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Metro Brief: DC residents hold "One City (In Crisis) Summit" on Wilson building steps

On March 12, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - On Monday, March 12 from 10am-12pm, the Fair Budget Coalition will host the "One City (In Crisis) Summit" on the steps of the Wilson Building, with participation from DC residents, service providers, and safety net users. The Summit is intended to inform the Mayor's decisions as he puts finishing touches on the city's budget, which is expected to be released on March 23, 2012. Organizers of the Summit hope that the Mayor will pay attention to the current crisis faced by his constituents and will respond by protecting and investing in programs that will make one city possible for all DC residents.

Mayoral representatives have suggested that services for low-income programs could be on the chopping block again this year to address the city's $164 million budget shortfall because the Mayor is reluctant to make cuts to public safety or education, is reluctant to raise revenues, and has expressed his refusal to spend any of the recently announced $240 million surplus. (Under current law, the surplus funds will be sent to DC's savings account, often referred to as the fund balance, but the Mayor has the power to make a statutory change in the Budget Support Act that could free up some of the money for other uses.)

The Fair Budget Coalition (FBC) finds that the District is facing an emergency situation that will be further exacerbated should cuts to safety net programs continue. Kristi Matthews of the FBC puts it bluntly: "We are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis and we must as a city invest the resources to address it." The facts support Ms. Matthew's statement: unemployment continued to rise in DC last year, despite the start of a national economic recovery; over 40, 000 households are on the waiting lists for subsidized housing;[1] one in three DC children lives in poverty[2]; one in three adults is functionally illiterate[3]; the District remains the second least affordable housing jurisdiction in the country[4]; and the gap between rich and poor is the third highest among the nation's largest cities.[5]
The One City (in Crisis) Summit will give DC residents an opportunity to share their personal stories and participants will vote for ways in which the Mayor can reverse the city's 5-year trend of budget cuts to the safety net., in homage to the Mayor's own One City Summit held last month. (During that summit, affordable housing and protecting the safety net were among the top concerns shared by attendees.) One of the speakers at the event is Anthony Hunter, a DC native and recently homeless father of a child with severe disabilities. According to Mr. Hunter, "All I want is to be able to provide for my daughter-emotionally as well as financially. If I had affordable housing and help with my daughter's care, I could work full-time and quickly become self-sufficient."

Mr. Hunter is not alone. "We see the effects of these budget cuts everyday. I talk to homeless families who were only one paycheck away from making ends meet but without subsidized housing or rental assistance, they just couldn't do it," adds Ms. Matthews, "One mother was sleeping in a stairwell with her kids because the city wouldn't fund enough shelter space to meet the needs of the growing homeless population. How can we cut more services when each cut makes the need for services grow exponentially?"

Organizers of the "One City (In Crisis) Summit" bring the urgency of the situation to the Mayor's doorstep, asking him to take cuts to the safety net off of the negotiating table and to consider using the $240 million surplus or new progressive revenue to close the budget gap. "Progressive new revenue would enable us to stop divesting from our public structures, and instead invest in an economic recovery that includes everyone" adds Ward 4 resident Sara Shaw.
The fate of DC residents is now in the hands of the Mayor. All of the Fair Budget Coalition's recommendations can be found at www.makeonecitypossible.com


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