Is Health Care a Moral Issue?

May 5, 2011

“We have a moral obligation to the country to do this.”

So said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, as he proposed enormous cuts in federal spending by radically overhauling the health care system. His plan, delivered last week, projects saving the federal government $4 trillion by reshaping and reducing health care benefits for the elderly, poor, and disabled.

What exactly is the moral obligation? Reducing the debt or providing health care? This may be the most pressing moral issue “we the people” face over the next forty years. Do we have a moral obligation to cut spending or raise taxes (or not raise taxes)? Or, do we have a moral obligation to provide health care to our elderly, the poor, and the disabled?

Clearly health care is a moral issue. As a nation, we have enormous moral disagreements on critical health care issues from conception to life-sustaining stem cell research to death.

For the past sixty years, we have debated whether health care is a moral issue, that is, whether we as a nation have a moral obligation to provide health care to everyone or whether each individual is responsible for his or her own health care. Except for the United States, every democracy on earth believes it has a moral obligation to provide health care to its entire citizenry.

As health care costs rise unabated, the line between cost and care is becoming blurred. Medical expenses are the cause of 50% of all personal bankruptcies in recent years. (Ironically, bankruptcy was a “moral” issue a generation ago. Today, bankruptcy is an economic option with virtually no moral implications.) As a nation, we are beginning to approach a similar precipice.

Mr. Ryan deserves enormous credit for making a bold proposal. As promised, his proposal reduces federal expenditures. On the other hand, it doesn’t save any money. It merely shifts $4 trillion of costs over the next ten years from the federal government to state governments and to the elderly, poor, and disabled.
By replacing Medicare with a stipend and instructions to “buy your own insurance,” most of the elderly will have less health care. The theory is that tens of millions of retirees will rise up together and negotiate better rates with the insurance companies. Somehow IBM, GE, Microsoft, AT&T, state and city governments, sprawling university systems and non-profits, and other huge organizations negotiating on behalf of tens of thousands of employees can’t do that, but the elderly can and will.

Even though the average annual cost of Medicare per person is approximately $11,000, the proposed stipend is about $8,000. Can private for-profit insurance companies which have administrative costs of 20% or more learn to be more efficient that the non-profit Medicare system with its 3% administrative cost burden? (On a personal note, I’m 61, healthy, eat right, and am active. However, because of hip replacement surgery five years ago, I’m not insurable. A state-sponsored “high risk pool” will cover me for approximately $17,000 per year with annual increases in the years ahead.)

If you were born before 1958, you’ll still get Medicare. If born after 1957, you get a stipend that covers about 75% of your projected health insurance cost. Although the Ryan proposal provides that the stipend increase with inflation, health care costs are rising at triple the inflation rate. Under the Ryan plan, the average retiree would have to spend almost half of his or her retirement income on health care. Retirees better become great negotiators.

Mr. Ryan proposes block grants to the states to cover the federal government’s share of Medicaid costs. Over ten years, he proposes decreasing federal Medicaid spending by $1.7 trillion (that’s a “t” for trillion, not a “b” for billion), or 39%. State governments are struggling to meet their share of Medicaid today. How are they going to absorb more, especially $1.7 trillion more? Clearly, they can’t. The message to the poor and disabled is: fend for yourselves!

Real death panels will emerge. Not the fiction used to scare people into opposing the recently passed health reform law. Instead, if families can’t afford health care, they will choose between death and . . . well, whatever other choices may exist.

The Ryan plan pits old against young, rich against poor, those who vote against those who don’t, and those who make political contributions against those who don’t. This isn’t a fair fight. Apparently, the “We” in “We the people” does not mean all of us.

The 2011 Patrons Party, Hosted by Leslie Morgan and Perry Steiner

May 4, 2011

The annual Georgetown House Tour has long marked the start of the social season. Begun by St. John’s Episcopal Church as a program to help those in need, the House Tour has since become one of the most anticipated events of spring. Keeping its stamina throughout the years, the Tour continues to be touched by the hands of those who are passionate about Georgetown and desire to give back to their community.

“The House Tour is a great event for tourists or anyone in other parts of DC who love how beautiful Georgetown is in the spring,” said Leslie Morgan Steiner, the hostess of this year’s Patrons Party.

