What Can We Expect from Councilmember Jack Evans?
In the Washington Post, Evans calls for reductions in spending, but he offered too few specifics about his plans to confront the $175 million budget shortfall.
In a letter published in the Washington Post, Councilmember Jack Evans laid out his argument against tax increases and called for a reduction in spending to confront the $175 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
Evans called for cuts from "social services, education, public safety and debt service." His letter offers vague suggestions and left me with more questions than answers. Moving forward, we hope to hear a more specific proposal for the belt-tightening measures he thinks the District needs. We offer Patch to continue the conversation through comments or interviews.
In presenting his argument, Evans echoed his previously made statement: the District spends more per student on education than most cities and states in the nation. In Ward 2, Evans's constituency, residents cited schools as one of the most important issue as they voted in large numbers for Mayor Adrian Fenty in the primary election and wrote-in Fenty in the general.
So we need to make cuts in education spending. Where does Evans propose cutting first? Arts programs are often the first to go in other hard-hit school districts. Does Evans want to continue Michelle Rhee and Fenty's legacy of teacher layoffs? What does Evans's call for education cuts mean for Gray's proposed birth-to-24 education system?
On public safety cuts, does the councilmember propose cutting back the police force? Crime has been on a downward trend and 2010 could mark the District's lowest homicide rate in 50 years. Georgetown businesses and organizations already pay beyond their taxes to increase the police presence in the neighborhood. Will the matching grants from agencies like the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration that sustain these programs face cuts?
When our economy is suffering, more families rely on government subsidies for housing and food. Which social services will see cuts? What should struggling families expect from these cuts?
In his letter Evans wrote, "we are consistently ranked as having one of the highest rates of government employees per capita." Does he propose reducing the ranks of District government employees?
Arguably Mayor-elect Gray came into office in part on the wave of discontent created by Mayor Fenty's cuts to District employees including teachers, bus drivers, social service employees and others. These newly unemployed turned quickly to Gray. According to an article in the Economist, unemployed respondents to a survey taken around the primary preferred Gray by 56 percent to 32 percent. Unemployment rates are painfully high in parts of the District; 19 percent in Ward 7 and between 30 and 35 percent in Ward 8.
If nothing else, cuts to these ranks will likely face fierce opposition from the Mayor-elect and other members of the Council. How does the councilmember propose to push through such tough decisions?
Evans wrote his letter partially to acknowledge the new political reality facing the District. A Republican-controlled House of Representatives will be less willing to accept tax increases and will not look kindly on the budget shortfalls looming in D.C.'s future.
The fiscal challenges facing the District are great. Calling for bold, pro-active choices is the right thing to do. Residents are eager to hear more about how the government will face and overcome these challenges, where residents can expect to tighten their belts and how residents can help move D.C. toward a healthier financial future.