Crime and Police Blotter, Sept. 20
News & Politics
State of the Media
Claire Sanders Swift • May 23, 2011
May 3, 2010 — Georgetown — Last Saturday, while every White House correspondent in town was dusting off their tuxedo or getting a blow dry, there was Kitty Kelley, famed author of “Oprah: A Biography,” in the heart of Georgetown selling and signing her books for the benefit of the Georgetown/D.C. Public Library. We had interviewed her through the years when I was at ABC news and NBC News, and she was always considered controversial. Her ‘unauthorized’ biographies on the famous icons of our time — Jackie O, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Reagan, the Bushes — dished the dirt and then some (when it wasn’t necessarily as accepted), and sold millions and millions of copies. She has been interviewed by almost every major media outlet out there, including Larry King, Barbara Walters, GMA, The Today Show and 20/20 (when you meet her in person you understand why, she’s quite charming and gorgeous). When I asked her how the book was doing this time around, she kindly whispered, “It will be on the bestseller list tomorrow.” What does this have to do with the state of the media? Keep reading.
That evening, another icon, our President Barack Obama, showed NBC and the world who had the better writing team as he wowed the socks off of the 3,000 or so journalists, White House correspondents and their star-studded friends with self-deprecating jokes fit for, well, a President and for national broadcast. The guest comedian, Jay Leno, was having a bad hair day, totally scripted and clearly just off of the plane from Los Angeles. Can you say red-eye? He missed a beat or two. I’ve met him in person and he’s just one of the great performers of our time. It wasn’t his job to upstage the President. Obama quipped he was glad he was not following Jay Leno because we all know what happens to the act that follows Jay Leno. There was great laughter and it went on and on to great network fanfare.
What’s the official state of the media in 2010? Ad revenues are shrinking, news audiences are morphing, and people aren’t loyal to one news source any longer, according to Amy Mitchell of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, but a good joke or a steamy celebrity biography can still win an audience. Pew’s sobering report confirmed the inevitable: that 1) The notion of a primary news source is obsolete. 92 percent get news from multiple platforms, let alone news sources. 2) Old media still dominate online but that is changing. 3) Revenues are way, way down. Funding for real reporters has decreased dramatically with this loss. 4) Nobody knows where to go until we figure this all out. Basically in the news business it’s a free-for-all, especially now that news users are getting their news content from friends and social media sites. It’s a brave new world out there. Guess who dominated in revenues last year? Fox News!
Back to my chance meeting with Kitty. “How many interviews do you have lined up, Kitty?” I asked. (the book was released week before last) “We’ll see,” she said. The book was released on April 13, and though she has already been interviewed by the Today Show and Fox News, many other outlets, including ABC, Larry King, David Letterman and a host of others declined, due to their allegiance with Oprah. When you dis probably the most famous and enterprising black woman of our time, you are sure to make enemies and friends at the same time. And when you are exposing the ugly secrets of that specific media mogul, who, Kelley reports, is also one of the most controlling forces of our time and has some ugly secrets. According to Kelley, some of the major news media aren’t going to touch the subject. This is Oprah. “Did you know there are 23,000 websites on how to get on the Oprah show?” said Kelley. I bought the book. And the next day, there she was, just like she said, #2 on the New York Times bestseller list in the first two weeks of being released — regardless of network fanfare.
How does this relate to our current state of the media? Information and news are going to continue to be dispersed and where that news is coming from and going is an open field. And no matter how low you go, or how high you fly, if you play your cards right and the stars align you can hit pay dirt, make it on the bestseller list or, like President Obama’s White House correspondents speech, get 455,000 hits in one day on C-Span.
View the Pew Center report at www.stateofthemedia.org/2010.
Claire Sanders Swift is a broadcast journalist turned national media consultant. All Things Media is a monthly column. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with comments.
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Streetcars Nixed, Resurrected
When it comes to talk of the District’s streetcars, you better not blink.
DCist reported at noon today that the city council voted to effectively halt the massive downtown streetcar project by stripping from it $49 million in funding designated in the 2011 budget. However, less than four hours later, WeLoveDC reported the council immediately backpedaled after a deluge of angry phone calls and emails from irate constituents, eventually reinstating the project.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Fenty, who was once an outspoken supporter of the streetcar network, suddenly seemed to desert what seemed like his pet transportation project, saying debate over how to best power the cars had yet to be resolved, along with the question of whether the infrastructure would connect with Union Station. The council’s original vote would have shelved the project until 2014. Several million dollars and over 37 miles of track have already been invested in the system.
