By George Kevin Jordan, Special to the AFRO
On Tuesday the D.C. Council unanimously approved a budget for $15.5 billion, during their second of two votes held at the John. A. Wilson building.
It was a roller coaster ride of emotions with several key budget changes impacting many D.C. residents.
Here’s what we know
The D.C. Council approved a $15.5 billion budget, after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser introduced her $16 billion proposal on March 20. (Courtesy Photo)
Almost immediately, ideological and fiscal shifts divided the two areas of government over several issues.
Housing, housing, housing
Earlier in the month the mayor’s office was very vocal about cuts to housing.
“The budget I sent to Council was fair, bold and made big investments in building and preserving housing for working families and seniors. By cutting these investments by $45 million – including completely eliminating the Housing Preservation Fund and the Workforce Housing Fund – what the Council Chairman has done is cut funding for more than 2,300 affordable homes,” the mayor wrote in a letter to the city..
“Without this funding, more families will be displaced from our city and fewer new homes will be affordable for low- and moderate-income residents.”
In the end, the Housing Preservation Fund leveled at $11.5 million. Initially Bowser wanted $15 million for the FY-2020 Fiscal year. It was axed altogether. Bowser led a vigorous campaign to fight for the Housing Preservation Fund.
Banneker and Shaw
The Banneker/Shaw debate hit its high note during the last legislative meeting prior to the budget vote.
“As I said at first reading, I am not in support of this,” Phil Mendelson said about the relocating Banneker Senior High School to the the Shaw Middle school site.
He spoke of the idea of increasing the size of the high school, this idea of increasing the size to about 40, 50, maybe sixty percent is not based on any analysis.”
Co-location was also downplayed by Mendelson.
Council member Robert White (At-Large) said: “We have all been looking for a win win. Most of the Council members believe that students of Banneker deserve a school befitting the work that that school produces. We also believe the Shaw Middle School deserve a strong feeder. And at the end of the day if we can do both of those than we should do that.”
The debate has been heating up for months. Bowser said in a letter to the city: “Moving Banneker to Shaw is the only way to prevent another delay in the school’s much-needed modernization (currently, the school does not even have fully-equipped science labs) and it is the only way that we can expand the high school (which mostly serves students of color and is consistently recognized as one of the top high schools in the nation) by 300 students.
The current Banneker building was originally built as a middle school.
“Because the building is deemed historic and eligible for the National Register, a complete demolition is not recommended. In addition, the entire building is landlocked by heavily used community spaces, including a playground, tennis courts, pool, and baseball and softball fields. Already, the school can barely accommodate its current population. Without the option to expand – an option that is only available if the school moves to a new site – we will not be able to make additional seats available.”
Some Council members were very vocal about their objection about the Banneker move. And some asked for the process to be slowed down until comprehensive decisions could be made.
“I think this debate shows our residents how dysfunctional our government sometimes is,” said Council member Silverman. The Council member said she went to Banneker and saw decapitated work space, and old resources
“I want to tell the Banneker students that the money is there, I want to tell the Shaw students that the money is there,” SIlverman said.
The council voted 7-6 to move Banneker.
With the budget passed the mayor has an option to either sign the budget and move it up to Congress or veto it and send it back to the Council.