Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Can Creative Use of Shipping Containers Help Solve the DC Low Cost Housing Crisis?


Candidate for COUNCIL CHAIR, Nov. 4, 2014

The lack of low cost housing is one of our major problems in DC. We are now growing at the rate of 1,000 new people a month. However, it is becoming harder and harder to find moderately priced (affordable) housing, and almost impossible to find
low cost housing. I have already written about this elsewhere on my blog.

That article on March 17, 2014 titled DC Low Income Housing Needs New Ideas points out that if the city keeps raising annual property assessments 10% and more, a mere 2% increase in rents will soon drive owners out of the rental market. Owners are faced with increased taxes every time a neighbor renovates their home. If one has not installed granite counters, stainless steel appliances, and fancy tiled bathrooms, why should the tax assessment be raised in parallel with the neighbor's fancy new house?

Therefore, if the Council continues to permit the 2% increase, they should also limit the increase for unimproved homes to no more than 2%. The increase in market value can be raised at time of sale at the actual market price.

I also wrote about the move to promote very small homes. These can work well as single units, but what of locations where apartment buildings make more sense or there is a high volume of need. Now I see a possible new solution: SHIPPING CONTAINER HOMES (Google that for many interesting articles).  In addition, the Google site “Shipping Container Home Plans" has hundreds of photos of home plans and actual buildings, some of which are multistory, multifamily.

 Recently, TV news reported on a multistory building going up at Catholic University to house students. We should plan to build similar structures in other parts of the city. The containers come in 20 and 40 foot lengths, are 8 feet wide, and 8'6” or 9'6” high. The photos mentioned above show many possible configurations using 1 and more units.  The above photo shows a 5 story structure.

For ease of construction and mobility of units multistory steel frameworks could be designed and individual units inserted. The city could allow leasing of plots of land for 10, 20 and even longer periods of years for erection of these frameworks. Thus people could buy their own unit and it could subsequently be moved to another part of the city if they change jobs or want to be closer to family.  If a renter's economics improve or they are able to get funding from a bank or home ownership program, such units could even be permanently located on a foundation or pad. Thus the nearly universal wish for a home of ones own could be made available to many more people than is possible today.

At the recent Anacostia High School Mayoral Forum, I spoke with a vendor of "Street Sense" a newspaper by and for the homeless.  I told him about the concept and described one of the 20 foot unit plans that had a bathroom with shower, and a kitchenette with an undercounter refrigerator.  He said, "That is all I want, just a little place to call my own with a lock on the door."  When I said I believe that a small unit like that could be built for $20,000 to $30,000, he became very excited.

Checking mortgage rates for such a 20 foot unit, I calculated various costs for a $30,000 unit.  A 15 year mortgage at 4.5% would cost $230 per month.  A 20 year mortgage at 4.5% would cost $190 a month.  A 20 year mortgage at 4.5% for a $40,000 cost would require rent of $253 a month.   A 40 foot unit might cost less than twice as much, and would be suitable for a childless couple or single parent with one child.  Doubling the monthly pay yields $460, $380, and $506.  Evening considering the extra costs of utilities, these prices are still very doable for many poor and low income people.

The company linked here has detailed pricing and design information.  They appear to use higher quality materials and appliances than might be needed for a low cost housing program.  A house 16' by 20' (composed of two 8 x 20 units) is priced at $80,300, shipped, roofed, assembled and placed on a foundation.  The price for a 20' x 24' home (composed of three 8 x 20 units) treated as above is $101,300.  Two 8 by 20 units intended more for vacation or off grid use are priced $29,000 and $36,000.

This site showing homes around the world has a low cost house built in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It is number 15. Sarah House, and in a 12+ minute video the designer/builder explains how he has tried to make this house suitable for singles or seniors.  It is constructed from two 8' by 40' containers, and the narrator estimates cost from $103,000 to $112,000 to build.  He also points out that if mass produced, it would cost a lot less.  The above price includes learning and experimentation costs.

I hope our city has some builders, architects, and politicians willing to explore new and creative ways to house our homeless and poor.  Whether elected or not this November, I will try to help make this happen.

For creative leadership of the Council, VOTE G. LEE AIKIN, Nov. 4, 2014.

Monday, October 6, 2014

EBOLA Is Here, But Nobody Is Trying Low Cost, High Doses of Vitamin C, Although the Symptoms Say Scurvy

HOW MANY EBOLA VICTIMS COULD BIG PHARMA KILL? If They & Medical Establishment Don't Try Low Cost Readily Available Treatments like high Vitamin C doses.

If you care about human suffering, read this and pass it on!

Ebola is an incredibly nasty virus currently causing death and severe economic hardship in 3 west African countries. Several other west African countries also have cases but seem to be coping better. It is spread by direct contact with bodily fluids of the ill. The US military is sending teams of soldiers to help establish medical facilities and other things needed where the breakdown is most severe. The most effective measures currently applied are basic sanitation, and isolation of those sick or potentially infected. The MSM word is that we may have some new drugs or vaccines soon, that could reverse the infection trend around December (maybe).

When I first heard about the horrible symptoms, my immediate thought was runaway scurvy—breakdown of tissues, massive hemorrhage, and then death. So my next thought was, “Has high dosage Vitamin C, oral and/or intravenous been tried on Ebola?” Google search turned up a lot of information about this, with the opinion it could be highly effective and should be tested immediately. The sad part is nobody in CDC, NIH, our Military, or major hospitals has mentioned Vitamin C as a potentially useful low cost treatment. Of course Big Pharma has no interest in it because their profits come from new drugs and vaccines.

