Saturday, March 31, 2012


In the process of running for office, the most disturbing issue I have discovered is that our elected officials failed to keep track of and maintain the benefits we received along with our Home Rule Charter. Because of this failure we have one of the highest state tax rates in the nation. What is the point of getting home rule, or even more important becoming a State if we can't even maintain the benefits we started with? Obviously we need to elect smarter, more honest leaders. Hopefully, the Statehood Green Party will be up to the challenge.

Little by little our benefits have been whittled away or sold to the highest bidder with very little effective protest by us, the voters. For example, we used to receive a Federal payment for all the untaxed land in the District. This included Federal government land, churches, non-profit associations, and so forth. "Unlike residents of US territories such as Puerto Rico or Guam, who also have non-voting delegates, D.C. residents are subject to all U.S. federal taxes. In the financial year 2007, D.C. residents and businesses paid $20.4 billion in federal taxes; more than the taxes collected from 19 states and the highest Federal taxes per capita. A 2005 poll found that 78% of Americans did not know that residents of the District of Columbia have less representation in Congress than residents of the 50 states." [Source: Wikipedia]

Just imagine how much extra tax money DC government could collect from us if we only paid 2/5ths Federal taxes (for the President & Vice President we can actually vote for). With an additional $12 billion in our pockets, the DC government would gain the needed revenue to correct the tax unfairness that has slowly accumulated over the years. Given that this figure was from 2007, and that our population has grown both in numbers and wealth, this would probably result in close to a $1 billion in extra revenue.

Frankly, I am amazed that no lawyer/aspiring politician has ever had the chutzpah (Yiddish for audacity) to file a lawsuit claiming refund of the unrepresented portion of taxes paid to the Federal government. What a class action suit that would be!! Of course, if the Feds wanted to save 1/3rd of a $billion, they could see to it that our non-voting elected Representative actually be allowed to vote.

In 2004, while doing my DC taxes I wondered why they were higher than my Federal taxes. Years earlier they were only one half. Checking 1974 tax records I found that DC's Exemptions and Deductions were about the same as the Federal rates. However, while the Federal rates increased to reflect inflation, DC rates were only changed when someone remembered to do it. After 1991, NOBODY remembered!! By 2004 we were only allowed 1/3rd the Federal rate.

I called Mr. Catania and explained the situation. In 2005 he introduced a bill in Committee to “couple” our rates of Deductions and Exemptions with the Federal figures. Unfortunately, this effort failed. However, slight increases were made in 2006 saving perhaps $28, and in 2008, saving about $90 each year since. The 2011 DC rates for D&Es are $4,000 per couple and $1,650 each. The Federal figures are $5,800 single, $11,600 couple for Deductions; and $3,700 Exemption each person. With “coupling” Taxable Income for a family of four would be $15,800 lower, for a couple $11,700 less and for a single person $3,850 lower. [On the campaign trail when I asked Mr. Orange, who served from 1998 to 2006 how he had voted, he did not remember.  11/13 In fairness I should add that the proposed "coupling" did not make it out of committee.] There seems to be a lot of amnesia among politicians where protecting our benefits and rights is concerned.

Actual tax savings for a family of four with Adjusted Gross Income of $40,000 using “coupling” would be $948. A similar family with $60,000 AGI saves $1,183. A family with $26,400 AGI currently pays $750, with “coupling” $ZERO. Has this tax unfairness helped drive families out of the city? Council member Jack Evans proposes cutting taxes about 1/2% from the top down. Let's cut taxes from the bottom up, restore the 1974 parity, and keep our families. Using Mr. Evans formulations would result in much smaller savings at the bottom, and much larger ones at the top. The hypothetical family of 4 with $26,400 AGI would still pay around $600 under Mr. Evans proposal.  Fifty dollars a month may not seem like much, but to a low income family of 4 it is quite a lot.

Worse yet was done to business property taxes. Upon granting Home Rule, Congress said “ is the intent of Congress, that the tax burdens in the District be reasonably comparable to those in the surrounding jurisdictions...” [DC Code, Paragraph 47-817] They are not! DC Class 2 Business Tax is $1.85 per $100 assessed value. Arlington and Alexandria charge 85 cents, PG Co. around $1. [There have been some increases in regional tax rates since 2009, but they are still much lower than DC's.]  Why would businesses in blighted areas want to have higher taxes assessed on their buildings by fixing up marginal property? No wonder we have so many liquor stores, bars, clubs, and run down store buildings. Why one rate citywide?? Montgomery Co. has various rates for different areas, although none are as high as in DC.*

Why can't we vary the business rates in DC? Is it fair that Georgetown businesses pay $1.85 while across the river in Rosslyn they are paying around a dollar? Perhaps upper Wisconsin Ave. can compete with Bethesda, but how can Georgia Ave compete with Silver Spring? No wonder Anacostia is so run down when businesses can pay close to one half the business tax by moving crossing the line. There is absolutely no incentive to fix business buildings until the surrounding neighborhoods can support our high Class 2 rates.