The streetcar scheme still isn’t out of the woods, yet, though. After the uproar, the council immediately reinstated only $10 million of the original budget, with a projected $37 million forthcoming.
Still, talk about democracy in action.
Voting in Virginia
-After the BP oil spill disaster, some citizens are demanding change and action from the government. Today, Virginia residents have the chance to use their voices and express their opinions by voting in the 2010 midterm elections. Voters can participate in the congressional primaries and in elections for a number of local and statewide offices. Polls opened at 6 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m. So hurry home from work and vote! A polling address can be located all over the state.
The Georgetowner’s David Roffman Honored for His Work
-David Roffman, a local journalist, philanthropist and former co-owner of The Georgetowner will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Georgetown Business Association on Wednesday, June 16. The award will be presented at a celebratory luncheon at the City Tavern Club, located at 3206 M St. from 11:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
The event will be hosted by former presidents of the GBA including Tom Bryan, Judy Horman, Billy Martin, Paul Cohn, Linda Greenan and Brad Altman. Tickets are $50 for members and $65 for non-members.
That’s A Wrap: DC’s Film Festivals
On June 22 there will be a little taste of Kazakhstan in Washington. Perhaps a little Korea or India better suits your taste? If you are looking for something a little rushed, there is a 48 Hour challenge, or if you just have a few minutes, some DC Shorts.
For those in the know, these don’t refer to restaurants or urban athletics but an underappreciated trend in the cultural life of our city. While nobody was watching, except for those who attended them, Washington has become something of a film festival mecca.
Each year, according to Jon Gann, organizer of the seven-year-old DC Shorts — in which all entries have to be under 10 minutes — there are approximately 75 film festivals in the D.C. area. Nobody seems to quite know many exactly because there are new ones all the time. “I get calls every week from someone saying, “I want to start a film festival. How do I do it?” He credits the cheap accessibility of technology, film schools pumping out people on a mission to make their great opus, and a thirst for something other than the latest canned Hollywood profit enterprise.
And it is not just film festivals. There are regular screenings and documentary award gatherings like the CINE Awards, Emmys, and Kennedy Center Honors awards. Perhaps the most prestigious U.S. documentary festival, Silverdocs, takes place in Silver Spring each summer, and the world’s largest documentary conference, RealScreen, takes over a downtown hotel each spring.
And all this in a town that traditionally “frowns on people who wear black,” jokes Lauren Cardillo, an independent film maker and one of the folks behind the CINE Awards. Award-winning documentary makers Sean and Andrea Nix Fine (Sundance-winning “War Dance”) see it as the difference between watching a movie at home and going to the film screening — where the audience has a richer experience and the ability to interact with the moviemakers themselves. “For us it is also an amazing experience to watch people react to our work.”
Susan Barocas, who heads the DCJCC’s 16-year-old Jewish Film Festival, which had 60 films last year, also says it provides an alternative route to get movies seen as the distribution network has consolidated, squeezing out the small filmmaker.
Credit is due to National Geographic and Discovery, which about two decades ago laid the foundation to make D.C. a hive for independent filmmakers. Yet, to quote comedian Rodney Dangerfield, we still get no respect when it comes to filmmaking, even though D.C. is closing in rapidly on L.A. and New York in festival stature.
Filmmaker Sean Fine says that when he is asked at festivals elsewhere where he is from, people seem reluctant to believe that D.C. could be a hub for filmmakers. But if L.A. has its Hollywood, and New York its Tribeca, DC has its Potomac, and these days lots of great little movies run through it.
The next time you see an eclectic mob strolling out of an embassy wearing a pensive smile, nod knowingly. Or wait for the next showing — another film is likely already being cued up.
Don’t miss these festivals coming up in Washington:
DC Shorts festival (September 9-16) — www.dcshorts.com
Truly independent short films, created by new and established filmmakers with a special focus on films by Washington D.C.-based directors and writers.
ReelAffirmations (October 14-23) — www.reelaffirmations.org
Films focusing on the GLBTQ experience.
Arabian Sights Film Festival (October 9-18) — www.filmfestdc.org/arabiansights
Offering the newest and most provocative films from the Arab world (an offshoot of the D.C. International Film Festival).
Washington Jewish Film Festival (December 2-12) — www.wjff.org
New and award-winning films from around the world, telling unexpected stories on the Jewish experience and debunking stereotypes.