Here is a very detailed article, by Dr. Robert Cathcart, somewhat technical, with extensive details on how to evaluate amount of Vitamin C to use, and how much and how often to administer it. There are also a number of medical references.  If you know any medically oriented people, please forward this to them immediately.  Ebola is here, and we don't want any more people to die.

I first became aware of high Vitamin C therapy more than 30 years ago when I read about pioneering work being done by Dr. Frederick R. Klenner of North Carolina, using it to save people from poison snake and spider bites. He went on to treat many other conditions with considerable success as outlined here. After his death about 30 years ago, his many papers were organized and summarized here as a guide for clinical use.

A few years after I read about his work I was camping and encountered a group desperately trying to help a woman bitten in the neck by yellow jackets. She had forgotten her bee allergy kit, her body was swollen all over, her eyes swollen shut, and she was choking. I immediately gave her 10 grams of C orally (had to crush and give in water because of swollen throat). In 15 minutes, the swelling had gone down, her eyes were open and she had stopped choking. I also gave some Pantothenic Acid to help her adrenals, some B Complex and calcium. After an hour she still had symptoms so I gave her another 5 grams. I stayed with her a total of 8 hours, giving 5 g. every hour. Then she said she felt she could sleep, so I left her with a handful of C tablets to take as needed. She hiked out the next day.

Below are other sites and comments.

Here are a series of detailed articles on various aspects of Ebola and other diseases. They include ones on the great value of using Vitamin C, similarities in Ebola and other hemorrhagic viruses, how to treat yourself, noneffectiveness of colloidal silver (an anti-bacterial agent) for virus illness, and possible weaponization of Ebola/Marburg.

     “Ebola is probably the best known of a class of viruses known as hemorrhagic fever viruses. In fact, Ebola virus was initially recognized in 1976. Other less known but related viral syndromes include yellow fever, dengue hemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever...Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, Venezuelan, Brazilian, Argentine, and Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, and Lassa fever. The Ebola virus infection, also known as African hemorrhagic fever, has the distinction of having the highest case-fatality rate of the viral infections noted above, ranging from 53% to 88%.  A new mosquito borne disease called Chikunguna, origin east Africa, is now spreading throughout the Caribbean.  My son in Puerto Rico says it is almost impossible to find Vitamin C in the stores because the government advises using it for this new illness and Dengue Fever.

     These viral hemorrhagic fever syndromes share certain clinical features. The Cecil Textbook of Medicine notes that these diseases are characterized by capillary fragility, which translates to easy bleeding, that can frequently lead to severe shock and death. These diseases also tend to consume and/or destroy the platelets, which play an integral role in blood clotting. The clinical presentation of these viral diseases is similar to scurvy, which is also characterized by capillary fragility and a tendency to bleed easily. Characteristic skin lesions develop, which are actually multiple tiny areas of bleeding into the skin that surround the hair follicles. some cases even include bleeding into already healed scars.

     Ebola virus and the other viral hemorrhagic fevers are much more likely to cause fatal hemorrhaging before any other fatal infection has a chance to become established....The virus so rapidly and totally metabolizes and consumes all available vitamin C in the bodies of the victims that an advanced stage of scurvy is literally produced after only a few days....viral hemorrhagic fevers typically only take hold and reach epidemic proportions in those populations that...have low body stores of vitamin C...found in...severely malnourished Africans. In such individuals, an infecting hemorrhagic virus will often wipe out any remaining vitamin C stores before the immune systems can get the upper hand and initiate recovery.

     First of all, as anyone who knows about scurvy can state, vitamin C helps blood vessel walls keep their strength. But there is something far more serious at play with Ebola that vitamin C impedes. Something even more sinister than blood vessel weakening happens when Ebola depletes all Vitamin Cand that is a greatly accelerated release of blood vessel damaging cytokine IL-6. Any medical professional will be able to quickly look up the fact that vitamin C impedes the release of cytokine IL-6, which Ebola causes severe releases of in blood vessel walls. Once released in huge amounts, IL-6 further irritates blood vessel walls to such an extent it can blow holes in them, and this, combined with the already weakened condition from a lack of vitamin C will cause many vessels to rupture.

     In short, vitamin C is like a magic Ebola bullet that not only curtails the release of blood vessel damaging cytokine IL-6, it also, at the same time, makes blood vessels return at least to normal strength (and possibly beyond with very high dosings.) These two things working together make vitamin C the probable best first line of defense against Ebola that is possible.

     But there is more to this story than that…Since IL-6 plays a huge role in damaging blood vessels, it is important to stop its release. And there are some very simple foods that can be eaten that facilitate this....Green tea can curtail cytokine IL-6 release by 21 percent (which pales compared to vitamin C, but would be a bonus). Of similar value are apples, cinnamon, most berries, choke cherries, pomegranates, olive oil, flax seed oil and fish oil.

     You should avoid caffeine and chocolate, because though both have the potential to help in some ways, they also have the potential to totally offset all benefit in everything else eaten (but this has not been fully studied out by anyone with regard to Ebola as far as I know of,) it is just that doctors who know this a whole lot better than I do say the chemistry could possibly go very negatively, so to be safe, avoid caffeine and chocolate.