Finding the money to restore tax equity will require some creative thinking. I hope the above information about our "taxation without representation" will encourage more ideas.  [In 2012, I was informed that a new business property rate of $1.65 for business property under $3 million was instituted.  How about an even lower rate for business property under $500,000.  And let's not forget to INDEX these figures.]  When I ran for office in 2014 I suggested a $1.45 rate for business property assessed under a $million, and $125 for property under $500,000.

* Tax rate source: DC Government report. Part II: A comparison of Tax Rates in the Washington Metropolitan Area as of Jan. 2009, page 35. I don't know if there is anything more recent.

Monday, March 26, 2012


MY BIOGRAPHY, Prepared for Unite Here, Local 25 (hotel and restaurant workers), with an emphasis on labor oriented aspects of my life experiences.

I was born into a labor activist family in 1938. My great grandfather was a founding member of the first British Carpenter's Union. He was a ships joiner. His son, my grandfather, worked extensively with Eleanor Roosevelt, to develop employment projects for out of work (starving) artists in the 1930s. My mother's father was blacklisted from his job forever as a ship's engineer for refusing to cross a picket line in the port of New York (probably Masters, Mates and Seaman) around 1916 or 1920.  My father was a member and usually President, Vice-President or Treasurer of his local of Insurance Workers in NJ starting about 1945 for around 40 years. He was on the NY Port Council. He spent many hours with union activity (management was trying to destroy his union), instead of selling insurance, so we were rather poor.

I vividly remember him coming home very upset from a union convention in Atlantic City when I was around 10. He was pacing around the kitchen saying, “We went to our hotel and they wouldn't let our two Negro delegates stay there. I wanted us to go across the street where the hotel would take ALL of us, but the guys wouldn't do it. THEY CALL THEMSELVES TRADE UNIONISTS. SHAME ON THEM!!!.” My mother was also a building representative in NJ with the National Education Association.

At age 23 I married. My husband had been attending American University under a scholarship to study International Labor Relations provided through his union, Intl. Union of Railway and Steamship Clerks. He worked for a time as an escort to various international labor union officials visiting major rail and shipping centers in the US. One was the head of South Africa's equivalent of the AFL-CIO, another was the head of the Brazilian Transport Workers Union. He also spent 3 months in Brazil and 1 month in Peru on a fact finding mission studying conditions of the transport unions of those countries. I helped him to edit and write the reports he had to prepare for each of those activities--a valuable learning experience. He subsequently became a DC teacher and helped start the DC Teacher's Union. He helped write the first two union contracts, and was Vice President for High Schools and/or Junior Highs. I was quite involved in these activities.

Around 1965, I started working as a bilingual (Spanish) secretary at The American Institute for Free Labor Development. I was elected Shop Steward for secretaries and clerks and on the Grievance Committee all the 10 years I was there, also was on the Contract Negotiating Team for two Collective Agreement negotiations. I also took courses on Labor History and other topics at the George Meany Labor School. At one point we held out on signing a contract for almost a year when they tried to back out of maternity benefits they had initially agreed upon. We also successfully fought a Civil Rights case when management announced they would not promote any women to the better paid Program Officer positions. I gave birth to two boys while I worked there, much enjoying the maternity benefits we had fought for. One son is currently in Special Forces and has fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the late 1970s I was bilingual Administrative Assistant for 3 years to At Large elected DC School Board Member, Frank Shaeffer Corona. Early in my employment Mr. Shaeffer Corona pointed to a large file drawer and said, “I want you to look through there and find a way to stop the strike we will have this fall if we can't change some BOE votes to accept the arbitrators' report.” After a good laugh, he said seriously, “Look I know you know a lot about teachers' conditions from your husband's activities. So maybe you can find something in there that we could use.”