Steiner, who was born at Georgetown Hospital and has lived in the neighborhood for most of her life, is the perfect example of the spirit of the House Tour and the more fortunate giving back. An acclaimed writer and author of two books, Steiner, who’s “crazy busy” life now revolves around her small kids, still takes time to enjoy and be involved in the community, where she can be found helping out at Little Folks preschool, or taking care of herself at Down Dog Yoga. “I really love Georgetown and love living in a place where I have strong roots,” she said.

Steiner, a longtime friend of Frida Burling, was asked by the House Tour matriarch last year if she would open up her home for the Patrons Party, which kicks off the Tour on Thursday April 28. The Patrons Party was established 11 years ago by Burling as a new way to raise more money for the agencies benefitted by the Tour. Patrons Party hosts have included former Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee and his wife Sally Quinn, author Kitty Kelly and D.C. developer and mega-mall owner Herb Miller and his wife Patrice.

Last year the party was held at the historic home formerly owned by the late Evangeline Bruce, whose current owners are Debbie and Chairman of Georgetown Bank, Curtin Winsor. This year the party takes place on Q Street.

Steiner and husband Perry have lived in their Federal style red brick home for 10 years. The house, built in 1808, is “a little unusual by Georgetown standards,” according to Steiner. The house went under two major renovations after being purchased by the Steiners in 2001. Dale Overmyer is the architect of the Steiner’s two-story house. The interior is wide with four large open rooms on each story. The historic house is unique in that it still extends from Second Street to Orchard Lane. This was the way all old houses around it once appeared before the carriage houses were sold and the master homes subdivided.

Steiner’s home is “very much a kids house,” she says, admitting that most people think they have to leave Georgetown when they start a family. And she has a point. Few houses in the city can accommodate an indoor basketball court, a large grassy backyard with a sports court, swimming pool and pool house. The Steiners even have more parking than you can find in the city, with their garage that can hold six cars. “We have all these benefits, its almost like living in a suburb,” said Steiner.

The Patrons Party will be the Steiners first time hosting a society event, as they put down a soccer ball in exchange for a wine glass, all in the name of charity. The Steiners admire the Ministry of St. John’s and the work they do for DC. Although not members of the church themselves, they are heavily involved in other facets of the community.

Steiner is on the board at Maret, the school her kids attend, and the halls she once roamed herself. She is also a member of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, a group she describes as, “amazing, and something we all benefit from.” Steiner also works with Weave DC, a women and children’s domestic violence charity that provides legal advocacy and shelter. Her husband is an active soccer and basketball coach with the Jelleff Boys and Girls Club.

The couple is evidently heavily involved in the neighborhood, balancing family, community, and now taking their first step in the Georgetown’s infamous society events. We wish them the best of luck.
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The Jack Evans Report

This week Council’s Subcommittee on Redistricting held two public hearings in the Council Chamber. According to federal law, the District must perform a redistricting of its eight Wards within 90 days of the Council’s receipt of the Census report, which happens every ten years. This year we have to complete our work by July 14. After the Ward redistricting process is complete, the Council will review and make adjustments to the boundaries of the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) and Single Member Districts (SMDs), both slated for this fall, with the entire process wrapping up by the end of the year.

In my 20 years on the Council, there is no issue I have encountered that evokes a stronger emotional reaction than redistricting. There are two primary approaches the Council could take in reviewing the Ward boundaries. One, to move as few people as possible within the outskirts of the legal parameters we face would attempt to minimize the disruption to the extent we can. Another, to move each ward as close to the mean as possible with the rationale that it is not fair to have Wards 7 and 8 as the lowest populated Wards in the District. There is no way to make everyone happy in the redistricting process, but my goal will be to maintain and reunite neighborhoods when possible, making use of census tract lines, natural boundaries and major traffic arteries to create logical Ward borders within the framework imposed on us by federal law.