     The foods mentioned above pretty much round out the list as far as I know, and further playing around with things like garlic (which is great for practically anything) and hot peppers, ginseng and other blood thinning foods will probably be detrimental with a hemorrhagic fever.

     The bottom line is that if Ebola does take off, those in the know do not just have to sit in fear and wait for death to come. Diet and vitamin C can easily make the difference between practically living normally through it all, or dying.”

[GLA Note:  We should immediately ship massive quantities of Vitamin C and C powder to the emergency areas to widely distribute for daily preventive use by at risk populations, and for medical treatment of those who are ill. Our soldiers over there should be taking Vitamin C daily to reduce likelihood of infection by Ebola and a number of other nasty illnesses.]

The medical establishment has not made low cost Vitamin C therapy and prevention a priority, this article gives more details on why they should.  I recently heard a report about vaccine use.  It was hoped that weaker doses could be used to treat more people.  Perhaps a study should be made to see if Vitamin C administration in 2 to 4 grams doses or perhaps even higher would enable the body to utilize the vaccine more effectively in smaller amounts.

     “….The few labs that do have access to testing Ebola are unlikely to be testing the effects of vitamin C on Ebola any time soon. However, two top medical vitamin C experts believe that it could help. As extraordinary as this might sound there is NO VIRUS yet investigated that a sustained high dose of vitamin C, given intravenously, or in high and continuous oral doses, hasn't killed off or substantially suppressed.

     Dr Robert Cathcart, who has more experience treating potentially deadly infections with high dose vitamin C than any other doctor I know of, says, “the Ebola virus kills by way of free radicals which can be neutralized by massive doses of sodium ascorbate intravenously”. He refers to the case of Nurse Pineo saying she 'was the first white that survived the Lassa fever (another hemorrhagic fever) outbreak in Lassa and was taking vitamins of her own accord. (Fuller, JG. Fever. Reader's Digest Press. 1974.)' I have not been able to verify details of this case.

     In his book ‘Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases and Toxins: Curing the Incurable’ Dr Thomas Levy describes how high dose vitamin C has successfully eliminated all known viruses. 'I have not found any virus for which vitamin C does not exert a virucidal effect, as long as enough vitamin C reaches the virus, such as in any acute infection.' According to Dr Levy “the virus so rapidly and totally metabolizes and consumes all available vitamin C in the bodies of victims that an advanced stage of scurvy is produced after only a few days.” He proposed that the haemorrhagic fever, inducing internal bleeding, which is the primary cause of death in Ebola, is remarkably similar to scurvy.”

     What is known is that the greater the strength of an infection the higher doses of vitamin C a person can tolerate before reaching ‘bowel tolerance’ level, after which a person gets very loose bowels. [GLA note: burning urine or acidic farts are also a sign that one should reduce the dose slightly.  In addition when healing seems to be happening, Vitamin C dose should gradually be reduced.  Sudden stop can lead to a dangerous rebound effect.] This does suggest that the stronger the infection, which produces free radicals, the more rapidly it would exhaust vitamin C, which attempts to quench free radicals, potentially leading to acute induced scurvy, the main symptom of which is haemorrhage.

     Both experts point out how important it is to achieve sufficiently high vitamin C level in the blood plasma, and to keep it high. The stronger an infection the more vitamin C is used up, hence also the more you can tolerate before reaching 'bowel tolerance'. Even if this doesn't occur it is terribly important to keep yourself hydrated at all times.

     There are many potential reasons reason why high dose vitamin C makes a lot of sense in the treatment of Ebola. Viral infection is known to generate oxidative stress, which could be attenuated by vitamin C. Also, vitamin C has been shown to inhibit viral replication in vitro. And we know that in vitro very high doses of vitamin C generate hydrogen peroxide which has antimicrobial actions, but you would probably need intravenous vitamin C, or at least extremely high oral intake, to induce this effect.

     The other thing I find really interesting about Ebola, but have yet to find the full story on, is that it appears to affect monkeys (primates) and fruit eating bats, but not other animals. Now, the only animals I know of who cannot synthesise their own vitamin C are primates, fruit-eating bats, guinea pigs, capybaras and the red-vented bulbul bird. So, if all vitamin C producing animals are immune, or at least survive if infected, that is really interesting. Infection appears to have primarily originated from handling dead primates and fruit-eating bats. It would be interesting to know if bats have lesser or no fatality than us humans by virtue of their high vitamin C intake.

     Meanwhile, we have no proven drug or vaccine, although the Zmapp drug (a mixture of three genetically modified humanised monoclonal antibodies, originally derived from mice, guinea pigs and monkeys) in the limited number of cases so far tested, seems to have substantially increased survival rates. While not all given Zmapp have survived, it seems that those with stronger immune systems, given a strong enough dose early enough during an infection, have. However, it has not been subject to clinical or safety testing so is very much in the experimental stage. Also, sadly, supplies have run out so it is a very limited option. A vaccine against this particular strain of Ebola is currently being rushed through into clinical trial stage.

     ….there is certainly good logic, in the absence of other available treatments,, for the leading medical authorities to review the use of Vitamin C and for clinicians to consider this option.. Intravenous vitamin C has been used, and tested, for cancer, sepsis, and various infections with a very good safety record. A review in 2010 of 9,328 patients treated with IV vitamin C concludes that ‘Other than the known complications of IV vitamin C in those with renal impairment or glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, high dose intravenous vitamin C appears to be remarkably safe, .”  It is also worth pointing out that vitamin C treatment can be complementary to any other medical treatment,..as it helps the immune system to function better.

