Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Budget update, February 29

  • Department of Health Care Finance oversight hearing rescheduled:   The Committee on Health will reschedule the DHCF oversight hearing; this change is not on the official hearing schedule.
  • Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services hearings:   The Committee on Health has combined the performance oversight and FY 2013 budget hearings for the DMHHS.   The combined hearing will take place on the originally scheduled budget hearing date of April 26.   (The performance oversight hearing had been scheduled for March 8.)   This change is not on the official hearing schedule.
  • Metro budget survey:   WMATA has launched a survey for the FY 2013 budget; it seeks input from riders on the agency's and fare policies.   According to Progressive Railroading,
    The survey. . . asks riders for their thoughts on prioritizing services that support WMATA’s day-to-day rail, bus and MetroAccess services, as well as funding mechanisms and new fare options under consideration. For example, riders are asked for their opinions on a customized monthly pass, which would be priced according to a person’s usual commute; new short trip and fast-pass options; off-peak discounts; parking rates; and the "peak of the peak" surcharge. . . .

    The survey ends March 12.

  • WMATA budget hearings:   WMATA is holding a number of budget hearings to get input into Metro's plans (PDF) for changes in FY 2013.   Forums in DC take place March 1 at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church and March 6 at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church.   The hearings start at 7:00 pm.   The public is encouraged to testify; details about registering are on WMATA's website.   The WMATA board will take action on the FY 2013 budget in June; fare and other changes would take effect in July 2012.

Miss the CYITC oversight hearing?

If you missed the February 27 Committee on Human Services performance oversight hearing for the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, you can catch up here for "Oversight of CYITC" storified.   You'll find salient tweets, a link to the hearing on demand, Trust testimony, some background info, and much more.   And please let me know if you like the hearing storified.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Are you registered to vote? Deadline is soon

The deadline to register to vote in the April 3 primary in DC is March 5 if you are registering online or by mail, March 18 if you are registering in person.   Only those registered with a party (thus not Independents) may vote in the primary.   The last day to change your party affiliation is March 5.

The Board of Elections and Ethics has details about the process and required documents.   What are you waiting for?   Get your vote on!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Do we really value our children 44% less now than in 2009?

The answer seems to be "Yes" if budget allocations are the measure.   This according to a budget analysis of out-of-school time (OST) services commissioned by the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation.   (Full disclosure: I wrote the report.)

The report, Do we really value our children 44% less now than in 2009? (PDF, 49 pp) (also available on the Trust website) has two main findings.   The first is that approved gross funding for OST has declined 44% between FYs 2009 and 2012.   The second is that there is no citywide, planned system for out-of-school time services.

WaPo's Mike DeBonis first look at the report, D.C. youth funding, beset by scandal, has dwindled, focused on the Trust's role in OST.   This is certainly understandable but incredibly unfortunate.   Since FY 2009, approved funding for the Trust has only accounted for a maximum of 18% of OST funding.   That's right—18%.   DC Public Schools and the Department of Employment Services have comprised more than half of the OST approved budgets in the years covered by the report.   And the DC National Guard's portion of total OST funding increased in those four years.

What's more important, I think, is the lost potential for young people.   One of the most compelling graphics in the report shows what could have been.   Had OST funding kept pace with the 6.8% growth in the overall DC budget, funding for OST in FY 2012 would have been north of $105 million.   Instead, it is $56 million.   This is concerning since 115,400 children and youth between the ages of 5 and 21 live in DC and spend more time out of school than in.   It's even more concerning since young people themselves grasp the value of productive programming:

If they gave different programs to fit the criteria to why you were locked up, services that help you specifically, maybe even invest in psychologists.

Election update, February 27

  • Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force candidate forum:   The forum for at-large candidates takes place March 12 at 6:30 pm at Bruce Monroe @ Park View School (3560 Warder St. NW).   Send issues for candidates to address via email.
  • At-large candidate forum on March 13:   A number of community organizations are holding a Democratic candidate forum March 13 from 7:00 – 8:00 pm at the Black Cat (1811 14th St NW).   Doors open at 6:30; ID required.   More information is on Borderstan.
  • Ward 4 candidate forum, March 15:   ANC 4A is holding a candidate forum March 15 from 7:00 - 9:00 pm at Brightwood Education Campus (1300 Nicholson St NW).   Mark Segraves, of WTOP and ABC 7, and Dorothy Brizill, Executive Director of DC Watch, will be panelists.   Email questions you would like asked of the candidates to the ANC 4A office.
  • Increasing public trust in the DC government:   The D.C. Committee to Restore Public Trust is a ballot initiative designed to restore the public trust in the District government and local elections.   How?   By letting voters approve (or disapprove) an initiative to ban corporate contributions to campaigns, constituent service funds, legal defense funds, as well as transition and inaugural committees.

Friday, February 24, 2012

"Why don't the poor go to our meetings?", a post from local sociologist Johanna Bockman

Ward 6 resident and GMU faculty member Johanna Bockman's blog Sociology in My Neighborhood: DC Ward 6 is a real gem.   Bockman's unique perspective challenges me--and I hope others--to think about changing neighborhoods, planning, the cost of urban living, and more.

Bockman's recent post Why don't the poor go to our meetings? has given me the tools to better consider the issue of civic engagement otherwise known as citizen engagement.

I encourage you to read the whole post here or on Bockman's blog.   If you read the original, you will also be able to read the comments.