The average population of all the Wards of the city is 75,215, based on a total District population of 601,723. When divided by eight, this creates a “target,” or benchmark number for the Council to use in determining necessary changes in boundary lines. The minimum allowable population per ward is 71,455, and the maximum population 78,976. According to the Census data, this means that Ward 2 must lose at least 939 residents to be within the statutory requirements, or as many as 4,700 residents to get to the average population. In contrast, Ward 7 must gain at least 386 residents or 4,137, to get to the target. Ward 8 must gain at least 742 residents at minimum or 4,503 to get to the target number. With regard to SMDs, the target size is 2,000, with an ideal number of 301 SMDs. The minimum population for an SMD is 1,900, and the maximum population 2,100.

The process is far from complete. We heard from a number of witnesses this week and will continue to consider input received electronically or by mail in the coming days, before introducing a plan for mark-up in the next several weeks. After the mark-up, the Subcommittee on Redistricting will hold a third hearing to receive public input on the plan, prior to its review by the full Council. I invite all residents to participate in this process and to visit our redistricting website at, which has important information about the redistricting process.

April 26, Voting for At-Large DC Councilmember

April 28, 2011

Election day for the at-large city council seat, vacated by Kwame Brown upon taking the position of Council Chairman, is tomorrow, April 26. If you talk to people about the at-large council election, many of them will tell you this is one of the most important council elections in DC’s history. Whoever wins may well be the deciding vote on many critical issues.

Currently, the council is swarming with division—Chairman Kwame Brown is seen as being in big trouble, and Mayor Gray’s office is muddled with difficulties which have yet to resolve themselves, and his influence over council matters is currently seen as sharply reduced.

Into this mess have stepped a number of candidates for the at-large council chair, including one on the council now, familiar faces, fresh faces and able candidates.

Here is a rundown of the frontrunner candidates in the campaign—Vincent Orange, Sekou Biddle, Patrick Mara and Bryan Weaver—from their professional history to their accomplishments and goals for the city’s future. Please explore the candidate’s own web pages for more comprehensive information on their specific platforms on key issues such as education reform, the city’s budget, sustainable energy and green innovations, development, and government regulation and oversight. Whatever your decision, be sure to vote tomorrow and have a say in the future of this city.

Vincent Orange

Orange was defeated in the bid for Council Chairman by Kwame Brown in the previous election, but this longtime city servant has a great deal to offer the District. Trained as a CPA and attorney, Vincent spent years working for local businesses and non-profits including the National Children’s Center, Inc. He served two previous terms on the City Council as Ward 5 Chairman, spearheading efforts to bring much-needed development to underserved communities. He is a champion of school reform, inner city development through partnerships with local business and sustainable energy innovations to reduce energy costs.

His history with the city, as well has his fundamental and holistic understanding of its needs, is what The Georgetowner believes this city needs right now.

For more information visit ([]

Sekou Biddle

Currently serving as interim councilor, Biddle was supported in his selection by the Democratic Committee to be interim councilman by Mayor Gray and Council Chairman Brown. He comes from the same school reform background that helped form Michelle Rhee and her successor as Chancellor Kaya Henderson. However you feel about his selection as interim council member, it’s given him a leg up in terms of dealing with present council members, the kind of experience only Orange has.

He was born and raised in Columbia Heights and has spent his professional career devoted to improving public schools, through Teach for America, Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) DC, and other inner city teaching programs, with almost two decades of experience in urban public education reform.

Biddle is a member of the Council’s committees on Housing and Workforce Development, Aging and Community Affairs and Libraries, Parks and Recreation.

For more information visit ([]

Patrick Mara

Mara, the lone Republican candidate, has been endorsed by the Washington Post as a strong candidate to offer an independent voice to the DC council.

Mara, with his young(ish) Irish charm, got some political seasoning when he ran against Carol Schwartz (a GOP stalwart, albeit of the liberal sort for years) and beat her in a primary, only to lose the general election to the newly minted Independent Michael Brown a few years back. We assume Mara has learned a thing or two from that experience, and he stayed in the fray, winning election to the school board. Mara considers himself socially liberal, having supported gay marriage rights and needle exchange programs (shed by the GOP), while being financially conservative.

Having begun his career on the staff of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Mara is also a past contractor at the Department of Energy and NREL where he specialized in renewable energy and green transportation projects.