     My advice, whenever there is a virus of any kind going around, is to keep your daily vitamin C level up. I take 2 grams a day in divided doses, and 1 gram every one or two hours if I get the first signs of a viral infection (e.g. blocked nose, itchy throat and headache). In the case of Ebola I would recommend immediate intravenous vitamin C. To find out what I have learnt about other killer viruses such as swine and bird flu and Vitamin C read my blog 'Can vitamin C kill swine flu?”

Other Information

Since the medical establishment will be slow to follow up on this low cost treatment we need to take responsibility for our selves and our friends. Pass this information along wherever you think it may help. Inform medical and health service people you know.  Buy a stock of Vitamin C for yourself and family. Remember, your body burns up or excretes Vitamin C rather quickly, so plan to take some 3 or 4 times a day when under stress or ill. It appears that most animals which produce their own C make an amount equal to around 2 to 4 grams a day compared to human weight.  

Another substance with powerful anti-scorbutic effects is PYCNOGENOL.  Today, it is commercially made from the bark of a French maritime pine.  It enhances the lifespan of Vitamin C metabolites.  The explorer Cabot discovered the effectiveness of pine bark when Indians along the St. Lawrence river saved his crew dying from scurvy with pine products.  I would use this in conjunction with Vitamin C therapy if I could find it. 

I am allergic to house dust, mold and other air borne substances. I have taken 3 to 6 grams a day of C for decades, and rarely get sick (which I did often before that). I divide that quantity and take it 3 or 4 times a day. When I start to sneeze or get a scratchy throat I pop a 1 gram (1,000 mg.) tablet which usually solves the problem. When starting to house clean I take 2 grams to protect against the dust.

So whether you are worried about Ebola or just Flu and the common cold, stock up on Vitamin C for the winter and worry less. If you have friends in danger areas send this blog post to them. If they want it, ship some Vitamin C to them as well.  If your soldier is headed for west Africa, give him or mail him a generous supply.

Friday, October 3, 2014

In 2019, DC Council Approval of 2 Tax Revision Commission Recommendations Will FINALLY Put $85 Million Annually in Our Pockets


My 10 year effort to restore Tax Fairness to Working Poor and Middle Class is now bearing fruit (slightly).  G. Lee Aikin, Candidate, Chairman of the City Council, Statehood Green Party.  The Council has just approved (11 to 2) a phased in implementation of this proposal.  For comparison here is a summary of Mayor Gray's proposals. New details below.

If you would like to support my efforts, please send a check written for "Elect G. Lee Aikin," to 1754 Swann St., NW, Washington, DC, 20009.  I am now running for Chair of the DC City Council in the Nov. 4, 2014 General Election.

In 1973 when DC obtained Home Rule, our DC income tax Deductions and Exemptions (D&E's) had parity with the Federal IRS 1040 rates. Unlike the Federal rates which increase yearly with inflation, the DC rates only increased when our Council remembered to do so. For almost 40 year the mostly Democrat DC Council has failed to increase them annually.  In 2004, after I brought this inequity to David Catania's attention, he tried to introduce a bill to "couple" these rates. 

This Council failure means that for 2013 taxes a family of 4 paid DC taxes on all income above $10,800. What a kick in the gut for poor families! With the Federal D&E rates this same family of 4 only paid IRS taxes on income above $27,800.   How wonderful if our families could have had those deductions for 2013, this year, 2015, and 2016.  But, no, they will have to wait until 2017 before they can even begin taking higher Exemptions on their children or themselves.  Even then it will only be about half of the federal Exemption.

This Council failure has cost us well over a $billion throughout the years since we got Home Rule.  I cannot even begin to calculate the harm this his done to our working poor and lower middle class.  Has it been one important factor in forcing people, especially families, in Anacostia out into Prince Georges County?  Think how much money has NOT been available for local spending.  Imagine what a difference it will make for local small business if we are getting this $85 Million back every year.  We must persuade the Council to speed up implementation.  It will especially pay dividends with businesses and people in our poorer communities.

The Tax Revision Commission agreed this was grossly unfair. They wanted to put $85,000,000 back in our pockets annually. Did they want us to wait 5 more years for the full benefit?  We must all lobby Council members or elect Council members to get this done quickly, not waiting until calendar 2020 (for the 2019 tax year).  Here are the current DC rates compared with the Federal rates by family type and numbers.  The bill just voted by the Council (May 2014) will phase in the increases over a 5 year period.
FAMILY SIZE – Deduction    DC Tax     Federal Tax
[Using 2013 figures]                   D&Es        D&Es                                                                                                
Single, under 65                        $ 5,775       $10,000
Single, over 65 or blind                7,450         11,500
Single, over 65 & blind                9,125         13,000
Couple, under 65                          7,450         20,000
Couple, 1 under 65, 1 over 65      9,125         21,200
Couple, both over 65                  10,800         22,400
Couple, both over 65, 1 blind     12,475         23,600

Single, 1 child                               7,450         16,750*
Couple, 1 child                              9,125         23,900
Single, 2 children                          9,125         20,650*
Couple, 2 children                     10,800         27,800
Single, 3 children                        10,800         24,550*
Couple, 3 children                       12,475         31,700
Single, 4 children                        12,475         28,450*
Couple, 4 children                       14,150         35,600

The above chart is by no means complete. There are other credits and benefits the very poor may be able to deduct, but this chart starkly shows how decades of Council neglect have systematically injured poorer people and families. This one simple fix, is worth $85 million a year. But urge your council members to speed it up! VOTE: G. LEE AIKIN. See tax posts at my blog: gleeaikin.blogspot.com for other information.

