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June 29, 2014

Park Land

Dear Washingtonians:

Yesterday, Dorothy and I visited for our first time the Rosedale Conservancy, a three-acre community park located in Cleveland Park, just north of Georgetown,, which was holding its eighth annual community barbecue and picnic. It’s privately funded, supported entirely by neighborhood contributions, and therefore isn’t endangered by the threats posed to the very existence of government “supported” parks like McMillan or to privately supported events on public parkland, like the Fort Reno concert series,

For communities that can afford it or that have wealthy benefactors, the Rosedale Conservancy provides a good model. For neighborhoods that can’t afford it, the whole city has to provide support to them to preserve the park resources they do have and to protect them against politicians who see parks as nothing but wasted opportunities for economic development and against planners who see city parks as empty holes in the population density they desire.

Gary Imhoff


The Arrogant City Council — an Update
Dorothy Brizill,

On Friday, June 27, with little public notice, Councilmember Kenyon McDuffie convened a meeting of his Governmental Operations Committee to consider and vote on the nominations of Willie Phillips to the Public Service Commission (PR 20-811) and Keith Washington as a “neutral” member of the Public Employee Relations Board (PR 20-724). The reappointment of Betty Ann Kane (PR 20-812), the current chair of the PSC, was not considered at the meeting because a number of councilmembers raised concerns regarding her record during he seven-year tenure on the board.


The Budget Support Act and Its Challenges
David Schwartzman,

The Fiscal Year 2015 Support Act of 2014 (Bill 20-750), passed by the council on June 24, is a continuation of TINA: “there is no alternative” to accepting crumbs from trickle down, while the one percenters, wealthy individuals, and the corporate sector, continue to enjoy huge privileges at the expense of the majority of DC residents. Here is some evidence. If fully phased-in, B20-750 would leave the top 1 percent of families, averaging $2.4 million annual income, paying an effective rate of 6.3 percent of this income in DC taxes, while families earning an average $50,200 will continue paying the highest rate, 10.1 percent, getting tax relief equal to $351 a year, while those families earning $12,600 (average of the bottom 20 percent) will get relief equal to $189, leaving many if not most in poverty. Yes, it should be acknowledged that some residents will benefit more, e.g., a single worker earning $18,000 a year will ultimately get $635 in tax relief, but $189 is the average for the bottom 20 percent once the provisions are fully phased in after four years, but the full benefit is contingent on the amount of budget surpluses, because of the triggers required by the CFO for his certification of B20-750. The ITEP simulation of this bill, fully phased-in, is posted on the home page of

B20-750 also provides for tax cuts for businesses, estates, and wealthy individuals amounting to $138 million assuming a full phase-in. These tax cuts for businesses are completely unjustified, noting that even the Tax Revision Commission didn’t even pretend there was any empirical basis for doing it, with their own expert saying the tax burden for corporations in DC was not significantly different from MD or VA. In his June 23 letter to council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Jeffrey S. DeWitt, the CFO, set out this requirement for certification: “Any future savings or additional revenue for FY 2015 or FY 2016 must be preserved to ensure a balanced budget in FY 2016. In addition, my office will be issuing shortly the June quarterly revenue estimate which will likely reflect no change since the previous forecast. As a result, given the efficiency savings required in FY 2016 and the tax policy priorities of the Council, additional actions that would put further pressure on the District’s financial plan, such as a contingency priority list, should not be considered by the Council at this time [bold added].”

Thus, assuming it will not be successfully vetoed by the mayor, unless the council revises this legislation in the near future there will be likely little chance that any future surpluses would be used to significantly boost what are now severely underfunded low-income programs in the budget, far short of what is needed to confront the challenges of DC’s very high income inequality and child poverty level and severe shortage of affordable housing for the majority of our residents (see my testimony to the Committee of the Whole, May 9, posted at:

There is a remedy if the council is compelled to act: cancel the yearly gift of $42 million to profitable businesses and the reduction in estate taxes for wealthy DC residents. Provide a progressive sales tax rebate in the DC income tax structure, expand tax relief for the low and moderate income majority, hike the DC income tax rates for the top 5 percent and especially for DC millionaires, with a big boost of funding for low-income programs in DC’s budget. This approach was advocated by the Fair Budget Coalition in its Tale of Two Cities lobby on March 12, calling for 9.5 percent for incomes between $150,000 and $350,000 and 10 percent for incomes over $350,000, giving $93 million more revenue over the present tax structure (see simulation on home page of Lets join forces to build a movement to achieve these goals, rather than accept crumbs left on the steps of the corporate-occupied Wilson Building. We are not pigeons! For more on this issue, go to “Tax the rich, not yoga!” posted at


Stand Against Negative Attacks on Neighborhood (Black) Youth
Carolyn Steptoe,

As the ANC commissioner where Noyes Park is located (5B04), and on behalf of our city’s and community’s great youths and young adults, I would be remiss not to note my observations to the author of the June 11 piece in themail, “Unruly Pre-Teens at Noyes Park and the Corporate Giveaway of McMillan Park,” by Daniel Goldon Wolkoff, I will say, unfortunately, my read of the thread [about Noyes Park in the Brookland listserv] is that a grown man felt afraid of and intimidated by after-school preteen kids while at Noyes Park. (What is the age of preteens anyway? 10? 11? 12?) His fear was so strong that he went home and, feeling compelled to justify his fear of these preteens, then posted what he did.

Then, another person wrote about their own fear and objected to teens at Noyes Park under the belief that they “could be potentially armed.” This is actually bigger than your [Wolkoff’s] piece, and I greatly thank you for it. However, a more formal reply to this profiling by those irrationally fearful of neighborhood (black) youth is in order. What I have seen and know as consistent on the Brookland listserv is that listserv members have made a sport of attacking neighborhood (black) youth recently. (After fifteen years of membership on the Bland listserv, I unsubscribed; too much idle foolishness on it; but folks still forward posts to me.) Of course, we have issues with some youths and some college students with which our community must contend. The better alternative is for us to join and create volunteer community substantive enrichments, similar to what you mention, which support and help our neighborhood youth.

However, what is unacceptable and inappropriate is this ongoing, wholesale, public listserv maligning, denigrating, and negative profiling of black youth in this neighborhood by those fearful of their very existence and mere presence. p.s.: I agree with you one thousand percent about McMillian.


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