Metro Must Be Cheap, Convenient, Reliable

September 19, 2016

I’ve written quite a bit about our Metro system over the past year. On everything from finances to safety …

Three Top Colleagues Move On

September 7, 2016

August is usually a sleepy time in D.C. In addition to school being out and everyone taking one last chance to hit the beach, the District Council goes on a […]

Three Top Colleagues Move On

August 31, 2016

August is usually a sleepy time in D.C. In addition to school being out and everyone taking one last …

Restoring Metro: By the Numbers

August 1, 2016

Just over a year ago, I become chair of the Finance Committee of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board. Fast-forward a year, and although I now chair the entire […]

Restoring Metro: By the Numbers

July 27, 2016

Just over a year ago, I become chair of the Finance Committee of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board …

Council Primaries and Priorities

July 1, 2016

The NBA Finals may have just wrapped up in Oakland, but here in Washington we had a bout of our …

Jack Evans Report: Secured: $20 Million for the Arts and Humanities

May 18, 2016

For the past several years, I have pushed my colleagues to increase arts funding to the $20 million level, allowing the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) to fully achieve its goals and help keep the District a vibrant and, more critically, affordable bastion for the arts.

I’m particularly pleased that I was able to finally secure $20 million to help support arts education for our children, artists across the city and the diverse community that makes Washington the most dynamic city in the country.

This year, the initial budget amount was only $15 million. This significantly increased level of funding will go toward underwriting art projects, paying local artists for their work and expanding arts programs in our schools and neighborhoods.

Budgets are about priorities. As many of you know, the arts have long been a high priority of mine to make our city more livable, our education system more robust and our community more diverse. All three of my triplets benefitted from exposure to the arts at a young age. As my daughter Christine finishes her first year at the Parsons School of Design and my son John finishes his freshman year studying art at the University of Pennsylvania, I’m proud that, as a city, we’re able to fund arts programming that will allow even more children to receive similar exposure.

(In case anyone is wondering, my daughter Katherine just finished her first year at Elon University. She isn’t studying art, but I couldn’t be more proud of her!)
While increasing funding for the arts has long been a priority for me, it’s worth noting this is less than two-tenths of one percent of our budget for the upcoming year. There are many other priorities in our budget that I’m pleased will be funded.

As I previously wrote in these pages, the District’s budget once again allocated $100 million to the critical Housing Production Trust Fund; committed our full operating subsidy to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority as we continue to reform and restore our transit system; and will continue to invest more than a quarter of our funding in education.

In addition, I was able to continue the tax breaks that the Council passed in 2014. To balance our needs as a city with the return of our increasing revenues to taxpayers, the tax cuts will be implemented as we hit new revenue levels. Recently, we enacted a cut to our unincorporated business franchise tax and an increase in the estate tax threshold. These cuts follow earlier reductions in low- and middle-income personal tax rates and an expansion in the Earned Income Tax Credit, among others.

We continue to fund our priorities, improve our city and strengthen our finances. The work never ends, but we’ve made great strides over the past 25 years.

Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.

D.C. Wins in More Ways Than One

May 4, 2016

So far, 2016 has been a great year for sports in Washington, D.C. The Capitals are in the second round of the playoffs, the Nationals have gotten off to a scorching-hot start and the George Washington University men’s basketball team won the National Invitation Tournament.

On top of all that, it feels like D.C. sports are just getting started.

Bryce Harper had one of the best seasons in baseball history last year, but, given such high hopes, the Nationals’ failure to make the playoffs made the season a disappointment. This year, Harper remains the brightest young star in baseball, and the Nationals are in first place. The team’s prospects seem even better than they did a year ago.

Beyond the performance of the Nats, the baseball stadium and Navy Yard area is booming. If you haven’t been to Nationals Park yet this season, be prepared to be shocked by the new restaurants and residential development. We’ve been collecting taxes at a faster rate than we can pay off the bonds used to build the stadium. The success of the stadium deal is clear to see.

Last week, we broke ground for the new D.C. United soccer stadium, to be completed in 2018. The new stadium will add to the economic development around the baseball stadium and the Wharf project on the waterfront to make Southwest Washington one of the most dynamic areas in the country.

EventsDC, the sports and convention authority for Washington, D.C., is finalizing plans for a sports and entertainment complex in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Ward 8. While the facility will be smaller than the Verizon Center, it will still create hundreds of construction jobs for the next two years — and hundreds more staff positions at the complex, which will host concerts, community events, Mystics games and Wizards practices. It will attract investment and visitors to the Congress Heights neighborhood.

EventsDC has also released various proposals for the current RFK Stadium site on the banks of the Anacostia River, including a plan to build a brand new football stadium. The proposal wouldn’t just allow the Washington Redskins to return to their namesake city; it would, like the Verizon Center and Nats Park, spur the construction of new retail, hotels, and businesses, creating jobs for District residents.