Why don't the poor go to our meetings?
One unnamed commenter on my past post about the Hine PUD process asked, "Other than reforming the process, what do you want in terms of amenities and benefits Johanna?" Another commenter, our great ANC rep Brian Pate, wondered why I thought that the process was undemocratic and exclusive since the meetings have been public to which "a broad spectrum of stakeholders, from those adjacent to the development to those with broader interests," were invited, and wrote, "I invite you to come to our next meeting and share your ideas...Hope to see you on the 23rd and please feel free to contact me directly if you like to discuss your ideas further." I greatly appreciate being invited to take part. I feel extremely included. The problem is that thousands of our Ward 6 neighbors and their very different interests are in actuality not included in the discussion.

One of my favorite articles of all time is "Civic Participation and the Equality Problem" by Kay Lehman Schlozman, Sidney Verba, and Henry E. Brady. They ask, why does civic engagement matter? They answer that it matters for "the development of the capacities of the individual, the creation of community and the cultivation of democratic virtues, and the equal protection of interests in public life." They are most interested in the last point: from whom does the government hear and what does it hear from them?

To answer these questions, they interviewed over 15,000 people by phone and then interviewed 2,517 of them in a follow-up, more detailed survey. The researchers found lots of interesting trends. The researchers asked if the respondents had been politically active about a government benefit they received. They found that the government is much more likely to hear from those with who receive seemingly automatic, non-means-tested benefits (Social Security, veterans' benefits, Medicare; benefits not determined by income level) than those with means-tested benefits (Medicaid, food stamps, housing subsidies, Aid to Families with Dependent Children). Those with Social Security were much more likely to contact the government about their benefits than those with AFDC.

The government hears very different messages from the advantaged and the disadvantaged. From the survey, the researchers found that the disadvantaged mainly contact the government about basic human needs: poverty, jobs, housing, and health, as well as drugs and crime. The advantaged contact the government about economic issues (taxes, government spending, or the budget) or about social issues (abortion or pornography). Since the disadvantaged are much less politically active, "public officials actually receive more messages from the advantaged, suggesting a curtailment of government intervention on behalf of the needy, than messages from the disadvantaged urging the opposite."

Why do some participate politically more than others? The researchers found that education is the best predictor. However, when the respondents were asked whether they had been invited (or recruited) to take part in a political act, like being invited personally to give an opinion about the Hine PUD, those who were invited were much more likely to be more educated and more wealthy than those who spontaneously took part in a political activity (see Table 12-2).

Those who invite or recruit others to take part are "rational prospectors," looking to use their time and energies most efficiently. Recruiters find political participants through organizational, neighborhood, and workplace networks of personal ties, as well as impersonal means such as through mass emails. Those who are recruited are different both demographically (more wealthy and more educated) and in their need for government assistance. Such selective recruitment brings in "those who are likely to be political involved already" and represents their interests, rather than providing "equal protection of interests in public life."

So, I am exactly the type of person who would be personally recruited to take part in the Hine PUD process. I have attended several Hine meetings. I greatly appreciate my inclusion in the process. At the same time, I seek to highlight those left out of the process. Were Potomac Gardens residents and their representatives like Resident Council president Melvina Middleton or DCHA Family Commissioner Aquarius Vann-Ghasri personally invited to voice their opinions about the needed amenities and benefits, since Potomac Gardens residents made up much of the Hine Junior High school population? Were some of the 20% of Ward 6 residents living in poverty personally invited to voice their opinion? Were those using Section 8 rental vouchers personally recruited? What would these neighbors say should be done with the Hine property?

Yes, as Brian Pate commented, AmericaSpeaks is expensive, but inclusive democracy does require funding and SW DC residents have benefited from being well organized (as I discussed in a past post). Also, AmericaSpeaks is not the only option. One could look at earlier efforts on Capitol Hill, such as the 1970s Capitol East Coalition for Housing and Neighborhood Improvement, which officially included representatives from public housing, senior citizen, youth, and welfare-low-income residents. Why don't the poor go to Hine meetings or why (probably) weren't they among the 200 who responded to the Hine PUD survey? Maybe they weren't asked.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Using Pinterest for advocacy and learning

One of the ways I am using Pinterest is to share DC-related things with my followers.   As you can see, I've started by pinning books I think are important advocates and others read along with other DC-related things like a map showing Ward borders and an invite to the February 25 DiscoTech.

I plan on using it more as time goes on and would be interested in learning how you are using this cool tool for your work.

