Monday, April 30, 2012

DC 2013 Budget: Cut the Poor, Collect More Fines

Once again it is Budget Season and the picture is not pretty. Even more money is being cut from programs for the poorer residents, and lots more traffic cameras, inspectors, and fees for the rest of us.  [Just heard later hours for liquor service was voted down, despite the fact most neighborhoods are covered by special agreements specifying the hours.]

Testimony, Mayor's 2013 Budget Hearing, April 30, 2012
G. Lee Aikin, DC Statehood Green Party

Thank you for hearing our concerns. Our current very painful budget recommends cutting money to programs for the least successful and most helpless people in our city, while also trying to scrape up money from many different sources.  One budget measure cancels any increase in Deductions and Exemptions on the D-40, or for the Homestead Exemption.   Small increases in these amounts were made in recent years, after long neglect starting in 1991. But we are still far behind where we began in the early 1970s when Home Rule started and our D&Es were comparable to Federal rates.  Only "coupling" with the Federal rates will correct this oversight allowed to persist by many of our elected officials for over 30 years.  This oversight has most unfairly impacted our lowest income tax payers. What is the point of budget autonomy if we haven't even held onto the benefits we once had.

Meanwhile, our local government was used as an employment service to create jobs for many people in the city. Unfortunately, more and more of our employees are now from outside the city. While full employment is a worthy goal, creating vast bureaucracies and regulations to provide those jobs with rather high salaries, is counter-productive.  This was shown when we needed to furlough many city employees for 4 days without pay to meet the budget.  Now there is talk of repaying those 4 days to all, even the highest paid. [Late word is that the Council has refused to pay the 4 days. They should think about offering 4 more days vacation, or sick and emergency leave days.] Should we consider cutting the top salaries by 1 or 2%, and the slightly lower ones by ½ to 1%? In the 1930s my mother, a teacher, took a 10% cut for 3 years.

The Fiscal Policy Institute points out that current proposed budget cuts are at least $50 million, and that another $240 million was already cut from low income programs since 2008. For a family of 4 in the bottom 100,000 residents, this amounts to over $11,000 in cuts. Perhaps we should increase taxes 1 or 2% on our wealthiest residents, and ½ to 1% for those earning above $100,000.

To save money, and refund worthy service programs, we could also consider encouraging our city employees to take more time off, especially during slack periods in the annual work flow.  If, for example, a month or more off was planned 6 months to a year in advance, then the annual salary could be adjusted to pay the employee a little less every month to cover the extra time off.  In some places teachers can be paid for 10 months work during 10 month, or for 12 months with a lower monthly check. Extra time off could be spent with family, house fixing, gardening, travel, study, etc. When I was employed, I would gladly have accepted less money with more time to do the many things I wanted to do.

I was pleased to see a lower $1.65 Class 2 property tax rate for businesses under $3 million. This is still far more than Arlington, Alexandria and PG County which charge around $1.00 per $100 assessed value. We need to revisit that tax rate if we want Anacostia and Georgia Avenue to compete successfully. We should consider having a lower business property tax rate in some parts of the city.

I also noted more employees will be hired to police the Vacant Property program.  The last time there was a major push on vacant property it seemed that all they did was drive around and list any property that looked like it was being renovated.  One couple had lived in their row house through the entire renovation, but it took years, and many wasted city man hours, to get themselves out of this mess. Although the city wrote their mortgage bank approving the Class 1 rate, the Tax Sale list was not fixed.  I went to the Tax Sale to see if a property with a recent Appeal approval had been removed. I was told  DCRA worked all night sending down 500 names for removal.  Checking the status, the appealed property had been removed, but the other property was still on the list.

Does no one on the Council or in the Mayor's office know the meaning of cost/benefit analysis?  I hope that some of you do, and hope that you will urge that it be done for a number of nuisance fees, programs, and tax rates. I could provide some items for your consideration. Thank you.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bd. of Elections & Ethics, Unethical Games??

With all the recent community distress over unethical, questionable, and even criminal behavior by our elected representatives, you would think the BOEE would be delighted to support parties that have not been involved that way. Alas, this is not the case.

Several of our Statehood Green Party political activists asked supporters to write them in for "Shadow" Senator and Representative, and several Ward races. It was our understanding the Statehood Green Party member who received the most votes for each position would then be PRINTED on the November ballot, provided they filed an Affirmation of Write-in Candidacy by Friday after the Primary. Several of us have done so, but have been informed that the a greater number of names of people NOT in our party had been written in. Therefore, we would NOT be PRINTED on the November ballot.

