Happy New Year, everyone! This week I want to discuss a few of my New Year’s resolutions. The year 2014 is now well underway, and we will soon be swept up in our oversight and budget season. Before that happens, I want to lay out some of my top priorities for the year. In addition to keeping our finances in good order, as chair of the committee on finance and revenue my other top areas of focus include the following:
Our public education system continues to be one of my top areas of focus. I was pleased to work with the community in helping to advocate that the chancellor keep Garrison and Francis-Stevens open. Fortunately, the chancellor took note of what we already know well in Ward 2: demographic trends in our neighborhoods require our city to provide residents with the educational and other resources our new children will need. I hope families will continue to decide to stay in the District, unlike in past years, when so many young families would move to the suburbs once they started having children.
Next, public safety is a continuing priority of mine. As the District’s population – not to mention the daytime commuter population – continues to grow, we need an expanded police force to continue to keep us safe. While I applaud the chief for her great work in making the city safer, we have to give her the resources she needs to continue this trend. When I first moved to D.C., we had 5,200 officers on the police force. When I joined the Council, we had 4,800. Would you believe that just last year we had only 3,890 sworn officers? I introduced a bill last year that would mandate that the mayor fund 4,000 officers as a minimum staffing level. That is not a magic number, but in my judgment, after 20 years of service, it is a first step in the right direction. We also need to fund overdue pay raises to the officers currently on the force, and I introduced a bill recently to force that issue. When you don’t give pay raises for several years, retention starts to become a problem.
Third, I want to continue to focus on providing access to quality health care for all our residents. Hopefully, it is well known by now that we have the second-highest state insurance coverage rate in the country, with only Massachusetts consistently outscoring us. Isn’t it nice to finally be at the top of one of those state ranking lists? I am excited about the implementation of the District’s new health care exchange, one of the few in the nation that seems to be working, which should be making it easier for individuals to avail themselves of private health insurance options. I want to make sure, though, that this is not done in a way that increases insurance costs for our small businesses.
Fourth, I want to continue to fund affordable housing. I was one of the original creators of the Housing Production Trust Fund, and I still support it because it is one of the relatively few government programs that consistently exceed our performance expectations. I also believe it is critical to subsidize private developments so that they include affordable housing components.
All of these priorities lead to my fifth goal: more jobs for District residents. When you provide a world-class education system, a safe environment and affordable housing, as well as health care, to all our residents, jobs will follow. While many parts of our city are doing well, other parts of our city still have very high levels of unemployment. They deserve our best efforts in facilitating job creation in the District. Helping to incentive the creation of construction jobs through city projects prepares our residents for long-term career paths via apprenticeship programs. Once the developments are completed and businesses occupy the new spaces, permanent hospitality jobs result. We receive many dollars in expanded tax revenue for each dollar we initially invest in subsidies.
Thank you for all your support and good ideas. Please keep them coming and don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if we can provide assistance. I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and are making progress on your own New Year’s resolutions. The holidays always seem to go by a little too quickly, but I am very excited about the year ahead.