White, Gray Support Final Council Budget With Reservations

by: James Wright Special to the AFRO jwright@afro.com
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The council members with the highest percentages of Blacks in the District of Columbia supported the budget that the city’s legislative body passed recently but voiced some concerns with it.

On June 13, the D.C. Council unanimously passed the nearly $14 billion fiscal year 2018 budget on its second and final vote. Despite the unity, D.C. Council members Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) and Trayon White (D-Ward 8) did have issues.

Trayon White, who represents Ward 8 on the D.C. Council, said he supported certain parts of the 2018 budget, including funding for farmer’s markets in Ward 8. (Courtesy photo)

Gray primarily complained about the lack of total funding for completion of the streetcar line on H Street-Benning Road, N.E. to Minnesota Avenue., N.E.

“The $54 million cut to the streetcar line is an affront to the residents of the East End,” Gray, who served as the District’s mayor from 2011-2015, said in a statement. “The purpose of the line was to connect Ward 7 to Georgetown not Union Station. The vision was at some point to connect the street car line to the Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road metro stations.

“It seems that the residents of the east end have to wait longer to get service while other parts of the city are included in this budget.”

Gray said was not pleased that the United Medical Center, located in Ward 8 near the border with Prince George’s County, had $136 million cut from its budget and said “that facility is already on the ropes.”

Nevertheless, he was satisfied with the $300 million for a new medical center that will be located on the campus of St. Elizabeths East in Ward 7 and thanked D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) for working with him to secure the funding.

White, who is the council’s newest member, said that his ward is the one that needs the most help from the city.

“We have falling incomes in the city and a lot of income inequality,” he said in a statement. “More residents are migrating east of the Anacostia River because of the high cost of housing. Residents in my ward have issues with access to health care, child poverty and high level of unemployment.”

White noted that the budget process wasn’t easy and singled out crime fighting initiatives and efforts to eliminate food deserts in his ward. “I am happy that $75,000 was allocated to the NEAR [Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results] Act,” he said. NEAR attempts to fight crime by using public health tools instead of law enforcement.

White praised the council for funding grocery store options such as farmer’s markets in a ward that only has two full-service supermarkets for about 70,000 people. Funding for businesses in Wards 7 and 8, $11.9 million in building and supporting recreation centers and increasing money for those enrolled in the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) were also praised by White.

D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At Large) said he supports the budget in terms of returning citizens and tenant programs while D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) said she supported the 10 percent increase in the D.C. Office of Aging and senior citizens in general.

“This budget is supportive of seniors,” Bonds said in a statement. “What I hope we can do next time is to work on increasing the size of senior wellness centers.”

D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) expressed approval at establishing the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program’s funding that included extending the age of eligibility to 24 years of age, permanently.

“I supported this because the people wanted it,” Silverman said in a statement. “This is the city’s largest job employment program. Many young people told me that this was there only employment option and we as a city must do something to help young people to increase their employment options whether it is through programs or mentoring.”

The budget will go to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) where she will likely sign it and it will be transmitted to the U.S. Congress for a 30-day review. If the Congress takes no action, the budget will go into effect on Oct. 1.

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