For more information visit ([]

Bryan Weaver

Weaver is a longtime Ward 1 community activist who has spent plenty of time on his local Adams Morgan ANC board. He has worked on coalition building in local and national politics, promoting liveable and affordable urban neighborhoods, crime prevention, education, community and economic empowerment, affordable housing issues and nonprofit work geared toward youth leadership development. He is a true believer in the economic and cultural diversity of Washington D.C.

Weaver began got his start in politics as an aide to the late Senator Paul Wellstone and as an aide to Reverend Jesse Jackson.

For more information visit ([]

Vote For Vincent Orange on April 26th

April 25, 2011

The Georgetowner Newspaper endorses Vincent Orange for the at-large city council seat because he will bring experience, maturity,
independence and citywide knowledge
to the table.From his previous experience on the District Council, Vincent Orange knows how to put together a budget (balanced in his time on the council) and knows the law (he cannot claim any silly “mistakes”). He is in favor of a balanced budget without raising taxes, and he is keen oneducation. We admire his life story and his family.After the latest highly-publicized embarrassments
for the District’s leaders, can an experienced candidate bring a breath of fresh air to the District government?
We think so, and we believe Orange is the one best suited for the job.While we acknowledge the others running
for the seat, such as interim interim at-large councilman Sekou Biddle and candidate Patrick Mara (endorsed by the Washington Post), and feel they have much to offer in future public service to the District of Columbia, we find Orange to be the best overall pick for the city at this timeOrange is about getting jobs into the District; observe the future opportunities
of the new city center and development on the Anacostia waterfront.
He respects and listens to all citizens from MacArthur Boulevard and Western Avenue to Martin Luther
King Boulevard and Good Hope Road. He knows Washington, D.C., well—including Georgetown.He is a responsible, sensible man during an urgent time that calls for accountability, common sense and common sense solutions. He deserves
to become our new councilman-
at-large, fighting for greater representation before the powers that be and representing you every day.Whatever candidate you choose to support, make sure to cast your vote on April 26 for at-large Councilman

Celebrate the Royal Wedding in DC

April 21, 2011

Can’t make it to the royal wedding where Prince William will marry Kate Middleton? There’s an app for that. Westminster Abbey has released a new app ahead of the Royal Wedding, giving users the chance to virtually tour the Abbey. On April 29, Prince William of Wales will marry Middleton, who he met at the University of St. Andrews. Their relationship, widely covered in the media, spans eleven years and includes a Lifetime movie portraying their relationship, William & Kate, which premiered on Monday evening.

A total of 650 people were chosen to celebrate at the Palace: 50 guests received their invite directly from the Queen, 250 were invited by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall and 100 by the Middleton Family. William and Kate have invited 250 of their friends and family. Only 300 of the guests will stay for the evening reception hosted by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. Westminster Abbey, the venue of the Queen and Queen Mothers wedding, will host the Marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, on Friday 29 April at 6 a.m.

The wedding will take place at 5 a.m. EST, which may be too early for you to hold your own viewing party, so we suggest a few places to go and celebrate.

But if you weren’t one of the handful of invitees, here are a few things to do around town to catch the big day:

Aylesbury Antique Center and Tea Rooms in Loudoun is featuring Royal Wedding Celebration Teas throughout April. The teas ($19.95/person) include a variety of traditional English sandwiches, home-baked scones, sweet treats and Yorkshire tea. For reservations, call 703-868-6935 or go to

The Ritz-Carlton will offer guests the opportunity to watch the “Wedding of the Century” in style at a breakfast and viewing party. Guests who don’t want to make the trek down in the early morning can also stay overnight for $429 (the breakfast is $40), including the price of the breakfast buffet that will include scones with clotted cream and jam, English rasher & bangers and black pudding. The breakfast also includes 18 Carat Sapphire Cupcakes from the hotel’s executive pastry chef Daniel Mangione and a specially commissioned Twinings Royal Wedding Commemorative Blend, sourced from Catherine Middleton’s home county of Berkshire. To book a reservation for The Royal Wedding Breakfast & Viewing Party, please contact Restaurant Reservations at 202 974-5566.?

