Jack Evans ReportNovember 16, 2011

November 16, 2011

I wanted to provide an update on the iGaming proposal that is currently under consideration by the Council and the District?s Lottery Board. The Lottery Modernization Amendment Act of 2010, which was a part of the ?Fiscal Year 2011 Supplemental Budget Support Act of 2010,? authorizes the DC Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board to offer ?games of skill? and ?games of chance? via the Internet. Specifically, the proposal is to offer Internet games such as Texas Hold ?em Poker on computers in yet to be determined locations within the District.

In response to concerns from community members last spring, I asked the Lottery to schedule a number of community meetings to receive input on iGaming before moving forward with enabling these games in any neighborhoods. I subsequently requested that the Lottery move to further accommodate community members by postponing meetings originally scheduled for August to more convenient times in October and November, and am pleased that they have done so. My hope was that this change in schedule would allow more residents to return from out of town summer trips and be engaged in the community meeting process.

At this point, the Lottery has held at least 5 community meetings throughout the city ? meetings have been held in Wards 1, 4, 5, and 7, as well as an additional meeting held for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners. Staff members from my office have attended all these meetings to record community feedback, and I am also expecting a more formal report from the Lottery on these meetings to be given to my Committee.

Upcoming meetings are scheduled in Wards 3, 6, and 8, and most importantly, Ward 2. Our meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 15 at the MLK Memorial Library (901 G Street NW). If you have thoughts on iGaming, please come to the meeting to share your views in person, or you may share thoughts or questions by emailing igamingdc@dc.gov. For more information, you can contact my office or visit the Lottery?s iGaming website at http://goo.gl/xe8hh.

Also, the Inspector General is conducting an investigation into the lottery and should have his findings available soon. After the conclusion of these community meetings, I intend to schedule a hearing to review the community input received and the Inspector General?s findings. I am reserving judgment at this point until all community feedback has been collected, so I look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Evans Report

November 2, 2011

The fall has arrived and with it the change of seasons that really defines the Washington region. The beauty of this area is that we really do have four distinct seasons to enjoy.

Lots of fun fall events are underway in our community. By the time you read this, I will have attended Rose Park’s 7th Annual Fall Pumpkin Festival. This is a great event for neighbors of all ages, including hot cider, ghosts and goblins, and a costume parade. It also unfortunately marks the end of the farmers’ market season at Rose Park. Luckily for the residents of Ward 2, several of our other neighborhood farmers’ markets continue through the fall, such as Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle and Penn Quarter.

Last week, I had the opportunity to serve as the Grand Marshall of the 25th Annual High Heel Race near Dupont Circle. The neighborhood holds a special place in my heart, as it was my first home in the District. For those unfamiliar with the event, it involves thousands of spectators gathering on 17th Street north of P Street the Tuesday before Halloween to watch hundreds of costumed revelers race down the street in their high heels. 

This leads us to our next big holiday, Halloween, which also happens to be my birthday. The Metropolitan Police Department again did extensive planning for the crowds associated with Halloween to ensure a safe celebration throughout the District. I celebrated this year by attending the “Little Goblins Parade” on Oct. 29. This family-friendly parade involved a number of “little goblins” marching from Stead Park in Dupont Circle, through Logan Circle, to finish at the Watha T. Daniel Shaw Neighborhood Library.

I hope you are enjoying this fall as much as I am, and I encourage you to join one of the many great community events

Jack Evans Report

October 19, 2011

I thought it would be most appropriate in this newspaper to express my deepest sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of Dr. Frank Kameny. Dr. Kameny, who passed away on Oct. 11, was a leading figure in the LGBT movement and remained a strong advocate for equality up until his death.

Dr. Kameny’s contributions to the gay rights movement here in D.C. and around the country simply cannot be overstated.  Dr. Kameny, who lost his federal government job due to his sexual orientation, not only risked everything for what he knew was right but also blazed a trail for those who came after him in an effort to lessen their struggle.