When our Council actually passed a bill to implement this and other TRC ideas at Phil Mendelson's urging, I was overjoyed. But then was shocked to see it phases in slowly, not fully until 2019.  Moreover, the Deduction for "dependents" (children) doesn't even BEGIN until 2017.  Then it will be $2,200, about half the federal Deduction.  Our Council's choices seemingly designed by some to drive families (especially black ones) from DC continue.  Our families have already lost over $1 billion over the years thanks to our Council's neglect.  No more waiting!!

 I have only found one report of actual benefits by salary class*.  Individuals earning $25,000 to $50,000 gain only $352.  People earning $10,000 to $25,000 and $50,000 to $500,000 all gain more. Only people earning above $500,00 might pay more, depending on their allowable Itemized Deductions.  What a betrayal. This is why I have chosen to run for Chairman of the Council in Nov. 2014. No more gifts to upper income taxpayers at unfair cost to the poor and middle class. 

When the Tax Revision Commission began its work, one goal was to provide fairness to the middle class.  The middle 20% ($38,000 to $62,000**) of DC taxpayers were paying over 11% of income in taxes.  The bottom 20% and top 1% paid a little over 6%.  Has the Council corrected this unfairness?  I doubt by much!  I can't wait to see an Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) or Fiscal Policy Institute evaluation of the Council's handiwork.

I should point out that the above chart is by no means complete. *These figures include the additional amounts for "Head of Household" or "Qualifying Widow/er" on the Federal form which apply to one adult caring for dependents. There are other credits and benefits that the very poor may be able to deduct, but this provides a stark overview of how decades of Council neglect have systematically injured poorer people and families. This one simple fix, is worth $85 million a year. Let's get it phased in more quickly. Lobby Council. VOTE: G. LEE AIKIN for Chairman.  Unfortunately, the Council felt it was better to implement this measure over a 5 year period so that upper income people and businesses could get large tax deductions.

Here in summary is what the Council has approved for the Deductions and Exemptions:

Standard Deduction: fully implement in 2017; 
    $5,200 single, $8,350 married in 2015 and 2016.
    The 2017 full federal rate will be higher than its current $6,100 each.
Personal Exemption: fully implement in 2019; 
    $2,200 in 2017; $3,200 in 2018
    In 2019 the full federal rate will be higher than its current $3,900.
High Income PE: fully implement exclusion in 2015; 
    incomes over $150,000 single, $200,000 married.
    If excluded from the federal rate it is unclear what their rate will be.
Note that the Personal Exemption, which means everyone in the family, does not even START until 2017.  This is very hurtful to families with children, especially lower income families with children.  The Standard Deduction only helps single and married adults.  I guess gentrification is more important than our families.  Many of them have been driven out of DC by our high tax rates.

I would also like to pass a bill to allow anyone with a medically certified disability, who is as handicapping as a blind person, to deduct the same amount as a blind deduction. The federal government should also consider adding this to the 1040 form. From years of experience caring for a husband dying of Alzheimers, I can assure you that in the last 3 years he required more care than a blind person. We have many sick and injured in DC who should be eligible for this tax consideration.  The burden on caregivers is considerable. This deduction would pay for occasional relief.

How to Pay for More Rapid Phase-in of Higher
DC Deductions & Exemptions?

Several TRC recommendations for raising income were not considered or acted on by the Council.  Since increasing the sales tax from 5.75 to 6% affects lower income people more it was considered regressive and not increased.  On the other hand, a proposal to have a $100 per employee annual local services fee was not given much consideration.  That is unfortunate given that 70% of DC employees are not residents and we get no tax benefit from them although DC pays for the roads and police services from which they benefit.  Follow up reports by TRC members like Fiscal Policy Institute's Ed Lazere provide useful insights,

Business property taxes were not changed, but changes for low value properties would help low income owners.  Currently, homeowners pay 85 cents per $100 assessed value.  On the other hand owners of business property pay $1.85/$100 above property value of $3 million.  Below that the rate is $1.65/$100.  We should have addition rates of $1.45 for businesses $1 million and below, and $1.20 for businesses $500,000 and less.  This might save small businesses across from the new Walmart in Muriel Bowser's Ward 4, which are mostly assessed under $500,000, who are also being hurt by loss of parking they used to have in front of their stores for quick pick-ups of food and merchandise.

The Business income tax (D-30) that was reduced from 9.975% now to 8.25% by 2019 should be scaled back to 9% or 8.75%.  The TRC did not seem to feel there was a big problem with competition from MD and VA.  In fact at a follow-up meeting the TRC stated the biggest problem is that DCRA and other agencies are not business friendly.  In Virginia, a big project is immediately assigned a government point person to speed permitting and other red tape.

A major harm to very small businesses is the fact that all businesses grossing more than $12,000 need to file the inscrutable D-30 tax form.  This figure was set in 1986 and needs to be updated.  The $100 minimum fee/tax was increased to $250 recently.  This is totally unfair without increasing the gross to $30,000.  A lot can be done to improve the D-30 which will make life easier for small business and probably improve collection amounts.

The implementation of the TRC suggestions was made possible by cutting the short term budget for an extended street car system in half.  Just how much more than the late, but soon to begin, H St. portion of this system should be built is very controversial as this article shows.