Election update, February 23

  • Ward 5 Dems candidate forum, February 27:   The Ward 5 Democrats are holding this forum focusing on candidates running in the May 15 special election February 27 at 7:45 pm at Michigan Park Christian Church (1600 Taylor St NW).
  • Straight Up Politics candidate forum, February 29:   This series, focused on the Ward 5 special election (May 15), is "designed to provide residents with a relaxed atmosphere to ask tough and pointed questions that will hopefully make deciding who the new ward 5 Councilmember is a little easier. The forums will be focused on economic development, education and crime." (See Straight Up Politics)   The event on February 29 at 7:00 pm takes place at Lace (2214 Rhode Island Ave NE).
  • Ward 7 candidate forum, March 20:   The Central North East Civic Association is sponsoring this event March 20 at 7:00 pm at Ward Memorial AME Church (241 42nd St NE).   More information is in the event flier (Word, .doc).
  • Ward 6 Dems at-large candidate forum:   Moderated by WTOP's Mark Segraves, this face off between at-large candidates takes place March 20 at 7:00 pm at Brent Elementary School (301 North Carolina Ave SE).   The event is free and open to the public.
  • Ward 4 Dems candidate forum:   This forum for candidates for the at-large seat is being held March 21 at 7:00 pm at Emery Recreation Center (5701 Georgia Ave NW).   More information is available from Deborah Royster via email.
  • Accommodations for Sabbath observance March 3:
    Democratic voters who cannot vote at the Pre-Primary Caucus on Saturday, March 3, because of religious reasons for observing the Sabbath or who will be on out-of-town travel may vote early on Thursday, March 1, between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. Voting will be conducted at 1050 – 17th Street, N.W., Suite 1000 (10th floor). To make an appointment to vote, please call 202.714.3368 or email the DC Democratic State Committee.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Budget update, February 22

  • DCPS will testify at just-scheduled performance oversight hearing:   The Committee of the Whole will hear from DC Public Schools February 23 at 10:00 am.   DCPS was unable to testify at the previously scheduled hearing as a result of a school fire.
  • Rescheduled CFSA oversight hearing:   The Committee on Human Services, after adjourning the February 10 agency oversight hearing, will reconvene March 14 at 11:00 am in Room 123 of JAWB.
  • What's in Store for FY 2013:   This annual event takes place February 29 at 12:30 pm.   More information is in the event flier (PDF).
  • Affordable housing town halls:   CNHED is holding two town halls about affordable housing—one in Ward 4 and the other in Ward 7.   The Ward 4 event is being held February 28 at 6:30 pm at Christ Lutheran Church (5101 16th St NW).   The Ward 7 event takes place March 3 at 9:00 am at Marshall Heights Community Development Organization (3939 Benning Rd NE).

April is right around the corner. What are you going to do for Child Abuse Prevention Month?

Artwork by MesserWoland [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.   That can mean something or nothing to the children and youth in the District who are at risk of being abused.   It means something if your organization does something to stop child maltreatment.   It means nothing if you opt out of paying attention to this important, life changing—sometimes life threatening—problem.

So what can you do?   If you work with children and youth, you can ensure that your staff understand their legal responsibility related to reporting by requiring them to take the mandated reporter online training.   Want more training than that?   Contact Safe Shores to schedule a Stewards of Children training (contact Jessica Galimore via email).

Do you work with families?   Have you considered providing a series of workshops to help parents reduce their stress and better understand and deal with pressures that otherwise might result in child abuse?

Not a provider?   What about raising money for your favorite child maltreatment organization?   For example, donate funding to Safe Shores so they can train 25 youth workers.   Or engage Columbia Heights/Shaw Family Support Collaborative to provide Solution-Focused Brief Therapy training to staff at your favorite nonprofit.

No matter what you do, please do something.   There were 3,406 children and youth involved with Child and Family Services Agency at the end of FY 2011.   A significant portion of them had been abused.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 21 COW and legislative meeting

The Committee of the Whole (Council Chairman Kwame Brown, chair) meets February 21 at 10.   The agenda for the regular meeting is online.   The council will consider B19-211, "South Capitol Street Memorial Amendment Act of 2012" at the meeting.   Since the introduction, the legislation has undergone dramatic revision; the draft committee print (PDF) is now online.   Highlights of the legislation are here (Word, .doc).

An additional legislative meeting takes place following the COW; the agenda is online.

You can watch both meetings online using Granicus or OCT.

DiscoTech is the fun way to do technology and tech policy and practice

The second Discovering Technology Fair (aka DiscoTech) is happening February 25 from Noon - 4:00 pm at Thurgood Marshall Academy (2427 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave SE, by the Anacostia Metro station).

What is the DiscoTech?   It's a free, open, all-ages opportunity to learn about technology and the roles it plays in our community.   This event is designed for all experience levels.   There will be hands-on workshops, contests, and discussions.   Bring a kid, a parent, a computer that needs some TLC, some gadgets, and lots of imagination.

Natalie Kaplan from The BRIDGE project, a partner in the citywide effort to update 211 Answers, Please!, will demo the social service referral tool, gather feedback about the current user experience, and assess community needs.

Need a nudge?   Read up on the first DiscoTech here.

Check out details and RSVP here:   I look forward to seeing you there!

Communicating with electeds in the twitterverse

Hats off to NewsChannel8's Bruce DePuyt for first considering the region's electeds on Twitter and to DCist's Benjamin Freed for the clever follow-up.   Of course I like them, right, they both mention me—Bruce interviewed me and Ben riffs off that interview and refers to me as "Twitterato."

But even if I weren't interviewed, the stories are good and useful.   So take a few to read both and think about how you use Twitter.   Do you push out information only?   Do you engage your followers in conversations?   Do you share information from others?

These are similar to the questions Bruce asked me about government officials' use of Twitter.   I told him that I've had interesting mini discussions with electeds and Twitter followers.   Some conversations have moved to email.   Others have prompted blog posts (on my part) and articles (on the part of journalists).   At the end of the day, the value for me is the engagement—learning and sharing.   I hope my tweeps find the same value.