LGBT issues have been a major focus of mine ever since I joined the Council.  As the District’s first elected official to support same sex civil marriage, I led the fight to repeal the District’s anti-sodomy law and fought hard for the passage of domestic partnerships. I also co-sponsored the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act, leading to the passage of marriage equality in the District.  In June 2010, I was pleased to join then-Mayor Adrian Fenty and other city and community leaders to rename a section of 17th Street in Dupont Circle “Frank Kameny Way,” which was only a small token of the honor Dr. Kameny deserves. 

I will continue to work closely with the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit of the District’s Metropolitan Police Department to ensure that enforcement and education remain priorities of the department. I will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s office to make sure that hate crimes are identified quickly and criminals prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I will also continue to work with our Department of Health as we identify solutions to combat HIV/AIDS in our community, an issue of great importance to all District residents.

Dr. Kameny will be missed greatly, but his contributions and life’s work undoubtedly will live on. I have served Ward 2 with pride since 1991 and will continue to fight on behalf of the LGBT community to ensure that everyone enjoys equal rights and privileges.

Jack Evans Report

October 5, 2011

It is with great disappointment that I report to you that the D.C. Council voted last week to raise our income tax for the first time in 30 years. Last week, at our first meeting after the summer recess, Phil Mendelson and Mary Cheh led an effort to raise the income tax rate from 8.5 percent to 8.95 percent on incomes over $350,000. Cheh and Mendelson were joined by Councilmembers Jim Graham, Harry Thomas, Tommy Wells, Yvette Alexander and Michael Brown in passing the measure, giving the District the fifth highest income tax rate in the country. I have been opposed to the idea to increase the income tax rate ever since it was first proposed by Mayor Vincent Gray earlier this year. It was simply not necessary in light of the hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue already identified by the District’s chief financial officer this year.

Notwithstanding the facts, proponents argued that the income tax increase was necessary to undo the ill-advised municipal bond tax – in fact, this was a false choice – an amendment I offered would have obviated the need for both new tax proposals due to the most recent $89 million in projected new revenue. My amendment failed, 7-6, however, after the seventh and deciding vote was cast by Mary Cheh to raise the income tax.

Another justification presented by those who want to gratuitously raise income taxes is that it will make the income tax more progressive. In response to that point, I asked that we consider lowering the income tax rate for lower income taxpayers, which would make the income tax rate structure more progressive without stifling economic growth.

In the same way the recent irresponsible brinksmanship in Congress undermined the confidence of voters around the country, not to mention the bond rating agencies, the disingenuous debate over the District’s finances will shake the confidence of District taxpayers who see their bills increase without justification. The District has also suffered an adverse action on its bond credit rating – while this was due to issues relating to federal government spending cuts, it could possibly have been avoided if the District had more money in its savings account.

I am very concerned as we go forward about the attitude of the Mayor and the majority of the Council with respect to our finances. The city must live with the revenue we have, and we need to bring the exponential growth in government spending back under control.

As fall approaches, there is much to do, and I look forward to facing the many challenges before us.

Jack Evans Report

September 21, 2011

Summer is over and the kids are all back at school. The routine has returned and with it, the Council went back into session on Sept. 15. Our first legislative meeting will be held on Sept. 20.

Although the Council doesn’t formally meet between July 15 and Sept. 15, a Ward Councilmember’s work is never done. I and my staff were busy all summer long addressing constituent issues around the Ward. Just last week we officially opened the Georgetown Waterfront Park, a great addition to the city. Infrastructure improvements have continued all across the Ward from the O and P Street project in Georgetown to the 7th and N Street park in Shaw. City Market at O will begin major construction shortly and one of two Connecticut Avenue median projects in Dupont has been completed.

The main issues facing the District as we enter the fall begin with finances. Although we remain strong financially, it is important that the Mayor and Council not continue to expand our spending. We will receive revised revenue estimates shortly and any additional funds must be used to fix the municipal bond tax issue and to replenish our reserve fund.

School reform will be another focus. As the new school year progresses, how are our schools performing? Ethics reform is another area of concern. There will be much discussion about new laws and regulations. Keep in mind that the problem the Mayor and some of my colleagues are facing is not because the laws need changing, but rather because there are accusations that these laws have been violated.

