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The Jack Evans Report

D.C. Gets a Thumbs-Up from Moody’s

I am very pleased to report that just one week after I joined Mayor Bowser, Chairman Mendelson and CFO Jeff DeWitt to meet with the major credit-rating agencies, Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the District of Columbia’s General Obligation (GO) bonds to Aa1 from Aa2, one notch below AAA, the highest level. This is a very exciting, and long overdue, move by Moody’s that will make it easier for us to make the strategic capital investments that will benefit the District for years to come. The rating increase affects $2.8 billion of outstanding GO bonds. In addition to upgrading the rating on our general bonds, Moody’s raised the Tax Increment Funding (TIF) rating to Aa3 for $43.5 million of rated tax-increment financing bonds. In my last note to you, I talked about all of the reasons I believe we deserved this upgrade. I won’t list them all again, but I will say that the District is in a very strong financial position. Our leadership is committed to financial discipline, our reserves are strong and the District economy continues to grow and diversify. In their report, Moody’s stated, “Financial governance is particularly strong, including multi-year financial plans, debt affordability analysis and mandated reserves, which provide a robust framework for the District to maintain a healthy financial position going forward.” The report continued, “The general obligation upgrade to Aa1 reflects a variety of strong credit features and a degree of resilience in the District’s economy to federal downsizing. The District’s fund balances have continued to strengthen in recent years and are on a trajectory to continue to increase in the next several years.” This is very good news for the District, but the work of financial stewardship is never done. I’ll continue to provide the strong oversight of our financial agencies and budget processes that I have for the last 15 years as chair of the Finance Committee. I look forward to writing to you in the not-too-distant future about our bond rating achieving AAA status. On a related note, Mayor Bowser will submit her first budget request to the Council in the coming weeks. I will be sure to share the highlights of the budget and my thoughts on the mayor’s proposal to fund critical items such as school improvements, street and alley repairs and affordable housing. I also want to encourage anyone who is interested to watch or testify at the budget oversight hearings that the Council will hold over the next month. A full schedule can be found on the D.C. Council website. Jack Evans is the Ward 2 Councilmember, representing Georgetown since 1991.

Solving Ward 2’s Rat Problem

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Jack Evans Report

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Tech Tip: Bookmark the Websites You Frequently Visit

Here’s a sneaky trick used by many hackers. They purchase and set up a fraudulent website that is a close misspelling of a legitimate one.

Equality in the District

As we wait for Mayor Gray to transmit his budget proposal to the District Council, I thought it would be a good week to reflect on some things our government is good at versus some areas that need improvement. One area our government is pretty good at is ensuring civil rights for all our citizens. Our Human Rights Act is one of the most expansive in the country. In addition, we have the distinction of being one of the first jurisdictions to legalize marriage equality. I remember clearly the introduction of our marriage equality bill, just a few short years ago. I knew it was a historic moment. Due to the volume of legislation we introduce, members often delegate signature authority to a chief of staff or principal legislative staffer. With marriage equality, though, this was the kind of bill I was proud to personally sign. As with so many areas, however, we can always improve. I watched with interest a recent hearing on our Marriage Officiant Amendment Act. This bill, which I coauthored, provides residents of the District with the ability to select a marriage officiant of their choosing, without having to either attempt to navigate the courthouse, wedding party in tow, or else work through a religious organization. I think it is preferable for couples to be able to select a person of importance in their lives to perform their ceremony, rather than a person they may not know well or at all. Of course, there is more work to be done on the federal level and around the country. On March 26 and March 27, the Supreme Court will hear arguments relating to marriage equality -- specifically, the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as California’s Proposition 8. To show community engagement on these historic issues, a rally in support of freedom and equality will be held by United for Marriage beginning at 8:30 a.m. on March 26, meeting outside the Supreme Court at First and East Capitol Streets, NE. I hope to see you there. Of course, my office is always available to help my constituents with these and any other D.C. issues.?

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Moving Forward on Public Education

The fiscal year 2019 budget season is coming to an end. For the past three months, the District Council has held hearings and discussed...

Budget Proposals by ‘Numbers’ and ‘Words’

Beginning last Tuesday, my colleagues and I met for two full days to discuss the budget proposal currently before the Council. At these discussions, each committee chair is asked to summarize his or her proposals and then respond to questions from other councilmembers. The first day, we primarily discussed the Budget Request Act component of the budget -- the “numbers” I described in my last article, such as the funding levels we are recommending for various government agencies and grants. On the second day, we discussed each committee’s Budget Support Act recommendations -- the “words” that give the government the legislative authority necessary to make the numerical portion work, such as my new initiative to dedicate a portion of our existing sales tax revenue to the arts. For the last several years, these discussions have been held in full view of video cameras for the benefit of the public. The result is a great deal more grandstanding during these discussions and less candid dialogue. The next step is a Council vote on the full proposal. Only 24 hours’ advance circulation of the report is required prior to our initial vote, and by tradition, budget reports have actually been transmitted as late as 2 a.m. for a 10 a.m. vote -- not necessarily a best practice. I am hopeful we will stick pretty close to the mayor’s initial proposal, which does a good job striking the tough balance between long- and short-term objectives, and fostering the development of our business community (and resulting tax revenue) while providing support for those in need. When all is said and done, I will be proud to vote for a budget that restores Sunday hours in our neighborhood libraries, invests $86 million in affordable housing and repeals the municipal bond tax that has created such a burden for our seniors (without raising any meaningful revenue!). Looking forward, I hope to soon be able to let you know of the mayor’s fulfillment of a commitment to me to appropriate an additional $5 million for arts funding in our city, and a further $7 million off our budget “wish list,” if incoming revenues continue to outpace projections. Thank you, as always, for your support, and please continue to send me your ideas.

Time for a D.C. College Basketball Big 6

February is an exciting time for college basketball. Conference play is well underway. Rivalry games are taking place. And while Georgetown vs. St. John’s in Madison Square Garden and Maryland vs. Wisconsin are sure to be exciting games, February will also mark the end of another season without a great local basketball rivalry. I first proposed a Ward 2 Championship (Georgetown vs. George Washington at the Verizon Center) in 2006, then wrote about the benefits of a regional basketball rivalry – like the Philadelphia Big 5 of Penn, Temple, St. Joseph’s, LaSalle and Villanova – in a Washington Post column a year later. Nine years later? Still no D.C. Big 5. To be sure, the recent addition of George Mason to the Atlantic 10 Conference and annual games with George Washington have begun to bring our local schools together, but Georgetown, Maryland, American and Howard are still out of the picture. Think about it: We have the makings of an even greater Big 6. I believe we’re missing the opportunity to unite our region through our shared love of college basketball. In Philadelphia, the entire city comes together on one Saturday in December to support their teams and play for bragging rights for the entire year. Sports have a powerful way of uniting people and communities. John Feinstein wrote a Washington Post column in December about bringing our local teams together for a D.C. series. He highlighted some of the history that ended the Georgetown-Maryland annual challenge in 1979, and explained how the Philadelphia teams overcame scheduling problems in the 1980s to keep the Big 5 going. Despite the challenges, his message was clear: Just Play. We saw regional interest from individuals connected to all our local universities in a D.C. 2024 Olympic Bid. While that bid was unsuccessful, those leaders should use the bonds of community and sports that brought them together to encourage the universities to commit to a regional basketball tournament – perhaps through a modified BB&T Classic. As conference realignment and television contracts make college basketball an increasingly national competition, now is the time for our local institutions to come together and create a D.C. Big 6 tournament for seasons to come. Jack Evans is the Ward 2 Councilmember, representing Georgetown since 1991.