I've taken the info provided in both stories and combined them with info I gathered last year to come up with a new, updated list of DC government Twitter accounts.   The new list includes executive branch agencies and DC Council members and staff.   A list of ANCs on Twitter will be blogged at a later date.   If you follow ANCs or are one, email me so I can add them/you to the list.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Election update, February 20

  • Ward 3 Dems at-large candidate forum, February 23:   This event is being held February 23 at St. Columba's Episcopal Church (4201 Albemarle St NW) with Mark Plotkin serving as moderator and Dorothy Brizill as panelist.   Candidates are Sekou Biddle, E.Gail Holness, Vincent Orange, and Peter Shapiro.   The delegate caucuses take place at 7:00 pm, the business meeting at 7:15 pm, and the candidate forum at 8:00 pm.
  • Gertrude Stein Club EotR candidate endorsement forum, February 23:   The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club's Endorsement Forum featuring candidates for Ward 7 and Ward 8 Council will be held February 23 at 7:00 pm at the Human Rights Campaign (1640 Rhode Island Ave NW).   The forum will be moderated by Denise Rolark-Barnes of the Washington Informer.
  • Ward 5 council candidate forum, March 10:   The Ward 5 Dems straw poll and candidate forum take place March 10 at Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, Family Life Community Center (610 Rhode Island Ave NE).
  • Ward 5 candidate debate, March 3:   WTOP 103.5 FM, Brookland Heartbeat newspaper, Catholic University of America, and the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia are sponsoring this debate March 3 at 3:00 pm at Catholic University (Great Room on the 2nd floor of the Pryzbyla Center).   Mark Segraves, WTOP's lead investigative reporter, is sure to ask probing questions of the candidates vying to be Ward 5's next CM and the candidates are just as likely to energetically rebut each others' answers in real time.   There will be an opportunity to mingle and ask questions of the candidates following the debate.   Direct questions to Abigail Padou, Editor of Brookland Heartbeat, at (202) 832-4038 or via email.
  • Statements for Ward 4 Council and Shadow Senate Candidates (2012):   The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club has posted some of the responses to their regular election year questionnaire.
  • Ward 5 special election info:   Ward 5 resident David Smedberg has created a blog dedicated to all things Ward 5 special election.   Candidate responses to questions, FAQs and more are here.   You can also sign up for daily email updates.   Check it out.
  • Your nonprofit can help strengthen democracy:   Take some time to read the latest research on voter engagement, Nonprofits Increase Voting.
    The study, supported by Nonprofit VOTE and the Michigan Nonprofit Association, showed that when nonprofits discussed voting with clients, their likelihood of both voting and talking to their families and friends about the election increased.
  • Free training for nonprofits:   Nonprofit VOTE offers monthly webinars to nonprofits for free on a number of important topics such as nonpartisan voter efforts by nonprofits and guidelines for voter engagement.   Take a look at the list for 2012 (PDF).

Budget update, February 20

  • Budget hearing/event sked changes:   The DC Council has announced three changes to the FY 2013 budget hearing schedule.   They are:
    *Committee of the Whole Public Hearing on the "Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request Act of 2012" and the "Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Support Act of 2012" - Date moved from May 8 to April 30, 2012

    *Markup of the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development - Date moved from April 30 to May 2, 2012

    *Markup of the Committee on Public Service and Consumer Affairs - Date moved from April 30 to May 2, 2012

  • New page for committee-agency Q&A:   The DC Council has created a new page for agency responses.   According to the council's web content manager Catherine Wigginton, performance and budget responses will be in the same place and organized by committee.   Even cooler is that the information will be archived so past info will be available in the future (!!!!).
  • Hearing added to testify about public education budget:   Mayor Vince Gray and DME De'Shawn Wright will hold a second hearing for residents and others to testify about the public education budget.   The second date is March 8.   Details about registering to testify are in a previous blog post.

    The February 22 and March 8 hearings afford the community to inform the mayor about individual budget proposals for DCPS campuses prior to the completion of the FY 2013 budget.

  • Call to action for affordable housing:   The Continuum of Housing campaign, an effort of CNHED and blogged on Housing for All, is encouraging residents to call on Mayor Gray to restore the commitment to affordable housing.
    As Mayor Gray sets his priorities in this year's budget, we call on him to Restore the Commitment to Affordable Housing. It's never too soon to remind the Mayor how much you believe all DC residents deserve decent safe housing that they can afford!

    Please copy and paste the following email to the Mayor and feel free to add your own comments. Then send it to 10 friends and colleagues and ask them to do the same!

    Email the Mayor at

    Dear Mayor Gray,
    It's time to restore the commitment to affordable housing!
    Tens of thousands of District residents struggle each month to afford their housing, and thousands more are homeless. The District has programs that would help these individuals and families live in homes they can afford, but they are currently under-funded and unable to meet the growing need.

    Affordable housing programs like Housing First, the Local Rent Supplement Program, the Housing Production Trust Fund, and the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) have helped thousands of District residents achieve stable housing, send their children to college, become first-time homeowners and stabilize their neighborhoods.

    It's time to restore the commitment to affordable housing so all District residents can have homes where they can succeed and contribute to a vibrant, diverse Washington, DC.

    Mayor Gray, you can begin to build a full Continuum of Housing by:
    *Restoring $18 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund for its intended purpose of housing production and preservation.
    *Fully funding the Local Rent Supplement Program from the General Fund, including $6 million to address a projected shortfall in the DC Housing Authority's Local Rent Supplement Program budget
    *Investing $5 million from the Community Benefits Fund for Housing First and $5 million for the Local Rent Supplement Program to serve new people.
    *Maintaining funding for the Home Purchase Assistance Program. If federal funds for HPAP are cut, the city should keep the program whole with additional local funds.