After an extensive search I discovered a memo that I knew to be completely false from an influencial  board member to the others. When I showed it to my boss and explained why it was wrong, he had me do research and I wrote a 50 page report. We distributed it to all Board Members, City Council Members, Congressmen on DC related committees, all Building Representatives and Principals, and the Press. I knew from my husband that the AFT was prepared to throw a major strike team into DC to set a national example prior to negotiations in other cities, and we probably would have had a 3 week strike. The report changed two Boardmembers' votes and there was no strike.  I consider preventing this strike the most valuable thing I have done in DC up to 2012.  As a parent I know just how disruptive and painful such a long strike would have been.

From 1995 to 2005, I was caring for my mother, father, and husband as they were dying. My mother, and husband who had Alzheimers, wanted to die at home, and I honored their wishes. I learned a lot about health care and the problems of senior citizens. I have now recovered my strength, health and enthusiasm and wish to work improving the city I have lived in since the day after President Kennedy was elected. I hope your organization will support my candidacy, as I suspect I have the strongest union background of anyone running in DC.



1.What are your goals and priorities in elected office and how will you achieve these goals?
      I plan to serve the people with honesty and compassion while reducing waste and harmful regulations. I want to have groups of citizens help me understand what improvements are needed There has been a steady erosion of funding for social programs which needs to be corrected. Many nit picking laws would not pass a good cost/benefits analysis.

2.Describe how you have worked with unions in the past that meets these goals, if applicable.
     See MY BIOGRAPHY above.


If elected, will you commit to the following? Explain why or why not:

a. Soliciting for and welcoming UNITE HERE! Local 25’s input on policy matters  that affect the work of our members, including but not limited to enforcing and strengthening the district’s Labor Peace laws?
     I would have one or two afternoons a week (possibly some on Saturday) when any person in the city can see me about any problem or issue where I could be of help. I would also try to meet with affected individuals, groups and organizations for any pending issues and votes. If volunteers would like to come in and assist with research or outreach on special projects or possible legislation they would be welcome, including from labor groups. I would also be happy to assist in mediating and promoting good labor relations between unions and the various workplaces in the city. If changes in the law would help, I would want to make them. Currently, the concerns about 6 Walmart stores and the issue of DC $12.50 living wage (in 2012, in 2016 the goal is now $15.00) is one I would probably support.

b. Ensuring that all city supported hotel developments create good jobs with strong wages, health benefits. retirement security and workplace protections?
     The above provisions make for happy workers. Happy workers are good workers, provide good service and promote tourism which is our second biggest source of employment and revenue.  [In 2016 it has become very apparent that we must preserve and build low and moderate income housing in DC.  Otherwise workers will be forced to live far from the city with miserable daily commutes, and that if Metro and parking is even available.]

c. Advocating for and protecting the First Amendment rights of UNITE HERE! Local 25 members and workers affiliated with Local 25?
     All people deserve to have their First Amendment rights protected, including the right to petition for redress of grievances and meet to promote union membership and activities.

d. Soliciting for and welcoming UNITE HERE! Local 25’s input on campaign finance policy and fiscal matters that affect the work of our members?
     I would definitely seek and want union input on campaign finance issues. The Citizens' United decision has created both problems and opportunities for workers and the labor movement.  [2016, All big developers, all the time now control Council, see answer to b.  I don't get contributions from them.]

e. Working with UNITE HERE! Local 25 to develop legislative proposals?
     My door would always be open to union members wishing to develop legislation. I would also seek out advice from those whom I thought might have useful ideas.

f. Appointing qualified UNITE HERE Local 25 members to appropriate Boards and Commissions?
     There are many vacancies on Boards and Commissions and I plan to take an active role in seeing that appropriate people are appointed. I have met several likely candidates while collecting petition signatures, and expect to meet many more as I campaign.


1.Explain your position on whether workers should be able to freely choose for themselves whether they want to unionize without any employer interference.
     Employees should absolutely have the right to vote without interference regarding union representation. It is also unfair for workers who do not pay dues to profit from benefits negotiated by the union for all workers.

2.What is your tax policy agenda?
     I hope to promote tax fairness from the bottom up, unlike some who would give tax breaks from the top down. See ATTACHED TESTIMONY [look elsewhere on the blog for several posts covering various aspects of DC taxation] describing a number of areas wherein DC has fallen woefully behind in maintaining deduction, exemptions and other amounts at the originally intended level by failing to include cost of living adjustments and annual indexing.