Apparently, the same thing happened in 2010, when more people wrote in the name of Democrat Adrian Fenty for the Republican race than voted for the listed Republican candidate. Thus, the Republican was not listed in November. This was clearly wrong for them, and for us. Any minority party can be deprived of the opportunity to run known candidates if this injustice prevails. Below you will see some of the email struggle we have begun. Please spread this story far and wide.

EMAIL TO: Alysoun McLaughlin, BOEE (, April 21, 2012

I am deeply disappointed at the anti-democratic spin your legal counsel has put on the current write-in situation involving Mr. Schwartzman, myself and several other DCSGP write-in candidates. DC residents and voters are feeling quite distressed about fully loaded SUVs, funds stolen from youth sport programs, etc., I should think the BOEE would want to make all legal efforts to enable as many qualified candidates as possible to compete. For the moment our Party is not big enough to expect victory at the polls. However, knowing we will be printed on the ballot makes it that much easier for us to participate in events where residents can hear some of the new and creative ideas our activists have and will be presenting for their consideration.

If BOEE has a goal of stifling creativity and dissent, then your legal counsel's ruling is certainly a good way to achieve that. Please be assured that our distress at this ruling is not going to go away. Today I was talking with someone connected with the ACLU, tomorrow...??

Sincerely, G. Lee Aikin, affirmed candidate for "Shadow" Representative

EMAIL TO: Alysoun McLaughlin, April 21, 2012
Subject: Question for Alysoun McLaughlin regarding our conversation yesterday

Dear Alysoun McLaughlin,

Based on what the rule says below I conclude that all persons who received write-in votes for an office in our Party's Primary who were not registered members of the DC Statehood Green Party on the day of the Primary election should be declared ineligible and therefore 605.6 says "all votes cast for that individual shall be counted as invalid ballots" and "605.7 If a write-in winner is declared ineligible, the Board shall, in accordance with applicable statutes and rules, determine and declare a winner from among the eligible candidates." Therefore, I conclude, based on the information you shared with me yesterday on the write-in candidates and count that Lee Aikin and I should be declared a winner and be placed on the November ballot for the Shadow Representative and Senator respectively, similarly whoever won the write-in among our verified candidates, if any, for other offices in the April Primary election.

Unless this regulation has been repealed I fail to see any legal justification for the precedent you cited to me in our phone conversation yesterday made by the DC BOEE General Counsel Kenneth J. McGhie that since a Democrat received the highest write-in vote for Shadow Senator and Representative on the DCSGP Primary ballot our votes would not be counted.

Please provide for me a link to the ruling by Mr. McGhie that you cited in our conversation yesterday. Has the Adopted Rule listed below been repealed? Again please provide a link to an new regulations pertaining to this issue.

Best wishes,
David Schwartzman


605.1 Within three (3) days of the date on which an Affirmation of Write-in Candidacy is filed, the Executive Director or his or her designee shall issue a preliminary determination as to the eligibility of the affirmant to be a candidate for the particular office sought.

605.2 Notice of the determination shall be served immediately by mail upon any affirmant found to be ineligible.

605.3 The determination shall be based solely upon information contained in the Affirmation of Write-in Candidacy and upon information contained in other public records and documents as may be maintained by the Board.

605.4 The determination shall in no way be deemed to preclude further inquiry into or challenge to such individual’s eligibility for candidacy or office made prior to the certification of election results by the Board and based upon information which is not known to the Board at the time of the preliminary determination, or upon evidence of changed circumstances.

605.5 The criteria used for determining eligibility to be a write-in candidate shall be limited to the appropriate statutory requirements for the particular office sought.

605.6 If it is determined that a write-in nominee is not eligible to be a candidate all votes cast for that individual shall be counted as invalid ballots.

605.7 If a write-in winner is declared ineligible, the Board shall, in accordance with applicable statutes and rules, determine and declare a winner from among the eligible candidates.

SOURCE: Final Rulemaking published at 27 D.C. Reg. 3805 (August 29, 1980), incorporating the text of Proposed Rulemaking published at 27 D.C. Reg. 2768, 2773 (June 27, 1980); and further amended by Final Rulemaking published at 30 D.C. Reg. 5289, 5296-97 (October 14, 1983).

McMillan Park Reservoir development planning

What does the community want for this wide open expanse of grass and historic public structures? What should the DC Statehood Green Party want to do with regard to supporting the community and
proposing ideas for best use?

This Saturday [April 21, 2012], a tour of the facility was made available to see the late 1800s sand filtration system which which was used to save our residents from typhoid and other water borne ills. In 1986, when a more modern filtration system was installed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offered the site to the DC government. Our city paid $9.3 million and in 1991 the DC Historic Preservation Review Board awarded the site historic status. This provided permanent recognition of the combined park and water filtration facilities historic value.