  • Ward 2's CM Jack Evans on oversight and the FY 2013 budget:   This is from the CM's February 16 newsletter.
    This week the Council met at its annual retreat to review legislative priorities, receive briefings from various officials and make plans for the coming year. We also recently received the audit of the fiscal year 2011 budget - known as the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report ("CAFR"), an event of particular interest to me as Chair of the Council's Committee on Finance and Revenue.

    First, the good news from the FY 2011 CAFR: the District sustained its 15th annual balanced budget and "clean" audit. In short, our finances today are a far cry from the desperate straits we faced in the mid-1990's. The audit also confirmed we have no "material weaknesses" (we had 2 in FY 2008), and reduced our "significant deficiencies" from 5 to 2. I am glad we have made meaningful progress on our internal control systems. Every year the District spends millions on various audit functions - not only the CAFR, but of course the operations of the DC Auditor and the Office of the Inspector General. A few years ago, we decided to pool all this information more systematically and bring in under-performing agencies to submit remediation plans to correct the deficiencies. This new approach has begun to pay off.

    We finished FY 2011 with a surplus of nearly $240 million, which now resides in our savings accounts. While I am glad that our financial position remains so strong, this surplus has caused a lot of anger among the hundreds of thousands of District residents who were asked to pay a number of new taxes and fees in last year's budget, which I voted against. Before we rush to spend this money on an ever-expanding government, I think we need to take a hard look at making more sustainable spending choices. We have already received briefings on the status of the current FY 2012 budget by Mayor Gray and are expecting the upcoming FY 2013 budget submission from the Mayor in late March. While we have a windfall now, indications are that the Mayor will seek to spend all of this money and more to address potential gaps in the budget if he does not begin to spend within his budget.

    Every year, seemingly, we face "spending pressures" in the middle of the fiscal year - but since it is February the Mayor has the opportunity to review these problems and take corrective action so that we end FY 2012 with a balanced budget. A more difficult challenge will be the work of the Mayor and the Council to balance the FY 2013 budget. Unfortunately, the government has built in cost increases every year, so that we pass the biggest budget in our history each year in spite of the difficult economic climate - no other state goes through recessions without making tough spending choices as a result. Clearly this spring we will have some very serious challenges facing us and many tough decisions to make. I hope that with your help we can convince the Mayor and my colleagues to find efficiencies within existing agency budgets by making tough choices rather than simply increasing taxes every year.

    Before the budget is released, we first go through the performance oversight process. Over the past two weeks, I have sent a number of questions to the agencies under my purview to collect data on agency structure and recent spending. After I review what has worked and what has not, I will be in a better position to make recommendations on adjustments to the agency budgets for next year. Thanks for your support during this process, and please feel free to reach out to my office as well as to my colleagues to share your views.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Other than testifying, what's the value of performance oversight hearings?

If you are new to the DC Council's performance oversight hearings, you may think testifying is the bees knees.   You get to speak your mind, urge a committee to make an agency spend or do more, or present an update on an issue.   And this is important.

But what is equally important is what the agencies themselves have to say.   Specifically, what they write in response to the committee's advance questions.   Take the responses to the Office of Latino Affairs.   One OLA submission is a chapter from the Indices, a most fabulous resource, produced by the Office of Planning.   Great in and of itself.   But what the chapter means is that the new biennial book of DC data is out.

Other responses are also great.   The response from the Executive Office of the Mayor for example, lists key staffers in the mayor's budget office.   Valuable information if you do budget advocacy.   The response also provides org charts, a list of reprogrammings, office plans, and much more.

So take an hour and read some responses.   It will be worth your while.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Budget update, February 16

  • Committee on Health oversight hearings:   The Committee on Health has posted the responses from the Department of Health related to the February 16, 10:00 am performance oversight hearing.   The responses from the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services are also available.   Responses from the Department of Health Care Finance, Department of Mental Health, and Not-for-Profit Hospital Corporation will be posted shortly.   Should you have any questions, contact Molly M. Moulton, via email or 724-8170.
  • Metro budget hearings:   The public is encouraged to testify about the Metro proposed FY 2013 budget March 1 or March 6:
    March 1 at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church’s John H. Kearney, Sr. Fellowship Hall (2616 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE)

    March 6 at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church (4201 Albemarle St NW)

    An Open Forum with multi-media presentations to engage stakeholders and solicit public input starts at 6:00 pm at both DC hearings.   The public hearings on the budget start at 7:00 pm.

    To register to testify, send your name, address, telephone number and organization (if any) to the Office of the Secretary, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 600 Fifth St NW, WDC 20001.   Or, fax the info to (202) 962-1133 or email.   Submit written testimony to the same address, or email.   All testimony must be received by March 12. (Thanks to CM Bowser for sharing this information.)