See my other tax posts on this blog for more information on this and other issues.  Check the Index posted Sept. 3, 2013.  All tax related issues are dated in red.

*From Jack Evan's Newsletter of July 17, 2014.
**From 1-30-13 ITEP table 1, The Impact of DC Taxes on Different Income Groups.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Free DC: The US Capital is the Last Plantation. Guest Post - Scott McLarty

     Last week (9/15/14) I was excited to attend Sen. Tom Carper's hearing regarding the need to allow our taxpaying citizens in DC to become a state with all the rights of the 300 million other citizens in the US.  The medium sized hearing room was packed with standing room only and a sizable line outside the door hoping to get in.

     It was pointed out that no other major capitol denies its residents full citizenship rights. When Argentina and another country wrote a new constitution based on our own, the citizens of their capitals were so outraged that this peculiarity enshrined over 200 years ago in our constitution was quickly corrected in their two constitutions.  We must insist on this too.  Scott McLarty's article below has other interesting details.

     If you elect me to be Chairman of the DC Council this November 4th, one of my first acts will be to expedite action on fine tuning and passing the bill to provide a million dollars for an aggressive campaign to promote Statehood.
G. Lee Aikin, Candidate, Council Chair

A Step Forward for Democracy in D.C.

By Scott McLarty
FireDogLake, September 16, 2014

"The capital of the nation is the last plantation!" "Free D.C.!"

For decades, residents of "America's last colony" have clamored for the same irrevocable rights as other citizens of the United States.

The movement to bring democracy to the District of Columbia took a step forward on Monday, September 15, when local political leaders and representatives of pro-democracy groups testified in favor of statehood for the nation's capital city before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/congress-takes-up-bill-to-make-dc-the-51st-state/2014/09/15/189a499a-3cd3-11e4-9587-5dafd96295f0_story.html).

The subject of the committee hearing, which was led by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), was the "New Columbia Admissions Act" (S. 132 (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s132); with counterpart bill H.R. 292 (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr292) in the U.S. House).

Among those testifying were D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who holds a nonvoting seat in the House, and Mayor Vince Gray. The hearing is unlikely to lead to passage of the two bills any time soon, given Congress's ongoing gridlock and Republican hostility to D.C. statehood.

But the hearing represents an advance for the statehood movement because a new unity behind the goal of statehood was on display.

Until recently, many of the same officials who now seek statehood preferred another goal, "D.C. voting rights," which meant a single voting seat for the District in the House of Representatives. Ten years ago, Del. Norton and other Democratic leaders who favored D.C. voting rights tried to discourage D.C. democracy advocates from demanding statehood (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/jul/27/20040727-123845-5269r/). Endorsement of statehood was removed from the Democratic Party's national platform in 2004 and still hasn't been restored. The promotion of D.C. voting rights legislation led many people to confuse voting representation in Congress with statehood.

This was a mistake. Self-determination and self-government, not representation in a legislature, are the true measures of democracy. Colonies in Africa and Asia and conquered European nations like Ireland held voting seats in the legislatures of nations that ruled over them, even while they suffered exploitation and oppression. Many of these colonies, like Algeria, a French possession until 1962, became free only after violent revolutions.

Our own Founding Fathers and Mothers in the thirteen colonies fought for independence, not voting rights. Patrick Henry never said "Give me a vote in Parliament or give me death."

The D.C. voting rights legislation went nowhere, and not only because of Republican contempt for the rights of D.C. residents. Even when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, most recently in 2009 and 2010, no meaningful expansion of the rights of D.C. residents has taken place after limited Home Rule was granted in 1973. Legislation to grant statehood to D.C. was defeated in the U.S. House in 1993 by a vote of 277 to 153.

Statehood advocates (those not distracted by D.C. voting rights) have always understood that the lack of voting representation in Congress is just one of several reasons for statehood, and that self-government and full equality under the U.S. Constitution for the District with its black majority remain part of the unfinished business of the Civil Rights Movement. (For a more thorough history of the D.C. democracy movement, see "The D.C. Statehood Papers: Writings on D.C. Statehood & self-government" by Sam Smith, http://prorev.com/dcsthdintro.htm)

Until D.C. becomes a state, Congress holds the power to veto locally passed decisions and impose unwanted laws, policies, and budgets on D.C. residents. Congress threatens to nullify a local marijuana legalization measure: in July, 2014, a Maryland Republican Representative inserted an amendment into the District's 2015 Appropriation Bill that would stop decriminalization of marijuana from taking effect and remove the initiative from the D.C. ballot in November. In June, House Republicans blocked funding for a law passed by D.C. Council that would eliminate the threat of jail time for marijuana possession. In 1998, Congress overturned a ballot measure for medical marijuana (Initiative 59) that had passed with a 69% majority.

Congress has imposed zero-tolerance laws and a charter-school program; outlawed needle exchange in D.C. to prevent HIV transmission; and prohibited District government from taxing commuters, a source of revenue for all other cities. Congress members have tried to enact the death penalty, impose a school voucher program, and deny benefits for same-sex couples. In 2001, Congress, through an appointed Financial Control Board, ordered Mayor Anthony Williams to dismantle D.C. General Hospital, the District's sole full-service public health facility.

In the only public referendum on the issue, over 60% of D.C. residents voted in favor of statehood in 1980. 