Capital Irish Film Festival (December 2-12) — www.irishfilmdc.org
Featuring the work of contemporary Irish directors. Produced by Solas Nua.
Amos Gelb is the director for the George Washington University’s Semester in Washington Journalism program. Contact him at email@example.com.
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Susquehanna Antique Company
“Traditional” is a word David Friedman admits is a good description of both himself, an antiques dealer, and his shop, the Susquehanna Antique Company. But he’s quick to add that in a modern marketplace exactly how tradition is defined is often subject to different interpretations.
One thing that’s clear is that antiques are a tradition in Friedman’s family. His grandfather started the business in Port Deposit, MD, and his father worked as an auctioneer and used furniture salesman. “I was close to my dad, and was brought into the business at a young age. He could buy something for $10 and sell it for $15. Not everyone can do that. I inherited that from him.”
Friedman has been a dealer since the late ’70s, with the Washington incarnation of the family firm established in 1980. He’s seen Georgetown’s prominence as an antiques district wax and wane over the years, but his own O Street shop has become something of a landmark.
To enter Susquehanna Antiques is almost to go back in time, to an era when antiques dealers were neither interior designers nor merchants in home décor. Baronial-sized dining tables and Philadelphia highboys jostle for space with Continental chests and Chinese porcelains. Centuries of portraits and landscapes fill the walls and are stacked in the aisles. Up the narrow stairs is a warren of rooms with more furniture and art, as well as Friedman’s collection of more than 600 period frames. It’s exactly what an old-fashioned antiques shop should look like — a place where discoveries wait in every corner.
But old-fashioned antiques are often a harder sell in an era when a mahogany sideboard and silver tea service aren’t always part of everyone’s lifestyle. “Traditional furniture, Old Masters, and 19th-century paintings are less of a broad-based focus for people,” says Friedman. “The market is more and more diverse.”
He’s weathered that changing market by virtue of business acumen (“You need a commercial sense of things”), high standards, and a having “a knack for buying what your customers want.”
He’s also an educator for customers for whom a familiarity with antiques may not come naturally. Friedman deals in history and passion, not just objects. He emphasizes that “people want to buy something that’s been selected,” vetted not only for its beauty or utility but also for its meaning and significance.
“Standards stay the same. That’s what collecting is about,” he says. And that just may be one definition of tradition on which everyone can agree.
Susquehanna Antique Company
3216 O St.
Christian Zapatka: Reinventing the Georgetown Townhouse
Frank Randolph: Interior Designer Extraordinaire
John Rosselli: Georgetown’s Antique Aficionado
Marston Luce: In Search of Elegance
Scandinavian Antiques & Living: International Accents
Susquehanna Antique Company: Redefining Tradition
Sixteen Fifty Nine: A Mid-Century Renaissance
The Business of Being in Business
Ari Post •
The financial recession of the late 2000s found the stock market plummeting to near-record lows and real estate frozen. Housing foreclosures and a disturbing rise in small business failures pockmarked the economic landscape. Businesses that had comfortably kept their doors open for decades were going under. Entrepreneurs were suffering the full brunt of financial strife. It has been said that this recession was just short of a depression, that no industry was spared. It is now March 2010. Many economists still consider the country well in the midst of this great recession.
Now is a great time to start a business.
So submits Jack Garson, author of “How To Build A Business And Sell It For Millions.” Founder and head of business and real estate practice for Garson & Claxton LLC, a member of the Washington Airports Authority board of directors and with a veritable laundry list of professional accomplishments, Mr. Garson has credentials that dwarf most in his field. For all his success, his office is nonetheless unimposing — if spacious — and welcomes guests comfortably, without a looming intimidation. The first thing he does after shaking my hand is to offer me an espresso. Whirling clockwise in his chair, he gets to work. The espresso machine is closer to his desk than his computer.
“I’ve only been to Europe once,” he says. “We went to Paris. And my favorite thing was stopping for espresso. Everywhere. I was drinking them all day.”
Mr. Garson, an outed workaholic, is someone who has clearly made his quirks work in his favor. As he hands me the ambrosial caffeine bomb, he proudly exclaims that he knew he was going to be a lawyer since he was 13 years old. By the time he graduated law school, he had already worked as a law clerk for 2 years and found himself supervising men years above him. He knows how to take the bull by the horns, and according to him, now is the time to do it.