  • Audio bad?:   If you are watching a performance oversight hearing—or any hearing for that matter—and the audio is bad, contact the Office of Cable Television if you are watching via Channel 13 online; call 671-0066 and speak with Maurice Reed or Kenneth Borden.   If you are watching a hearing from the DC Council website (you'll see Granicus in the URL), call the council's IT office, (202) 724-8018.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Important news about the city's mental health agency

As the city's Department of Mental Health reported February 6, the U.S. District Court is holding what is known as a "Fairness Hearing" February 16 at 10:00 am.   The hearing is required before the Court grants final approval for the Settlement Agreement (September 20, 2011) between the District government and plaintiff’s counsel to resolve the long standing Dixon class-action lawsuit.

A DMH media release (Word, .doc) announces a press conference following the Court hearing and provides additional information about Dixon.

New events added to Advocacy and Learning Calendar (2/15)

A number of events have been added to the Advocacy and Learning Calender; items include:
  • Ward 8 Transportation Task Force Meeting, February 21
  • Organizational Assessment webinar, February 22
  • Introduction to Program Logic, February 22
  • DCAYA Community Breakfast For East of the River Youth Serving Orgs, February 24
  • "Discovering Technology: Bridging the Digital Divide", February 25 (I hope to see you there!!)
  • Teen Dating Violence Intervention & Prevention: A Look at Dating Matters & Shifting Boundaries Webinar, February 29
  • Links between Bullying & Sexual Violence: Possibilities for Prevention, March 2

There are many more events listed on the calendar so be sure to take a look.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DC Council retreats today

The DC Council's annual retreat is today from 8:00 am - 2:30 pm at the Convention Center.   The public may attend the second half of the event starting around Noon.   The agenda is online (PDF).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Budget update, February 13

  • NEW! DC Budget Process:   This new document maps the District's budget process in a new way that should be easier to read than past iterations.   This and other educational materials are on my blog.
  • An Objective Tool for Assessing the Mayor's Proposed Budget and DC Council Changes:   This tool, as the title suggests, can help the public assess the city's budget.
  • Oversight hearing schedule change:   Changes have been made to the schedule.   Check them out on the DC Council website
  • Budget hearing schedule change:   Changes have been made to the schedule.   Check them out on the DC Council website.
  • Public hearing on DCPS budget:   Deputy Mayor for Education De’Shawn Wright is holding the public hearing on the development of the FY 2013 DCPS budget on February 22 at 5:30 pm at H.D. Woodson High School (540 55th Street NE).

    The purpose of the hearing is to solicit the views about four specific areas of DC Public Schools operations:

    *The current and prospective educational needs of the District’s publicly funded schools, including DCPS and D.C. Public Charter Schools, educational programs that can address these needs, and support systems needed for safety and efficiency;
    *The relative levels of support provided in recent years and sought in the current budget requests for DCPS and other agencies of the District government that support youth;
    *The programs and levels of funding supported by the findings of relevant professional studies and commissions (this portion of the relevant law indicates that the hearings will be open to experts – such as policymakers and think tanks – who wish to discuss data that suggest best practices and recommended funding strategies); and,
    *The levels of funding for public-school systems in surrounding jurisdictions that have reputations for providing high-quality education to their students.

    Testimony may be limited to three minutes per witness and five minutes per organization or group.   To testify, contact Joshua Thompson in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education via email or by telephone at 701-9289 no later than 4:00 pm on February 17.

  • CM Evans opening for CAFR briefing:   If you are interested in seeing what Ward 2 CM thinks about the FY 2011 CAFR, read his prepared opening remarks from the February 6 briefing.   Note: He did not read these comments from the dais; rather, he talked about the major points in the written opening.
  • LPTM's Mary Brown goes on the record:   Life Pieces to Masterpieces ED Mary Brown testified before the Committee of the Whole at the education cluster's performance oversight hearing.   Her testimony is here (Word, .doc).
  • Budget autonomy:   WaPo's Mike DeBonis explains the latest in DC's quest for budget autonomy in "Obama does the least he can do on D.C. budget autonomy."

    Mayor Gray and other leaders are holding a press conference on budget autonomy February 13 from 1:30 - 2:30 pm in front of the JAWB.   The briefing release excerpts President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget supporting autonomy:

    The District of Columbia annually receives direct Federal payments for a number of local programs in recognition of the District's unique status as the seat of the Federal Government. These General and Special Payments are separate from and in addition to the District's local budget, which is funded through local revenues. Consistent with the principle of home rule, it is the Administration's view that the District's local budget should be authorized to take effect without a separate annual Federal appropriations bill. The Administration will work with Congress and the Mayor to pass legislation to amend the D.C. Home Rule Act to provide the District with local budget autonomy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mayor Gray talks truancy prevention February 9

Mayor Gray will join education officials February 9 from 11:00 am - Noon at Anacostia Senior High School (1601 16th St SE) at the Anti-Truancy Ad Campaign Kickoff.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

If you are attending February 9 workshop, this is for you

One slight change for the February 9 workshop; it is now being held at the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation's 5th floor space.   So same building (1400 16th St NW) as originally advertised, just a different floor.

NOTE ABOUT SNOW: If the DC government is closed, the Trust will close which means there will be no workshop tomorrow.   I will email all registrants, but wanted to let everyone know in advance.

Performance oversight on education agencies today

Tune in today at 11:30 am to watch the COW performance oversight hearings for the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education, charter schools, OSSE, and DCPS.   Today's witnesses are members of the public.   The agenda and witness list are online here.

Half by 2015 - from guest blogger Brenda Rhodes Miller

Yesterday, the DC City Council adopted the ambitious goal of cutting the teen pregnancy rate in half. This is a momentous step in the right direction that required substantial political will and vision.