I will also focus my energies working to increase the number of police officers that make up our force. I have written and spoken about this issue many times and it remains a matter of great concern.
Finally, the Mayor and Council must continue to focus on economic development and job creation. As the economy continues to improve, we must take advantage of opportunities to improve our city.

I look forward to the upcoming Council session and working on the challenges ahead.

Jack Evans Report

September 7, 2011

I want to alert my constituents about the alarming decline in sworn officers in the District’s Metropolitan Police Department. As of earlier this week, the force was down to 3,818 officers, very near the 3,800 number that Chief Cathy Lanier identified as the threshold for real trouble. With an attrition rate of around 15 officers per month, we could be in the neighborhood of 3,750 sworn officers by the end of the year. How did this happen?

I introduced a bill in April that would require the District to maintain a minimum staffing level of 4,000 sworn officers at all times. This was not meant to be a statement that 4,000 is some magic number that will eliminate all our public safety concerns. Rather, it would force the Mayor and the Council to fully fund 4,000 officers and not play around with the money. As we went through the 2012 budget process, I advocated for budgeting a dollar amount for MPD that would allow the Department to increase officers at a rate to get us above 4,000 by the end of 2013, which would enable Chief Lanier and MPD to continue to fight crime and meet the community’s expectations for service.

While the Mayor had asked for 120 new officers in his 2012 budget request, the equivalent of ten per month, these do not even account for the total number of officers who leave every month. Further, there is a substantial lag time of six to seven months between when a new recruit is hired and when he or she is on the street. To make matters worse, 1,100 officers will be eligible for retirement in the next four years. Many of these officers will leave as a result of proposals to cut police officer pensions. This will effectively double the current rate of attrition, but the budget does not contemplate this dramatic shift. Numbers are too low already, and for the foreseeable future we will only be hiring one new officer for every two who leave. I don’t use this word lightly, but I think it is fair to call this situation a crisis.

At one time, MPD had over 5,000 officers. When I first joined the City Council in 1991, we had 4,500 officers. I have seen a decline in officers year after year and have attempted to slow or stop this situation from continuing. There were supposed to be 30 officers in the police academy beginning in June. Currently, there are none.

While the Council added $10.8 million to the 2012 MPD budget, ostensibly to fund new officers, these numbers fail to take into account this acceleration of attrition and historic unrealistic budgeting by the Mayor and the Council. $10.8 million in new funding doesn’t go very far if there is a $7.9 million “spending pressure” in 2012, as there was in 2011. Spending priorities must be established and in my opinion, hiring more policemen and women should be the top priority.

If decisive action is not taken when the Council returns from recess, our worst projections will become reality. My goal is to raise awareness of the dire situation facing the residents of the District while we can still correct it. My hope is to motivate the Mayor and the Council to develop a plan to fund the Department adequately. With an appropriate budget in place, MPD can reverse the trend of dwindling numbers and reach a staffing level of over 4,000 sworn officers by the end of next year. 

2012 Budget

August 25, 2011

I thought I had written my last Georgetowner article about the 2012 budget last month.

Unfortunately, the Council was taken by surprise by the pocket veto from Mayor Gray and will have to revisit some of the problems that we had just worked hard to solve. Of particular note was the proposal to retroactively tax interest earned on out-of-state municipal bonds all the way back to Jan. 1, 2011, which I have been advocating strongly against. You may recall that the Council passed an amendment on July 12 to push the implementation of this new tax proposal on municipal bonds back to cover only earnings from Jan. 1, 2012 and beyond, giving everyone a little more time to make responsible changes in their investment portfolios and tax payment schedules if needed. Now that the Mayor’s veto has undone the Council’s solution, I will be working again with my colleagues to come up with creative new ways to postpone and then repeal this tax, which disproportionately impacts retirees. It is absolutely irresponsible for Mayor Gray and the Council not to grandfather in existing bondholders, as has been done in every other state without exception. Three of your at-large Councilmembers – Phil Mendelson, Michael Brown and Vincent Orange – do not support grandfathering unless the income tax is increased. This is another bad idea which will harm our city.