Over at AGAINN, a Chinatown gastropub, donated teapots to the restaurant during April will get you a free appetizer or dessert. The restaurant plans on displaying and serving tea in all of the donated teapots. Aside from British fare of scones and finger sandwiches, AGAINN will be serving Prince William’s favorite cake (chocolate biscuit cake) and the traditional royal wedding cake (fruit cake). Proceeds from the cakes will go to PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland, a DC-based charity the royal couple is donating to as well. You can enter to win a tea party for you and your friends if you’re getting married like Ms. Middleton.

Across the river in Old Town Alexandria, Mystique Jewelers is throwing a Princess party on April 28 from 5 to 8 p.m., complete with tiaras, champagne, cupcakes and jewelry fit for a princess. The event is free, but register at

Union Jack’s in Bethesda is opening extra early, at 5 a.m., to ladies in hats and men in trousers. Enjoy a complimentary champagne toast as the couple says “I Do,” in addition to $10 bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys. All 25 TVs will be set on the event and Baltimore’s WBAL-TV will be here broadcasting with live interviews. They’ll continue the celebration during happy hour starting at 4 p.m. with wedding-themed door prizes and raffles of such items as wedding bouquet and centerpiece from The Flower Basket, lingerie from Bra-La-La, Silpada jewelry, gift card and hair products from Victoria & Albert and Ghost Tour for 13 in Ellicott City.

The British Pantry in Alexandria will be holding special wedding teas the week of Tuesday, April 26 through Saturday, April 30. A raffle will be held daily and each tearoom patron will be entered to win a commemorative royal wedding gift. At $25 per person, you’ll get mini tea sandwiches, scones and cakes at either two times during the day: from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1:30 to 3 p.m.

If you can’t make any of these events, you can always celebrate the royal wedding in style at various tearooms across the city. For $25 at the National Cathedral, you tour it and then follow it with a traditional English tea with sandwiches, scones and a scenic view of Washington. Tour and Tea is offered every Tuesday and Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. Reservations with payment are required in advance.

At the Henley Park Hotel near Mt. Vernon square, you can order a traditional tea in the Wilkes drawing room that comes complete with a fireplace. Trios of finger sandwiches including Scottish smoked salmon, watercress/cucumber and egg salad are among the treats on the tea menu. Call 202 638-5200 for reservations.

The Hillwood Estate and Gardens in Van Ness offers an afternoon tea every Sunday at Hillwood Café, which for $20 includes a glass of sparkling wine, a selection of teas, sun-dried cranberry-walnut chicken salad & roasted pear and Roquefort blue cheese blini finger sandwiches, cheesecake lollipops and éclairs. Call 202 686-5807 for reservations.

Georgetown House Tour: Benefiting the Georgetown Ministry Center

April 20, 2011

According to longtime Georgetown House Tour chairwoman Frida Burling, the annually anticipated House Tour has chosen to benefit the Georgetown Ministry Center “for what seems like forever.” Burling admits that it is an organization she “just adores,” and for whose services she is greatly appreciative.

The Georgetown Ministry Center is a small organization that has quietly been making a difference in the Georgetown community for years. They are a unique social service continuing to better the neighborhood they serve, with one main goal: to get the homeless off the streets.

“We’re not content with just helping people be comfortable,” said Gunther Stern, Executive Director of the Ministry. “We are looking for ways to get people off the street, to connect with them with access to resources and a real intent to help.”

Wearing many hats at the Ministry, from administrative work to in- house barber, Stern stands clear on that mission.

And his mission is a difficult one. Many of the clients that walk into the Ministry, on Wisconsin Avenue, have a mental illness they often aren’t comfortable admitting. The Ministry sees between 30 to 50 people a day, seven days a week. Their hours are currently 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., but Stern hopes to complete some construction on the facility soon to allow the Ministry to stay open until 5 p.m.

During their drop-in hours the Ministry offers counseling, information and referral services. Showers and laundry are also available to clients and typically run between eight and 10 a day.

In addition, the Ministry offers computers for client use. The computers turn off after an hour of use and clients are generally happy to share. “People will be using a computer, but will get up and willingly offer it to someone else if needed,” Stern said. “Its really neat to see.”