Groups that have consistently advocated statehood, like the Stand Up! for Democracy in D.C. Coalition, the D.C. Statehood Green Party, D.C. Statehood -- Yes We Can, and Neighbors United For D.C. Statehood are encouraged that Democratic leaders have seen the light and embraced the call for genuine democracy in the form of statehood.

Weaving a New Star

The New Columbia Admissions Act is consistent with arguments by statehood advocates that statehood for the District can be achieved by an Act of Congress (requiring a 51% simple majority), without a constitutional amendment (requiring ratification by 2/3 of states). In 1846, an Act of Congress removed Arlington from D.C. and ceded it to Virginia, proving that Congress can legally alter the District's borders.

Congress may therefore reduce the constitutionally mandated federal enclave to encompass only the federal properties (White House, Capitol, Mall, etc.), after which D.C. would be admitted to the union as a state, just as all other states were admitted after the initial thirteen colonies. Along with freedom from Congress's control, D.C. residents will enjoy the same voting representation in Congress as all other Americans: one Representative and two Senators.

For many D.C. activists, the goals of statehood and economic, social, and racial justice are inseparable.

"Within the constraints of colonial Home Rule, we must be determined to push its limits by putting in place a progressive D.C. tax structure, expanding funding of our low-income budget, and establishing a D.C. public bank holding our revenue instead of Wall Street. These measures would help energize our local movement for D.C. statehood," said David Schwartzman, D.C. Statehood Green Party activist and candidate for "Shadow" U.S. Senator.

"The opportunity to become a state and enjoy full constitutional rights and citizenship will also be an opportunity to further reduce income inequality and better the quality of life for all D.C. residents. We won't suffer Congress's veto power over our laws and budgets. We can assert control over our own school system, rather than tolerate the imposition of charter schools by Congress."

D.C. statehood has been the D.C. Statehood Green Party's most conspicuous plank since its founding as the D.C. Statehood Party in 1970 by Julius Hobson and other local civil rights leaders. The D.C. Statehood Green Party is an affiliate of the Green Party, which has endorsed D.C. statehood in its national platform since the party was founded.

Ten years ago, the D.C. Statehood Green Party and Stand Up! for Democracy in D.C. Coalition helped draft a petition that was sent to the United Nations Committee on Human Rights and the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which monitor compliance with treaties that the U.S. has signed and ratified. In 2006, the Human Rights Committee found that the District's lack of voting representation in Congress violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The ruling was the result of a decade of work by democracy advocate Tim Cooper (http://www.world-rights.org/us/dc_human_rights_time_line.htm).

The achievement of statehood ultimately depends on two things. First, the current enthusiasm among D.C. leaders for statehood must be sustained. Any dilution of the New Columbia Admissions Act, in the name of negotiation and compromise, must be resisted.
Second, statehood will require vociferous support from Americans who live outside the District. People who live in cities across the U.S. have good reason to join the demand. City populations are underrepresented in Congress, especially in the U.S. Senate, where sparsely populated states have the same representation as states with dense urban centers. (D.C.'s population is larger than Wyoming's and Vermont's.) The District's new Reps and Senators would thus speak for city-dwellers in other states, whose interests are often similar to those of D.C. residents.

The admission of a state whose population is slightly more than half black (50.1% in 2012) would incrementally help correct another severe form of underrepresentation in Congress.

President Obama, when asked recently about D.C. statehood, said "I'm for it." But the White House declined to send a representative to the September 15 hearing. As the November 4 midterm election approaches, the movement to weave a 51st star into the flag will benefit from speakouts and rallies in Washington, D.C., as well as challenges from people living in states across the country directed at their Congress members and the Obama Administration: "If you support democracy and human rights for all Americans, help enact D.C. statehood."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

G. Lee Aikin answers DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, Candidate Questionnaire

I am currently running for Chairman of the DC City Council in the Nov. 4, 2014 General Election. 

[My answers submitted to DCAYA will appear directly below the question.  Additional paragraphs will provide other ideas that exceed the 150 word limit.]

Candidate Youth Issue Questionnaire
By DC Alliance of Youth Advocates
Please limit your answer to 150 words. Any words over the limit will be deleted. If you would like, you may hyperlink some of the text in your answer to provide more context or information via an internet link. Please be specific in your answer. If you do not agree with the premise of the question, you may note that, give a reason why, and address the topic as you see as appropriate.

1) What youth-specific legislation would you introduce in your first 100 days of office?

*Moratorium on new Public Charter Schools (PCS) until inequities between the DC Public Schools (DCPS) and PCS's corrected. Legislation requiring student funding returns to DCPS when PCS's dismiss students midyear. When PCS send back students prior to spring testing, the scores should credit to the longest attended school. Fairer for DCPS and PCS parents.
*Eliminate Basic Business License requirement for many businesses grossing under $200,000 annually. Require half day tax preparation class with $25 fee. Don't hamper good youth jobs like dog walking, Avon, yard work, etc. with BBL.
*DC has 3,000 alternative education seats available for 14,000 youths without HS diploma; 6,935 after-school expanded learning slots available for 31,633 "at-risk" DC students; over 4,000 homeless students enrolled; and 58% of 20-24 year olds unable to find full-time employment. We must allocate more money for each need.
*Explicit communication channels between schools and hiring businesses need to be funded. [end answer #1]  

2) Homelessness is a clear and present issue in the District of Columbia. Homelessness among minors (under 18), youth (18-24), and young parents (under 24) is a particularly acute and complex issue. How will you address this issue?