Given the recent economic climate, there has been a shortage of investment capital, resulting in few sales of businesses. Those that have been selling are going for exceedingly low prices. However, private equity firms, those in the business-buying profession, are starting to gear up again.
Equity firms buy a business, add to the executive team, beef up sales and revenue, and resell. Then they do it again.
“They want to build up the profitability,” says Garson, “and then flip them. They’re gonna start selling the businesses they’re buying today in three years, and they’re gonna make a ton of money, because they’re buying dirt cheap right now. And they’re gonna tell all of the world how much money they made, because they want to attract more investors.” This in turn will attract a flood of investment into the industry. Because money rotates.
In the last decade, money has bounced from stocks, to real estate, to cash and treasury bonds. “And one of the next places money is going to migrate to is businesses,” says Mr. Garson. “It’s like gold prices tripling, and everyone starts buying gold. People are going to make a fortune buying businesses, and that will attract a lot of money to this asset class. And all those people out there with funds of money are gonna pour their money into it. So, today is a great time to start a business if you have an eye towards converging with selling it in three to five years.”
However, Mr. Garson’s book does not just deal with building and selling a business in today’s financial market. Far more universal, the book is a guideline of advisory self-assessments, insider tips and premeditated judgment calls that any business owner will have to make throughout his career, in good times and bad. It shows a business owner how to keep an eye on the ball at all times, even while juggling prospective buyers and developing human resources. All of Mr. Garson’s advice is punctuated with stories from the field. Whereas many books of this genre tend to be academically formulated, Mr. Garson’s book is sharp, frank, and to the point — not to mention quite readable. This book has been written from the trenches.
“I’ve been in the room when a business has gone out of business because someone has ignored good advice,” says Mr. Garson. “I’ve been in the room when someone has gotten a hundred million dollar check. And I was also in the room for three years before that, and I saw every decision that led to both of those outcomes. I’m writing about real life successes and failures.”
Chapters discuss a variety of succinct topics from common business pitfalls and financial forecasting to government relations — a vital chapter for the Washington entrepreneur. Every one of these points is accented with hard-boiled, true-life anecdotes. “I have made mental notes of all these things for 25 years. There are lessons I learned 25 years ago that are in this book. And I couldn’t keep it in. I had to share it.”
The advantage of the Washington area is not lost on Mr. Garson, a Maryland native. The local economy is vibrant. Where D.C. has always had an anchor in the federal government, “we’re really seeing a lot more of the financial world shift down here,” he says. “A lot of the U.S. is shifting down here”
As a board member of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Mr. Garson has witnessed international flights that previously flew exclusively to New York now landing at National or Dulles. The national news has also been relocating a significant portion of their daily filming to the area. “We’ve always been the political capital of the country,” he says, “but we’re starting to have dibs on a portion of the financial capital. And that’s a tremendous benefit that we have.”
Mr. Garson understands the start-up business. He knows where the mistakes lie, and he is weary of the sore spots. “There’s a lot of rigorous analysis clashing with a lot of dreams,” he says. Mr. Garson balances a tender sympathy for the dreamer with the cold, hard pragmatism of profitability. He should know. He’s among the sect. This book is his dream.
“I always wanted to write. But I wanted to write fiction, I wanted to write the great American novel. I didn’t want to write a business book. But this is what I knew. You have to write from what you know.” And Mr. Garson certainly knows the business of being in business.
There’s a temptation on my part, sitting in Kitty Kelley’s sun-drenched Georgetown office, to say “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”
?About every half decade or so, we sit down to chat in the stormy aftermath of the publication of one of her books in which she has taken on the mighty, the powerful, the awesomely famous, rich, and legendary, and rendered them very human in her inimitable way, which delights hordes of readers and infuriates not only the subject of her books, but any number of apologists and high-minded critics.
?Inevitably, I ask yet again: So, what’s next? Kelley swears and vows, probably with her fingers a little crossed behind her back, that she’ll never write an expose again, or put herself through the eye of what is a self-created storm.
?This time that storm is “Oprah,” the mega-bucks talk show host, friend to presidents, the nation’s literary guide, magazine publisher and, in some mass-communication way, probably the most influential African-American woman in the world. In other words, another unauthorized biography full of controversial, highly inflammatory and often negative information about a woman who’s mostly revered, adored and admired by millions.