In an effort to keep with the Ministry’s intentional helping hand, a psychiatrist lends professional help to clients daily. In addition to seeing people inside the Ministry, he also reaches out to those on the streets and in the alleys of Georgetown.

The Ministry has a unique outreach in which the staff literally hits the streets in effort to reach the most vulnerable and withdrawn of the homeless, lending an ear and a hand or, if nothing else, preventing hyperthermia in the colder winter months.

The Ministry’s Winter Shelter is a safe haven for the homeless who face living on the streets in harsh weather conditions. The program runs from November to mid-April, rotating semi-monthly among member congregations in Georgetown.

And the ministry’s presence in Georgetown has not gone unnoted. The community has given back to the Ministry with events such as The Spirit of Georgetown, The Taste of Georgetown and Help the Homeless, which was a great success this past year.

Help the Homeless, a walk to end homelessness, was put on by Fannie Mae this past fall, and according to Stern raised $176,000 for the Ministry. Proceeds from the walk and other events fund the Ministry’s general operations.

As the Ministry strives to continue to improve the community and move the homeless off the streets, Stern’s long-term goal is much different from other organization’s. “If we didn’t have any homeless on the street, and we were put out of business by this time next year, we’d be happy,” Stern said.

Until then, Georgetown Ministry Center will work towards their goal of ensuring everyone has somewhere to call home, and the House Tour is a wonderful community event to show off the homes of those more fortunate, while not forgetting those who are down on their luck.

DC Lives Green

Five years ago, amid the fragrant scents of vegan and vegetarian dishes at Java Green, a few loyal patrons of the restaurant began to talk. Many of them were environmentalists and the topic on their menu was green business. The goal was to make green living accessible for all DC locals.

Steve Ma, a DC resident who has been doing environmental work for the past 21 years, was one of those patrons. “The owner [of Java Green], D.J. Kim, had this vision of a greener world,” Ma said. “He said, we need to have more green businesses, more green people. We need to be living in green places, working in green places, and we should start a group to do that.”

Ma took that vision to heart. From those conversations the idea for DC Live Green, an online organization designed to make green living simple, was born.

Since its launch in 2008, the site’s mailing list has swelled from about 1,000 to 26,000 subscribers, and the organization has partnered with more than 75 green businesses throughout DC, from cleaning services to yoga studios. To capitalize on its rapidly growing success, the organization was awarded the Environmental Excellence Award in 2009 by Mayor Adrien Fenty, along with many of the businesses that Live Green sponsors.

Through its website,, DC Live Green works as a tool for residents to help them find affordable, quality services that are also eco-friendly. For $13 per year, members are given discounts to many of the businesses the organization sponsors. DC Live Green also recently launched its sister site,, a deal site for green products. The system operates similarly to Groupons; each week, Live Green offers subscribers a 40 to 70 percent discount at one of its sponsored green businesses.

“We want people to try green businesses out and know that we screen for not only whether the business is green, but we also make sure the business is high-quality and affordable,” said Ma, whose official title is now Board President and GEO (Green Executive Officer) of DC Live Green. “We want to make sure you realize that being green doesn’t mean you have to lose out on quality or price.”

From their small, wind-powered office building, the DC Live Green team works in a shared space, clustered around desks made from reclaimed doors where they search out, screen, and partner with an ever-expanding list of businesses.

Each candidate is put through a vigorous five-part selection process. This ensures not only that a business’ products are 100 percent green, but that its operations are green, its goods or services are high in quality, their products are competitively priced, and that the business is socially responsible and active in the community.

“We look at all of those things, and when they pass our screening, we know that they are truly on a leading edge. They are what we would identify as triple-bottom-line businesses,” Ma said. “These are businesses that run on the concept that they’re gonna do good for the planet, do good for society, and make money at the same time.”

Yet Ma says DC Live Green is more than just a helpful website. It’s also a place to strengthen and grow Washington’s green community. Aside from its role as a forum for green-minded people, the organization also hosts regular events such as last February’s Single Green Mingle, a chance for eco-friendly singles to meet and exchange ideas and phone numbers. Live Green also helps budding businesses through the greening process, linking them up with other DC businesses that can provide them with environmentally friendly energy and other services.