I also wanted to briefly address the iGaming proposal that is currently under consideration by the District’s Lottery Board. In case you are not familiar with the concept of iGaming, the idea is to offer internet games such as Texas Hold ‘em Poker on computers in yet to be determined locations within the District. In response to concerns from community members at a Finance & Revenue Committee hearing I chaired, I asked the Lottery to schedule a number of community meetings to receive input on iGaming before moving forward with enabling these games in any neighborhoods. I subsequently requested that the Lottery move to further accommodate community members by postponing meetings originally scheduled for August to more convenient times in mid-September and October, and am pleased that they have done so. This change in the schedule will allow more residents to return from out of town summer trips and be engaged in the community meeting process.

Finally, Advisory Neighborhood Commission redistricting is well underway. The neighborhood-based subgroups of the Ward 2 Redistricting Task Force have been checking in with my office regularly, and I look forward to seeing their final recommendations in the near future. Please feel free to contact Ruth Werner at rwerner@dccouncil.us or Kevin Stogner at kstogner@dccouncil.us, both in my office, to be added to the redistricting distribution list, or to answer any specific questions you have.

Jack Evans Report

July 26, 2011

At this point, District residents must think the Council votes on the budget every time it meets. For the past couple of months, that has been nearly correct. On April 1, Mayor Gray submitted his fiscal year 2012 budget proposal to the Council. After a period of committee hearings to scrutinize the numerous government agencies that comprise the executive branch of the District government, as well as substantial community input, the Council took a first vote on a revised budget proposal on Tuesday, May 24. An ostensibly final vote took place on June 14, but a further vote was held July 12 to make needed technical corrections and account for “new revenue” that was identified in the Chief Financial Officer’s revised quarterly revenue estimate in June.

I have had mixed feelings on this budget from the beginning. The budget, at nearly $11 billion, is the largest in the District’s history, and I have vocally opposed the Mayor’s budget proposal from the moment it was released. In our May and June votes, the Council wisely repealed Mayor Gray’s attempt to raise the personal income tax, keeping the rate at 8.5 percent. We also rejected the proposal to tax live theatre, which was simply a terrible idea in an environment where our arts institutions are already reeling from massive cuts in federal funding. We were able to reject a proposed doubling in the Circulator fare, as well as to delay a proposed hike in the parking tax. We also restored a number of safety net cuts made by the Mayor which would have reduced funding for homeless and housing services. The Council also increased funding to the Metropolitan Police Department to ensure we have at least 3,900 sworn officers on the force, which moves us in the direction of my eventual goal of a minimum number of 4,000 officers. Finally, the Council acted to restore a substantial amount of money to the District’s “savings account,” which helps to bolster our bond rating.

The one item I most strongly disagreed with in the Council’s proposed modifications to the Mayor’s budget was the decision to implement an unfair retroactive tax on the interest earned on out-of-state municipal bonds. In the original modification from the Chairman, the tax on this bond interest would not have gone into effect if we had a sufficient revenue increase in June. Seven of my colleagues repealed this provision, however, and when new revenue did arrive in June, it was quickly diverted to other uses. On July 12, however, we were able to pass an amendment to push the implementation of the tax back to cover only earnings from Jan. 1, 2012 and beyond, rather than taxing earnings already received since Jan. 1, 2011. This is an important first step, as it gives bondholders notice of a pending tax proposal and allows them to make strategic changes in their investments to compensate for the massive change in the tax. As additional revenue is identified in September, however, I remain hopeful that we will be able to further delay or fully reject this proposed tax.

