org is also online with its own petition. D.C. resident Benjamin Jones said, ‘If the money will go to what they say it will go to…to benefit children. I’m for it.'” Surprising point: Maryland, Virginia and 25 other states have a soda tax. More coverage via WaPo.
METRO APPROVES HISTORIC FARE HIKES: Would you want to spend $15 a day on Metro? WUSA9 reports the tough news:
“The largest increase in Metro fares – ever – is now all but certain. But the infighting continues over your share…. whether you ride Metro or not. Metro’s Finance Committee approved a nearly 100 million dollar increase with just one dissenting vote. Money is so tight, this has turned into a bit of a war between the states. At the last meeting, DC and Virginia jumped Maryland for holding back construction cash. the still unresolved fight now has DC fighting Virginia and Maryland as they try to tweak the pain between people who ride the bus and people who ride the train.
Under the latest plan, 100s of thousands of mostly urban bus riders will see fares jump 20 percent. But thousands of suburban commuters could be looking at a total transportation bill edging toward 15 dollars a day.”
More coverage via WaPo: “Several board members voiced objections to the fare package based on the effect that increases would have on residents in their jurisdictions. Board member Jim Graham, who represents Ward 1 on the D.C. council, reiterated his concern about the increase in bus fares, which disproportionately affects District residents, and he suggested reinstating an increase in daily parking fees that was in the original budget plan but was recently removed. In response, board member Jeff McKay, a Fairfax County supervisor, said an increased daily parking fee would unfairly affect riders from Virginia.”
WTOP reports that Metro is facing even greater scrutiny over its management.
BUDGET ROUNDUP: WBJ’s Michael Neibauer provides a breakdown of D.C. Council budget changes by committee. Here’s a few examples: Councilmember Michael Brown “yanks $2.9 million from Fenty’s summer youth employment program and shifts it to adult job training,” while D.C. Council Chair Vincent Gray “restores $300,000 cut to Office of the Tenant Advocate and $1.8 million for neighborhood revitalization.”
Meanwhile, WashTimes reports that two D.C. Councilmembers are mystify that Fenty’s budget doesn’t provide enough of a financial backing for D.C. Statehood initiatives: “At a committee hearing Wednesday, council member Michael Brown said he was concerned “there is no funding for additional statehood activities.” In this years budget, $100,000 was included to promote and lobby for statehood. D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander, who chairs the committee that oversees statehood efforts, vowed to push D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton on “statehood,” not just congressional voting rights, and said the funding could be restored, ‘possibly next week.’ ‘My committee is still going to work hard and lobby,’ she said. On Thursday, when asked whether the defunding was an oversight and whether the mayor still supports D.C. statehood, a spokeswoman for the mayor said via e-mail that the Mr. Fenty ‘is supportive of full voting rights for residents.'”
The Examiner‘s Alan Suderman reports that the Inspector General is also pissed at Fenty over budget cuts—-and claims that the cuts are illegal: “D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby said in written testimony that Fenty’s proposed 12 percent reduction in local funding ‘contravene’ federal and district laws that protect the inspector general’s budget. District Code says the OIG’s budget must be forwarded by the mayor to the council ‘without revision but subject to recommendations.’ The law was codified as part of federal efforts to safeguard the city’s watchdog efforts from mayoral interference, according to city staff. Willoughby said Fenty’s cuts, which are part of the mayor’s efforts to bridge a $500 million budget gap, are ‘counterproductive’ because the OIG saves taxpayers millions each year. Fenty’s office did not respond to requests for comment.”
ROBERT WONE CASE: WaPo’s Keith Alexander profiles the judge who will be deciding the fate of the three defendants. They requested a bench trail this week.
KOJO: “The Politics Hour crew chats with D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee and Doug Prouty, the president of Montgomery County’s teachers’ union.”
MAYOR’S SCHEDULE: 10:45 a.m. Remarks Fenty Showcases Renovations at Edgewood Field and Recreation Center Location: Edgewood Recreation Center 3rd and Evarts Streets, NE