For far too long, Washington, DC has struggled with teen pregnancy and the resulting fallout from it. The children of teen parents are more likely to be abused and neglected, go into foster care, wind up in trouble with the law, go to jail and/or become teen parents themselves. These problems take a tremendous toll on the city’s budget as well as representing a tragic waste of human potential.

With this new goal, Washington, DC has aligned itself with many local programs and philanthropists devoted to preventing teen pregnancy. DC Campaign encourages everyone concerned about the social and economic health of the city to endorse the goal of cutting the rate in half by 2015.

To get involved, visit and join the fight to make teen pregnancy a thing of the past in the District of Columbia.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Register today for February 9 budget workshop

Only two days left to register for the February 9 workshop "The DC Operating Budget Explained".   We'll talk about the budget process, the roles of the various agencies, advocacy intervention points, key terms, and much more.

Cost is $40 per person; fee includes materials and refreshments.   More information is in the event flier (PDF) (and below).   Register here.

DC Council February 7 legislative meeting

The DC Council's regular legislative meeting is being held at 10:00 am today in the Council Chamber.   The agenda and other materials are online.

If you can't make it down to the Wilson Building, you can watch the meeting online via OCT.

Your thoughts, please, about DYRS

Ward 1 CM Jim Graham, chair of the Committee on Human Services, would like your views on the December 2011 report from DYRS Report on Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services’ Youth in Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities and Residential Treatment Centers (PDF) and the issue of residential placement in general.   Email John DeTaeye with your comments.

The Committee on Human Services has directed DYRS to increase local capacity of service providers and to reduce the use of out-of-state facilities, particularly those more than 100 miles away from DC.   The December report, the first of the quarterly reports, will the Committee and the community track:

  • Numbers of youth being sent to out-of-state facilities
  • Reasons for those placement
  • Services to be offered and eventually evaluation of those services
  • Successful Medicaid reimbursements

Highlights from the December report are:

  • 188 DYRS youth in RTC / PRTF (assessments of eight youth are missing)
    *146 youth are 17 years old and younger
    *42 are 18 – 20 years old
    158 male / 30 female
    *179 African American / 8 Latino / 1 White
    *46 different facilities, 7 within 100 miles of DC
    *144 placements paid with local dollars / 34 placements Medicaid eligible
    *170 days average length of stay
  • 30% of OVERALL DYRS youth are assessed as HIGH /MEDIUM Risk
    *88 of the 180 in RTC / PRTF are HIGH / MEDIUM Risk
    *117 of 180 have felony adjudication as most serious charge
  • Mental Health (youth have multiple, dual diagnosed mental health disorders
    *136 (76%) of 180 have mood disorders
    *108 (60%) of 180 have ADHD / disruptive behavior disorders
    *86 (47%) of 180 have Learning / Communication disorders
  • 140 of 180 have some type of substance / alcohol abuse disorder

Monday, February 6, 2012

Budget update, February 6

  • CAFR now online:   The CAFR has been posted on the CFO's website.
  • The DC Operating Budget Explained:   The February 9 2-1/2 hour workshop will help attendees better understand the process and the roles of the various agencies, identify the advocacy intervention points, make sense of the terms and acronyms, and much more.   More information and registration are online.
  • Ward 2 CM Jack Evans on the budget:   CM Evans talked budget (again) in his latest newsletter.
    Later this afternoon, District of Columbia officials will make their annual trip to Wall Street. Every February, the Mayor, the Chairman, myself as head of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, and Chief Financial Officer Nat Ghandi visit the three bond rating agencies - Standard and Poor's, Moody's, and Fitch Ratings. The purpose of the meeting is to present the District's financial situation, which helps the rating agencies determine our bond rating. Our bond rating is important for two reasons: it determines the amount of interest the District pays when borrowing money and it acts as a report card on our overall financial health.

    At the beginning of our fiscal year on October 1, the District is authorized to borrow a large sum of money, typically several hundred of millions of dollars, for cash-flow purposes. Over the course of the year, as our collections come in, the money is repaid. Our big collection dates are January 15 (fourth quarter payments), March 15 (first half of property taxes), April 15 (income taxes), and September 15 (second half of property taxes).

    Our bond rating determines the interest we pay on the money that we borrow - the higher the rating, the lower the interest. For example, in the early- to mid-1990's, as the District's finances deteriorated, the bond rating fell to a "B," greatly increasing the interest we paid. By 1995, our finances were so bad that we couldn't borrow money at all, which was the primary reason for the Control Board. It was only when the Control Board came into existence in April of 1995 that the District could once again borrow money.

    After the District met several criteria, the Control Board went dormant on September 30, 2001. But what many people don't know is that it can be reactivated if any one of the following seven events occurs:

    - Requisitioning by the Mayor of advances from the Treasury;
    - Failure to provide sufficient revenue to the debt service reserve fund;
    - Default on borrowing;
    - Failure to meet payroll;
    - Existence of a cash deficit at the end of any quarter;
    - Failure to make required payments to pensions; or
    - Failure to make required payments to entity under interstate compact.

    The Mayor and the Council must remain focused to ensure that none of these seven "deadly sins" occur.

    Over the years, our bond rating has increased from "junk bond" status to an "A+" on our General Obligation bonds and the highest rating of "AAA" on our income tax bonds. The District's finances remain strong and we have a good story to tell when we visit the rating agencies on Wall Street.