These sports and entertainment facilities are often criticized because people say the dollars spent on them would just be spent elsewhere in the District. However, unlike essentially any other stadium in the country, the sports facilities in the District attract spending from residents of other jurisdictions — Virginia and Maryland — that (because of tax-collection limitations in the Home Rule Charter) will not generate tax revenue for D.C. unless they buy things, like sports tickets, here in the city.

Strong sports teams in D.C. are exciting for us as a community, but, even more than that, they are important to diversify and strengthen our local economy beyond the government sector. We’ve worked tirelessly over the past 20 years to make the District attractive to businesses and residents, and we’re reaping the benefits of a broad, diverse economic base. Go, D.C.!

Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.

Metro Needs $1 Billion in Dedicated Funding Alone

April 20, 2016

I testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week about the state of our regional Metro system, laying out in stark terms the problems facing Metro. The system has $18 billion in deferred maintenance, a $2.5-billion unfunded pension liability and a $150-million operating budget shortfall next year (after balancing this year’s budget on one-time money).

I also made clear that the federal government, which — with four board members — has an equal role in governing the system, needs to contribute $300 million per year to the operating budget, just like Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the entity created by the federal government to operate the Metro system, has gone from a shining example of regional cooperation and a futuristic plan for public transit to the mediocre system we have today.

This is the system of the National Capital Region of the United States of America. A system used by many of the region’s 22 million annual visitors from across the country and around the world. A system that transports more than 50 percent of the federal workforce every day. A system that — despite billions of dollars in investment — has been under-maintained for decades, as have our national parks, our highways and essentially every other transit system in the U.S.

I have put the region on notice that we need to come together to create a dedicated funding source for Metro that produces approximately $1 billion per year. I have also begun meeting with regional leaders to assess the different options for a regional funding source.

In 2006, I sponsored — and the District Council passed — legislation that would have dedicated 0.5 percent of our sales tax to Metro, but Maryland and Virginia did not implement a similar dedicated funding source. If we again fail to act on a dedicated funding source, in 10 years it will be much more expensive and perhaps too late to save Metro.

Given Metro’s recent performance and continued loss of ridership, we cannot raise fares and expect anything other than more riders leaving the system. Metro is the economic backbone of the region, and we need to make it our highest priority infrastructure investment.

WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld is putting together a plan to reform the agency and begin addressing the deferred maintenance and safety recommendations from the Federal Transit Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. The agency is also putting together a complete, detailed and prioritized capital-needs inventory to get the system back to the world-class system that the region deserves.

While Metro gets its house in order and develops a roadmap for its revival, the governments, business and citizens of the region — D.C., Maryland, Virginia and the federal government — need to come together to fund these plans. Otherwise, we will be left with the mostly safe, somewhat reliable, mediocre system we have today.

Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.

Strengthening Our Fiscal Footing

April 6, 2016

It’s officially budget season again in the District. Mayor Bowser released her budget proposal two weeks ago and I’ve had the opportunity to review this initial draft. It is a good budget. I want to commend the mayor, CFO Jeff Dewitt and their hardworking teams that have put this budget together.

First, I appreciate that this budget contains only a 2.7-percent spending increase over this year’s budget. In the past, the District’s spending has increased 4, 5, even 12 percent from one year to the next. This is important because it means that, while the District’s economy is expected to grow, an even larger share of the District’s growth will be enjoyed by individuals and small businesses rather than paid in taxes.

That’s especially true as we continue to enact parts of the major tax overhaul that was proposed by a blue-ribbon Tax Revision Commission led by former Mayor Anthony Williams and approved by the Council in 2013. This year, the business franchise tax will drop to 9.0 percent and the estate tax threshold will increase to $2 million from $1 million — a critical increase for the many District families who have seen their home values increase dramatically.

Beyond the overall size of the budget, the mayor’s proposal includes much that I agree is important. For example, the mayor endorsed my position to fully commit the District’s contribution to WMATA’s budget to prevent any fare increases; fund the Housing Production Trust Fund at $100 million; continue to provide much needed upgrades and modernizations to our schools; and, of particular importance to me, fund the Fillmore Arts program for the five elementary schools that lack necessary space for their own arts education.

As good as these moves are, however, there are some areas that continue to be underfunded.

Our local infrastructure — sidewalks, streets, alleys — is in disrepair and needs an increased level of attention. Despite this, the capital budget for Fiscal Year 2017 went down by $6,000 in every ward from what was anticipated in last year’s budget. We need to focus more energy in ensuring that our roadways are safe and secure for all users.

While the budget is strong, we continue to underperform in delivering results on many projects. The Hyde-Addison Elementary renovations continue to be delayed by DC Public Schools planning. In other parts of the ward, we have seen delays in the modernization of Garrison and Francis-Stevens schools and the proposed park over the Connecticut Avenue overpass. In the coming weeks, the Council will hold hearings to question how agencies plan to fully utilize their budgets for the upcoming year.
While this is a good budget, we have to continue to push forward to make our fiscal footing stronger, our government more efficient and our city more affordable and equitable for all residents.

Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.