“We want to build a community,” Ma said. “We want to pull it offline as well; we want people on the online community to interact with each other. I think it can be difficult to think about all of these things and incorporate these things into your life, but when you have a supportive community and know that other people are doing it with you, it makes it a whole lot easier.”

Ma himself works hard to make sure that his personal life is also a good example of green living for the environmentally conscious community. He is a practicing vegan, he walks or bikes most places and, although his neat green button-down and jeans would never betray it, he buys almost all of his clothes from Goodwill and other second-hand stores.

At the age of 17, Ma was introduced to the green community when opportunity literally knocked on his door in his home state of New Jersey. The local Public Interest Research Group was going door-to-door raising awareness about the state’s use of toxic chemicals. Ma seized his chance and joined the campaign, starting his journey from a teenager who ate McDonald’s once a week to a man tackling environmentalism in the nations’ capital.

This year Ma is going even further in his mission to make people aware of the impact they have on the environment by keeping an open record of all his purchases and acquisitions, excluding food, on the Live Green website. He hopes this exercise will not only force him to think twice about the items he buys, but will also inspire others to do the same.

“It’s just a good reminder that one of the things we can do to be green is to reduce the amount of stuff that we buy, and when we do buy things to make sure that they’re either used, or we’re buying the green version of the things that we need,” Ma said. “This is not about telling people that they shouldn’t buy anything ever. I think the point is when we do buy things, just buy them more intentionally.”

But DC Live Green’s objective is not just to help you green your purchases, but your whole life. According to Ma, there are five important aspects to being truly green: transportation, food, energy, stuff and impact. He points to alternatives such as Zipcars, eating less meat and dairy, finding offsets for your home’s energy use, and buying green or used items as simple ways to make your life greener on the whole. Impact refers to the number of people that you encourage to go green with you such as friends, family, or coworkers, from cooking communal vegan dinners or carpooling.

“When you can find those things that are not only easy, but also impactful and very affordable, I feel like that’s where we can spread this movement to millions, to the masses, to all of us. And that’s ultimately our mission,” Ma said. “We want to grow a thriving green economy and transform this struggling, unsustainable economy to one that’s doing very, very well.”
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Jack Evans Report

On April 1, Mayor Gray submitted his Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposal to the City Council.

The total budget for the District is $9.6 billion. Of that amount, 58% or $5.5 billion are locally raised funds, 27% or $2.6 billion are federal grants, and the remainder is enterprise funds raised and spent by entities such as the Convention Center and Water Authority. The federal money is the same amount proportionally that the states receive. I must stress that the federal government does not make any separate contribution to the District. This federal payment was eliminated in 1996.

The unique problem with the Mayor’s budget is that it calls for $300 million more in spending than the FY 2011 budget. The budget has grown by over 3% when budgets of cities and states nationwide are shrinking. The Mayor then intends to pay for this increase by cutting spending by $187 million and by raising taxes $127 million. The spending cuts are modest and do not have any measurable effect. It is interesting to note that the DCPS budget actually increases, the only school budget in the nation to do so.

The proposed tax increases are problematic. The budget increases the income tax on persons making over $200,000 from 8.5% to 8.9%, the sales tax from 5.75% to 6%, and the parking tax from 12% to 19%. It also extends the sales tax to live theatre events, implements combined reporting on corporations and doubles the Circulator bus fee from $1 to $2.

This budget marks the first time the City has proposed raising the income tax in thirty years and will once again make the District the highest taxed in the region and the fifth highest in the nation. The other tax increases are also anti-business and not competitive. None of these tax increases are necessary.

If the Mayor wants to increase spending in certain areas, he should offset those increases by making hard decisions to spend less elsewhere. This has not happened.

Absent from the budget are any funds to increase the size of our police force to 4,000 sworn officers. Because of reductions in the public safety budget, the police force is in danger of falling below 3,800 officers that Chief Lanier believes to be necessary. The City needs at least $40 million to get back to the 4,000-officer level.

I will be working with my colleagues on the Council to eliminate these tax increases and to fund our police department. Last year for the first time, I voted no on the FY 2011 budget. We cannot afford to move forward another budget in which we don’t live within our means.