?“I don’t know why I keep doing this,” she says again. “This one was especially difficult to do, maybe the most difficult … maybe you noticed: no CNN, no Larry King, no Walters, not much television. There’s a reason. Everybody is very loyal in this business, and with Oprah, also afraid. They pretty much told me as much.”
?Kelley, a small, stylish, blonde woman who can trade barbs, stories and humor easily, has charm that’s undeniably genuine. But while there are lots of cat figures in the living room of the office, and while there have been cat-and-catty jabs at her from some less-than-kind critics, there’s no question that she can defend herself when necessary. Even a suggestion that some material in her books might be off target draws a heated defense of her work. “I’m a biographer,” she says. “I write unauthorized biographies. It’s not a term I entirely like because the reputation of the word makes it sound like it’s merely sensational. And that’s not true. I’ve never been forced to make a retraction about anything in any of my books. I’m a trained researcher, that’s what I did when I worked in newspapers.”
?Inevitably, she shows me the room containing the nearly 3000 files of interviews, references and material that accumulated during the course of putting the book together. Similar volumes of raw material emerged in writing her previous books.
?“It’s like living in somebody else’s life for, what, five years now,” she says. “And Oprah is endlessly fascinating. I admire her, she’s accomplished so much. But, for one thing, she didn’t come from the dire poverty she’s always talked about. And that’s just one thing.”
?There are stories that emerge in the book that, if they’ve existed at all, came from out there in the dimmest reaches of rumor land, including the assertion that the man she’s always claimed as her father isn’t really her father, and that she had a child out of wedlock as a teenager.
?Part of the problem with a subject like Oprah, and for that matter, Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Nancy Reagan, Frank Sinatra, the royal family and the Bush family, is that so much is out there already. Kelley’s subjects are the supernovas around which a planetary system of scribes, sycophants, biographers, paparazzi, gophers, family members, and history itself rotates. With Oprah, this is also true, only much more so. She is her own supernova. In her daily talk shows, she has talked so much about herself, her problems and triumphs, her family, her struggles and dissatisfactions with her weight and looks, that it seems her life is an open, tearful and triumphant book of its own.
?Who, then, needs a Kitty Kelley book about Oprah? Well, we do.
?“She’s done enormous good in the world, and I think she’s an influence for good,” Kelley says. “But she’s also hidden a lot of her life, she has a darker side. She’s not a saint.”
?“Oprah” is a terrific read, much in the same way that all of Kelley’s other books work. They have a monumental speed to them, they rush and throw accumulations of detail that in the end give you a big picture. The “tell” stories aren’t as important as they appear at the book’s arrival — it’s the overall weight of material, painstakingly accumulated and acquired, that is telling. In this case, they round out the story, like a very big Paul Harvey “rest of the story.”
?In the long run, all her books are about fame, they’re very American in their focus, even the book about the royal family, which of course included a hefty section on Princess Diana. They’re about fame and its flipside, infamy, about the importance of success and celebrity in American life. One of the telling things about all the books, whether they concern royal Brits, American singing legends, political dynasties, movies stars or billionaire talk show hosts, is how they bring out an essential homegrown vulgarity that seems to be as natural a by-product of fame as breathing itself.
?And every book is a pain, a project fraught with dangers and difficulties. In these efforts, she has a dogged, persistent quality that can only be called courage.
?“None of the people I wrote about ever submitted to interviews,” Kelley says. “Not that I wouldn’t have loved to talk to Oprah, but she, like everybody, gave no interviews.”
?“It was hard to get some interviews,” she says. “You’d be surprised how afraid people are. She has a powerful bully pulpit in that show, she knows so many people. But in some ways, she was my best source, from the shows and the magazine.”
?Sinatra apparently was not amused to be made into a Kelley title, a book that for many people made it less fun to listen to a song like “I Did It My Way.” The Bush family closed ranks, and mounted a negative attack campaign prior to its publication, which just happened to be near election time in 2004. Matt Lauer put Kelley through a grinder in two interviews on the Today Show, which she handled deftly.
?She’s one of those people who’s proud of some of the enemies she’s acquired — they’re a kind of validation of the work. No amount of attacks, criticism, charges of sloppiness or inaccuracy deter Kelley or her readers. “We’re debuting number one on the New York Times bestseller list,” she says, indicating that being number one makes for a good Sunday morning.
?She and her husband, Dr. Jonathan Zucker, still live in Georgetown, where she just held a book signing at St. John’s Episcopal Church on O Street, the proceeds of which went to charity.
