Greig: The DC Council and Ward 2 Need a Fresh Start
Published in Greater Greater Washington by Fiona Greig October 27, 2011 10:27 am
The District of Columbia is at a turning point. The strategically important issues for our city’s future are broader now than they were 20 years ago.
This is particularly true for Ward 2 where I live with my husband and daughter. It’s time to think more boldly about our future as a city
and to pivot to a broader strategic agenda.
Unfortunately, our council too often holds the city and my ward back through a focus on yesterday’s challenges and successes. Instead,
members should be asking what are the issues that must become central to the Council’s agenda going forward?
20 years ago the city was hemorrhaging residents and attracting few new residents to take their place. This damaged our tax base, and contributed to our fiscal problems.
Today, attracting new residents isn’t a problem—retaining them once they have children is the new strategic challenge to growing our
One would expect that the DC Council would have pivoted to focus on schools, parks and walkable, livable communities. Yet we still have councilmembers who see parks and transportation as constituent services, not as the linchpins to improving our city’s fiscal position. We have councilmembers who disengage from education issues instead of holding the Mayor accountable for outcomes in their Ward. city’s tax base. Schools, parks and walkable, livable communities are the issues that are critical to retaining these families and thus to growing our tax base.
In Ward 2, parents aren’t asked by their councilmember what would convince them to send their kids to their public schools. Their councilmember isn’t engaged in the discussion on middle schools, despite the fact that half the elementary schools in Ward 2 feed into a middle school (Shaw) with 29% reading proficiency.
20 years ago the city was mired in bloated, slow-moving agencies that couldn’t deliver basic government services. Today, DC agencies generally deliver the services that residents pay for with their taxes.
The challenge for the future is to deliver more with less through smarter government. Yet we still have councilmembers who believe that 5% across the board cuts will make government more efficient. Instead, we must look to re-engineer government processes to squeeze out waste and fraud in a targeted way.
Earlier this year, KPMG warned in an audit that conditions at the Office of Tax and Revenue were ripe for continued theft, and sure enough another theft was discovered last month. My own councilmember refuses to hold hearings on the conditions at the Office of Tax and Revenue, which is under his oversight. He says, “My job is to do oversight. It’s not to catch people who are stealing”.
Our council won’t be able to effectively address this new strategic agenda while it’s mired in the ethics scandals that have so tarnished the city’s past. With this next election, it’s time to send a message that conflicts of interest are no longer tolerated and that ethics scandals are not just embarrassing to the Council, but, more importantly, to residents.
My councilmember has not offered any ethics legislation and has said the problem the Council is facing “is not because the laws need changing.” I couldn’t disagree more. Even the General Counsel for the Board of Elections and Ethics says that “the ethics laws of the district are not sufficient.”
Do you believe that the DC Council needs a bolder vision for the future? What do you believe the strategic issues are that the council must address?
Come out and let me know what you think tonight, Thursday, October 27th, 6:30 pm at Stoneys (1433 P Street, NW). I’ll be there with others who want to move past ethics scandals and yesterday’s news and start talking about the future of the District of Columbia.
Fiona Greig is a prospective candidate for the DC Council from Ward 2. The views in this article are hers and do not necessarily represent those of Greater Greater Washington. We invite all candidates running for the DC Council to share their views with our community, but reserve the right to edit posts to fit our content and format rules. If you are a candidate and would like to submit an article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.