Workshop: The DC Operating Budget Explained, February 9

If you want to better understand the budget process, this is the workshop for you.   Attend and you will learn:
  • the budget process
  • the roles of the various agencies
  • advocacy intervention points
  • key terms
  • what those darned acronyms stand for
  • where to get a copy of the budget

Cost is $40 per person; fee includes materials and refreshments.   More information is in the event flier (PDF) (and below).   Register here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Be SOME's valentine

Do you heart SOME?   You can show your love by buying one or more of the items on their Amazon Wish List.   Items on the list include coffee, soap, new underwear and socks, and microwave ovens.

You can also show your love by donating tickets to local cultural and sporting events.   You will be music to their ears if you give them an upright piano in very good condition.

Have questions?   Contact Greg Chudy, SOME's Donations Coordinator, via email.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Show your staff and colleagues you love 'em

Share a little love at work by sending your staff or colleagues to the February 9 workshop "The DC Operating Budget Explained".   The workshop will cover the budget process, the roles of the various agencies, advocacy intervention points, key terms, and more.

And if budget workshop is not a fit, then buy them Communications for DC Advocates: How-to's and lessons learned over 15 years.   The guide details the steps for writing testimony and planning agency visits.   It also provides tips learned over 15 years of advocacy work in DC that will make your staff stars.

Budget update, February 2

  • COW CAFR briefing February 6:   The time of the February 6 COW briefing on the CAFR has been changed to 11:00 am to accommodate the regular pre-legislative meeting press briefing at 10 am.
  • DC leaders visit Wall Street:   Mayor Vince Gray, Committee on Finance and Revenue chair Jack Evans, and others are heading to NYC for visits with the Wall Street rating agencies.   The visits take place February 3.
  • CSFL posted online:   The FY 2013 Current Services Funding Level report is now online.
  • Panel Discussion on Arts Funding in DC, February 8:   DC Advocates for the Arts (DCAA), Institute for Policy Studies, and Busboys and Poets are sponsoring "Arts Funding in the District" February 8 from 6:00 – 7:00 pm at Busboys and Poets (14th and V Sts NW).   Panelists are Andy Shallal, Ward 2 CM Jack Evans, and DCCAH Director Lionell Thomas.   More information is available on the IPS website and on the DCAA website.
  • Public schools budget process through March:   S.H.A.P.P.E. has shared the schedule for developing the DCPS budget; the remaining steps are here:
    *LSAT workshops
    *Budget allocations released to school leaders
    *Schools develop budget for submission to Chancellor
    *LSAT chairs sign off in Quickbase
    *Principals submit budget to Chancellor

    *DCPS submits proposed FY 2013 budget to Mayor (mid-March)
    *Mayor submits FY 2013 budget to DC Council

  • National Association of State Budget Officers' take on federal budget and the states:   The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) has summarized the latest CBO report on the federal budget.   While NASBO did not the discuss impact on the states, one can surmise it from what they did write about.

    CBO Issues Updated Federal Budget Projections Highlighting Two Drastically Different Futures
    On January 31, the Congressional Budget Office released its 2012 budget and economic outlook showing that while 2012 is likely to produce the fourth consecutive year in which the federal government’s deficit topped one trillion dollars, the path for the federal budget in 2013 and beyond contains significant uncertainty. On one hand, if Congress were to allow current law to take place, referred to as CBO’s Baseline Projection, then 2013 would see the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts along with implementation of the automatic budget cuts scheduled for January 1, 2013 that are the result of the failure of the Joint Select Committee. These items along with other provisions would reduce the deficit to below $600 billion in 2013 and continue reducing it to below $200 billion by 2018. However, such austerity, which CBO measured at $400 billion for 2013, could significantly impact economic growth and the unemployment rate. Growth in 2013 would fall to below 1.5 percent and unemployment would rise to above 9 percent. On the other hand, should Congress approve measures to undo this austerity, referred to as the Alternative Fiscal Scenario, economic growth will improve, possibly as high as four percent in 2013 but deficit levels will remain significantly elevated, remaining above $900 billion until 2017 when they would again be in excess of $1 trillion.

    The report also notes that enhanced federal funding for Medicaid under the Recovery Act ($12 billion in 2011) will almost evaporate to $1 billion in 2012. Overall, federal spending on Medicaid will dip from $275 billion in 2011 to $262 billion in 2012, mostly because of this reduction in enhanced Recovery Act funding, although total spending is expected to increase significantly to $605 billion by 2022. Medicaid enrollment is projected to increase from 67 million in 2011 to 95 million in 2022, primarily due to provisions within the Affordable Care Act. Spending on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is expected to remain steady at $9 billion from 2011 to 2012 before jumping to $12 billion by 2015.…

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Free webinars for nonprofits

Wild Apricot's list of free webinars in February proves to be another winner.   Today, for example, is a webinar about an organizational outreach plan.   Later in the month are learning opps such as Making Volunteer Engagement Everyone’s Job, Moving on Up in Your Nonprofit Career: Tips Tactics and Advice for the Nonprofit Professional, and Investing in Infrastructure.

Easy bread recipe

Want an easy and yummy bread recipe?   Try this Not-so-Cuban Cuban Bread (Word, .doc) recipe.   I've always known it as cuban bread but I know it's not thus the name change.