?“It’s my home,” she says. “I love Peacock Café, I like the gym at GU, the streets, the old homes, the shops, the people. What’s not to love?”
?Listening to her talk about her work, over the years, is to recognize that while she may complain about the mountainous work involved, she’s also driven by keen curiosity, and a pride of profession. She doesn’t much rely on decorative style or literary allusion, just stories, anecdotes, dug-up facts, cross-references. Gossip and rumors, the daily diet bread of our lives, are the spice in that mountain of stuff, not its essence.
?She has no plans for her next book, and says she won’t do another. We’ve heard that one before.
Signed copies of Oprah’s book are available at Proper Topper (Georgetown, 3213 P St., Dupont Circle, 1350 Connecticut Ave. and online at www.propertopper.com). All proceeds will go to the D.C. Public Library for the Peabody Collection — and matching funds from a generous donor. [gallery ids="99126,102655,102649" nav="thumbs"]
The Jack Evans Report, May 5
-The anticipation at the Verizon Center last Wednesday night could not have been greater. The Washington Capitals, our great hockey team with the best record in the National Hockey League, was playing in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Caps, after losing the first game at home, ran off three straight wins and led the series 3-1. They then lost one at home and one in Montreal. We all knew the Caps were the better team and looked forward to a great victory at home. It was not to be and we lost 2-1. Thus another disappointing end for a Washington team, a city that hasn’t had a championship in the big four since the Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1992.
Washington has now gone longer than any other city without a championship in a major sport. (As an aside, kudos to Mark Ein of the Kastles and D.C. United — both teams have brought championships home to the District.)
So where is the future of Washington sports headed? Actually, to a very promising place.
The Capitals will be back next year just as good and hopefully advance to the finals. The Redskins appear to have a good coach, a new quarterback, and a new outlook. We will all have our fingers crossed come September. The Wizards franchise may have a future. Ted Leonsis (of Caps fame) now owns them and we hope he can bring his winning ways to our lackluster basketball team. Good luck, Ted.
Finally, have you been to a Nats baseball game this year? Go. The team has a winning record and is off to its best start since their first season in 2005. It’s probably too early to tell but we may be in for an exciting summer.
So here’s to the future of Washington professional sports. The day will come when we again bring home a championship.
The author is a city councilmember representing District Ward 2.
The Jack Evans Report, May 19
-Next week on Wednesday, May 26, the D.C. council will vote on the fiscal year 2011 budget. The District’s next fiscal year runs from October 1, 2010 through September 30, 2011. The current budget was prepared by the mayor beginning in October 2009 and submitted to the council on April 1, 2010.
By law, the council has two months to hold hearings and pass a budget. It is then sent to the mayor for his veto or approval. If approved, it is then sent to Congress for their approval by October 1, 2010.
Because of the slowdown in the economy, the city’s revenues are no longer increasing and, as such, reductions need to be made in our spending. The mayor’s FY 2011 budget is balanced and relies on significant spending cuts and increases in a number of fees and penalties. It also relies on spending additional money from our fund balance, i.e. our savings account.
I have analyzed the mayor’s budget carefully and have the following observations.
The cuts he recommends are painful but necessary. The amount the city spends has increased significantly the past 10 years and now it is time to reduce spending. Tough choices need to be made.
The fee and penalty increases are problematic. Our residents and businesses are tired of being nickeled and dimed to death. People don’t want to pay this government any more money. Thus the proposal to increase parking meter fees and charge more for basic licenses, etc. should be reversed.
Finally, spending more from our savings account to fund agency operations is bad policy. In 2007 our fund balance was $1.6 billion. It is currently $920 million and would be $600 million in 2012. The city would have spent $1 billion of its savings, which will really hurt our position in the credit market.
If the council does not accept the mayor’s increases in fees and does not wish to spend from the savings account, it must identify additional funds to balance the budget. In addition, many members of the council want to add back the mayor’s cuts and unrealistically fund new programs. This also takes new money.
Several council members want to raise taxes to pay for this spending. Nothing could be worse for the city. Increasing taxes in a recession is bad policy because it allows the spending to keep increasing, forcing us to increase taxes again the next year. The proposals put forward include, among other things, a raised income tax, new taxes on tax-free bonds, and extending the sales tax to services. Given that the District is ranked 51st in tax burdens, it is very counter-productive.
I will continue to work hard to balance our budget without further burdening our residents and small businesses.
The author is a city councilmember representing District Ward 2.