May 7, 2010
The Honorable Vincent C. Gray
Chairman, District of Columbia Council
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Chairman Gray:
We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to request that you make all meetings of the DC Council on the Fiscal Year 2011 budget open to the public. As the Council struggles with very difficult decisions about how to craft a fair and balanced budget in this challenging economic environment—debating which services to cut or enhance and which taxes and fees to increase or reduce—it is critical these deliberations be open and accessible to the public.
We are encouraged that you are one of seven DC council members who co- sponsored the "Open Government Is Good Government Act of 2010," introduced by Ward 4 Council member Muriel Bowser in March. The bill would make any meeting attended by a quorum of members, such as the budget deliberations, open to the public. We are asking that you show your support for this bill by making the FY 2011 budget meetings public. We understand that at least one such meeting has been scheduled for the week of May 17.
Many of the most important decisions about the budget are made in these closed-door sessions. During budget deliberations last year, many of the meetings of the full DC Council held outside the official chambers were open only to the press. Though we welcome press coverage of these discussions, having the press as a public witness is not sufficient. Budget decisions have many impacts that go beyond daily news stories and will not be covered by the press. If the meetings are not open to the general public, the public does not get a chance to offer insight and feedback on how their tax dollars will be spent before the final vote. Transparent government is a good and effective government, and we believe public meetings are crucial to this. We urge you to open these meetings to the public. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Elissa Silverman at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, 202-408-1095, ext. 389. Thank you for your time and consideration.