[major extracts from the complete Questionnaire submitted for the 2012 primary election period]


G. Lee Aikin, Statehood Green Party, At Large candidate for City Council,  
Printed as a Viewpoint article in The Current, March 21, 2012    [Changes or additions since printing]

Today we face a number of major issues--statehood, housing, schools, small business growth, 6 Walmarts, etc.  Underlying most is the very unsexy issue of taxes.  Nobody likes taxes and most of us, including me, are not fond of or good at the underlying math.  We mostly try to ignore them, pay, grumble, and move on to nicer things.  We even ignored asking why we are one of the highest taxed people in the country.  Apparently, so did our elected representatives.

How did we get that way, what has it cost us, and how can we fix it?   When Congress granted us Home Rule in the early 1970s, they said, " is the intent of Congress, that the tax burdens in the District be reasonably comparable to those in the surrounding jurisdictions..."  {DC Code, Paragraph 47-817}.

We need to understand several technical terms to figure out how we got so overtaxed.  Adjusted Gross Income is the amount of all income received less certain individual expenses. From the AGI everyone is then allowed to subtract Deductions & Exemptions.  The figure remaining is our Taxable Income, the number typically used to figure the tax we owe.

In 1974, our D&Es  were similar to the Federal rates, both allowing a $2,000 Deduction for a couple, with one  important difference.  Federal D&E rates change yearly to reflect inflation.  DC rates were changed occasionally, if Council and Mayor remembered.  By 1991 our D&Es were 1/2 the Fed rate, and updating was completely forgotten.  By 2004 the D&Es were about 1/3rd, and DC still only allowed $2,000 per couple AFTER 30 YEARS!!!

That year I realized I was paying more DC taxes than Federal.  Years earlier I had only paid 1/2.  Digging through old records revealed the above facts.  I explained this to David Catania.  He [tried to introduce] a bill in 2005 to "couple" our D&Es with Federal rates.  The [effort] failed, but a slight increase occurred in 2006 and another in 2008.  I think my efforts saved DC taxpayers about $28 in 2006 and around $90 in 2008, to 2011, totaling over $400.

The 2011 DC rates for D&Es are $4,000 per couple and $1,650 each. The Federal figures are $5,800 single, $11,600 couple Deductions; and $3,700 Exemption each.  With "coupling" Taxable Income for a family of four would be $15,800 lower, a couple $11,700 less, and single $3,850 lower.  Has this tax unfairness helped drive families out of the city?  Councilmember Jack Evans proposes cutting taxes about 1/2% from the top down.  I say, let's cut taxes from the bottom up, restore the 1974 parity, and keep our families. 

Unfair, uncomparable property tax rates have really hurt our businesses.  Surrounding jurisdictions tax residential and business property the same.  DC taxes homes 85 cents per $100 Assessed Valuation, but businesses $1.85 per $100.  Thus small business ownership is a loosing proposition unless located in a high-end neighborhood or a liquor store, club or restaurant.  Fine little businesses fail regularly because their sales don't cover the tax/rent costs.

Property taxes in Arlington and Alexandria are about 85 cents per $100 including in Rosslyn.  Is this fair to Georgetown businesses paying $1.85?  Prince Georges County, MD rates range from 88 cents to $1.08.  Montgomery County, MD rates range from $1.18 to $1.69.  Perhaps upper Wisconsin Ave. can compete with Bethesda, but how can Anacostia and Georgia Avenue compete paying $1.85?*

The idea every DC business everywhere should pay the same tax doesn't make sense.  No wonder business property owners neglect property to keep their tax assessments low.  Why fix them before there is enough business activity to support a higher rate?  [A reduction in business property tax to $1.65 for property valued under $3 million has since been implemented.  How about an even lower rate for business property under $500,000, and let's not forget to INDEX such figures for inflation.]

If we raise our D&Es and lower business taxes to fair levels more DC funds will be needed.  What are some possible sources?  Ask the Federal government for more payment for our untaxable lands?  Pay only 2/5ths Federal income taxes since we lack 3/5ths fair representation; this would give residents more taxable income for DC?  Revisit the commuter tax issue?  Allow much taller buildings in undeveloped areas away from the monumental core and existing low-density neighborhoods?  [Pay slightly higher tax rates at upper income levels.]  Reduce upper level salaries of DC employees?  Should I win I would gladly pay 10% less than the $125,000 Council salary.

*Tax rate source:  DC Government report.  Part II: A comparison of Tax Rates in the Washington Metropolitan Area as of Jan. 2009, page 35.  {I can send you a link if you need it.}