*Homelessness among young DC residents could be helped by removing small units of rental rooms (like row houses) and single apartments from the Basic Business License process. Homeowners may rent out two rooms as a matter of right. That should be no part of the BBL.
*In some cultures families exchange their teenage children. This gets kids away from ongoing antagonisms and teaches them something about other people. Perhaps a matching/supervising service could be set up.
*Middle class youth often experience life in college dormitories. Perhaps dormitories with cafeteria and laundry facilities could be built for youths 18-24. Monitors from social work, education, psychology graduate programs could be given free housing to supervise and guide. Job counseling, living skills, study programs, cooking, laundry work, etc. should be part of the in-house environment, solving both homelessness and life skills needs.
See position paper on housing for poor and homeless. [end answer #2]

Additional thoughts on Question #2:
Homeless people are often not without skills and in many cases they would relish the opportunity to acquire skills. My position paper on housing needs describes training the homeless in construction work at the same time that they acquire credits toward a down payment on the units that they are building. The cash costs of construction should be somewhat low since the only full salaried people would be the teaching staff. Some fraction of the units could be sold at market rates to fund a large fraction of the programs costs. The remaining units could be allocated to those with the most hours worked on building prior units. A mortgage could be issued with payment to be covered with some specific number of additional hours of work each month. However, after the units are allocated the goal would be to find full time work in the private sector to free up slots for the next group of trainees.
For many people a housing first program is needed. The trauma of existing on the streets can be so acute that the only answer is to get housing for them. The nutritional, medical, educational and counseling needs must be evaluated and provided on an individual basis. 

3) Only 13.2% of 16-19 years olds and 42% of 20-24 years olds were able to find paid, unsubsidized employment that they were qualified for in DC in 2011. What is your plan to improve successful entry to the workforce for DC youth?

*The current drug war and its "gift" of criminal records to minority youth is a needless job search barrier. Annually twice as many DC youth have marijuana arrests as graduate from high school.
*We must reestablish youth vocational education as a major study option. Radical improvements in vocational education would greatly narrow the job gap.
*Many DC jobs do require some college education. Denmark has free university education and they pay their students to go to school. Can we find the money to do something similar?
*Another option is a government funded micro-lending operation financing small business for unemployed youth. If youth have a coherent business plan and can convince an evaluation team of successful peers, they deserve the chance to start their own business. People need not be hired by others if they have a personal vision of how to serve an existing need in the community.  [end answer #3]

Additional thoughts on Question #3:
Academicians have tended to stress college and professional education to the serious neglect of the kinds of jobs we cannot send overseas. It typically costs more in materials and work spaces but there is high demand for well trained construction workers, car repair technicians, electricians, plumbers, health care and food service workers, and other vocational trades. In a recent conversation with Andy Shallal (who employs 500+ food service workers), he said graduates of our DC funded culinary training were typically unqualified for the jobs he has available. Much more than just increasing funds for vocational education, we need to legislate better methods of linking the training we deliver with the actual jobs out there.  Employers need to communicate to the government and students the nature of the current job market and give clear feedback on requirements to get those jobs.  

4) Recent studies have shown that quality expanded learning improves DC youths’ cognitive and non-cognitive skills. Yet, each year there are thousands of DC youth who remain unable to participate in programs that improve academic, social/emotional, health and workforce readiness outcomes. What do you think are the barriers? How would you remove the barriers you’ve identified?

*Teach young learners to take advantage of computer based resources.
*There is an explosion in Massive Open On-Line Courses (MOOCs). Schools should invest much more in technology to utilize such available resources. Making the relatively small effort to match individual youth with resources would expand their cognitive and non-cognitive skill sets.
*Coursera currently offers 728 courses from 110 partners. EdX offers 229 courses. Many US universities offer other courses independently. Many foreign universities offer English language MOOCs.
*This is not a panacea. Many who attempt these courses will drop out if starting on their own. It is quite helpful to have them learning along with other people going through the same process, plus supervision.
*There should be mechanisms to match a given course with the goals and current level of the student. Mechanisms tracking which MOOCs works for DC youth for any specific purpose are also needed. [end answer #4]

5) In DC, around 14,000 youth are disconnected from school and work. The majority of them are trying to re-engage, but there are many obstacles including a time-consuming childcare voucher system, costly public transport, and having to go to several bureaus to get proper documentation. How would you most effectively address these barriers?

*Businesses in general and especially any connected with DC job training programs should have in-house day care available.
*Low cost or free Metro and bus Smart Trip Cards could solve many transport issues.
*More needs to be done to place sites providing needed documentation in the same building.
*An elderly handicapped friend had to get a Basic Business License to have an Agency supervise renting her apartment when she traveled for 6 months. She sat for hours in 2 different offices at DCRA, 1 office at OTR, and then made the difficult drive to Anacostia to complete the process. This was outrageous for her and the same for young people trying to get a start. As I said before, eliminating the BBL for businesses grossing under $200,000 removes a major barrier.
*I worked many hours trying to save neighborhood street vending, including an apprentice license for youth. [end answer#5]

In order to have a better understanding of the issues in the Questionnaire, I and one of my advisers met for an hour with DC Alliance of Youth Advocates staff.  We were told this organization has around 150 member organizations in their Alliance.  They also share an office with youth legal advocates.  We left with an invitation to return with others wishing to know more about their critical work and how to assist it. at 2:21 AM

We  would welcome ideas from others on improving conditions for our youth in the Comments section,