The other major item that was moved forward last week was the District’s redistricting plan. On July 13, I hosted a Ward 2 Redistricting Task Force kickoff with support from the Office of Planning, the Board of Elections and Ethics, and the Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. As you may recall, the Council finalized the Ward redistricting plan in June, and over the summer each Ward will form a committee to make any needed changes to Advisory Neighborhood Commission and Single Member District boundaries. While we had a great showing of Ward 2 residents seeking to be involved last week, we will continue to include other Ward 2 friends and neighbors who would like to give input in our neighborhood-based subcommittees. Please feel free to contact Ruth Werner at rwerner@dccouncil.us or Kevin Stogner at kstogner@dccouncil.us, both in my office, to be added to the redistricting distribution list, or to ask any specific questions you have. Or, if you just want to keep tabs on the process, more specific data is available at the ANC redistricting website at https://sites.google.com/a/dc.gov/redistricting. Please feel free to share this information with other Ward 2 residents who may be interested.

Volta Park Weekend

June 29, 2011

Friday night was the Volta Park fundraiser at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School. A large number of Georgetowners and other advocates turned out to show their support. Mayor Gray, Councilmember Catania and I all attended and gave our support. Of course, Mimsy Linder was the Mistress of Ceremonies and again made sure the weekend ran smoothly.

Linder and John Richardson were the original forces behind the renovation of Volta Park. It was through their efforts, as well as the efforts of so many Georgetown residents, that we have a first rate playground and swimming pool complex.

Saturday and Sunday were the doubles tennis tournament. The winner this year was WTOP political commentator and former Georgetown resident Mark Plotkin (the Comeback Kid) and his partner, John McDermit. Mark is a five-time winner of the Volta Park tennis tournament, his last victory in 2000. His four-year reign began at the 1997 inaugural tournament with his partner and Georgetown resident Garrett Rasmussen and extended through 2000. After a twelve-year hiatus, this victory seals his reputation as the premier tennis player in the history of Volta Park.

Sunday was Volta Park Day, kicked off by the annual East vs. West softball game in which the East was again victorious, continuing its winning streak. At 3 p.m., the picnic and games began. You could smell the hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill throughout the entire neighborhood. The dunk tank was in full operation and my daughters Katherine and Chris, along with their friend Hannah, ran the snow cone booth while my son John was the popcorn vendor. When they left to go swimming, I took my turn on the snow cone machine and Nancy Taylor ran the popcorn machine.

As if on cue, it began to rain as the events came to an end at 6 p.m. bringing another very successful Volta Park weekend to a close.

To me, the event signifies the beginning of summer in Georgetown. I look forward to the many fun summer events, including the very popular concerts in the park. Wishing everyone a fun and happy summer!

Jack Evans Report

May 31, 2011

This has been a very busy time at the Council. On Tuesday, May 24, the Council passed the Fiscal Year 2012 budget for the city. Mayor Gray submitted his FY 2012 budget to the Council on April 1. During the six weeks that followed, the Council held hearings on the budget and each committee considered and marked-up its portion. Chairman Brown then met with each Councilmember and put together a revised budget, which was passed on a first vote on Tuesday. A final vote will take place on June 14.

The budget, at over $11 billion, is the largest in the District’s history. The Council wisely repealed Mayor Gray’s attempt to raise the personal income tax, keeping the rate at 8.5%. It also rejected the proposal to tax live theatre. A number of safety net cuts made by the Mayor reducing funding for homeless and housing services were added back by the Council. Finally, the Council increased funding to the Metropolitan Police Department to ensure we have at least 3,900 sworn officers on the force.

The one item I disagreed with was the Council’s decision to tax the interest on municipal bonds. In the original Chairman’s budget, the tax on the interest would not go into effect if we have a revenue increase in June. Seven of my colleagues repealed this provision and, as of now, previously untaxed municipal bonds will be taxed at 8.5%.

Finally, 50% of our anticipated increase in revenue will be placed in our reserve fund to build this back up again. Although I believe the City spends too much money, the budget overall addresses my concerns for this year.

The other major item that was moved forward on this week was the District’s redistricting plan. I, along with Councilmembers Brown and Mendelson, have worked very hard to put together a plan that redraws Ward boundaries to conform with the new Census data. The plan was released on Tuesday and passed by the Subcommittee on Thursday. It comes to the full Council for a vote on June 7. More information on this process and the outcome will be forthcoming.