Then politics reared its frequently ugly head. In 1990 the Ward 5 Council member urged rather dense development of the site to gain a return on the city's $9.3 million investment. It was wrongfully presented that the community backed the idea, resulting in spirited protests by the community. [I wonder what campaign money or construction deals were proposed behind the scenes on that one? Anyone know anything about that? Please comment or leave contact information.] Recently a no-bid contract consultancy deal was given to McMillan Vision Partners and EYA for site development proposals. No-bid??

At least 60 people have already registered to testify at the Nov. 12, 2014 hearing at the Wilson Building starting at 10 am.  Future Mayor Muriel Bowser, and Ward Councilmember Kenyon McDuffie Chair the two Committees sponsoring this hearing.  An excellent first opportunity to see our new Mayor in action and judge our future.  Tell your friends and other activists to come, or tune in on cable TV or web TV.  [Ultimately 90 people registered to testify.  I am told that the 15 copies each of testimony we submitted for distribution to the Council members were thrown out and never given to them.]

Community volunteers at yesterday's event expressed deep concern that things were being done without holding hearings or notifying the community. "Transparency" was the watchword for the day. We were invited to view a map showing "no development", "all development", and various percentages of each. A questionnaire was being filled out by visitors. Questions were asked about residency in Ward 5 and best means to notify interested individuals--email, website, community list serve, leaflets at door, community bulletin board, phone, other. People were asked if they knew that "a NEW plan has been proposed in 2011/2012 to develop...", and whether they cared about what kind of development happens.

Twenty-six acres of open space offers many, and many kinds of, development opportunities. Visitors were asked to rate the following as 1, 2, or 3, from most to least important (desirable): cafes/restaurants, community/recreation center, grocery store, housing (senior or varied income), offices, preservation of underground caverns, public park space with playing fields, retail. Finally they were asked what they DO and DO NOT want there, and how knowledgeable they were about the history of the site, and the new 2011/2012 development plan for McMillan.

I want to go back again and take a good look at the site and surrounding area before stating my own ideas. However, it was pointed out that from 1910, until the fence was built in 1941 when WWII raised the fear of sabotage, it had been a popular public park. It was apparently the only racially integrated park area in DC then.  Unfortunately, we still have to think about sabotage. However, a quick glance suggests that the fence could be relocated immediately closer to the reservoir itself, leaving an open grassy area for public use THIS summer. Picnics on the grass overlooking the lake, a lovely thought.

Other guiding principles should include: Preserving at least part of the filtration stack and underground chamber complex for use as a historical museum celebrating the conquest of disease through applied science and engineering. Requiring that any housing built on this city land have a strong component of low and moderate income residences.  There also is extensive underground space for urban agriculture, education and training for our underserved young people.  Since this area already has very heavy traffic, especially at rush hour, any additional housing or buildings should be carefully evaluated for negative traffic impact.

This large "green" and/or "development" site demands close attention by all our politically active citizens and groups.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Let's Promote STATEHOOD and a GREEN City

While traveling around the City during the recent primary election campaign, I have thought of a number of ideas for promoting Statehood and Greener living. Here are a few of them, but I have others as well. [Unfortunately for me, my worthy opponent won the primary vote for DCSGP At Large for City Council. However, I had enough write-in votes to run for DCSGP "Shadow" Representative to Congress on the November ballot.]

Now I would like your help in moving a statehood/green agenda for our city. If you would like to help with any of the projects below, either Comment with your contact information, or email me. Just list the number and what you might like to contribute to the effort.

-- 1) Promote solar and wind energy production on the many flat office building roofs downtown. This could reduce our dependency on the grid in major heat waves, which are likely with global warming.
-- 2) Pressure Walmart to place low and moderate income units above any stores built (they currently plan “market rate” housing on at least one store), and put solar panels on the roof.
-- 3) Pass a “good Samaritan” law that would protect anyone who volunteers their land, building, or time for a sanctioned activity from unfair legal problems. This would make it much easier to get vacant land for community gardening, or houses needing fixing for youth training programs.
-- 4) To promote Statehood, have an escrow account in which DC taxpayers could put 3/5ths of Federal taxes owed until we get the Representative and Two Senators all other US populations our size elect. Actually returning this money to DC would increase our tax revenue to between 1/2 and 1 billion dollars. Enough to restore many worthwhile programs cut in recent years.
-- 5) Puerto Rico has a separate entry in the Olympics. Until we have Statehood, maybe we should have one too. Let the whole world see how unfairly we are treated as the USA boasts our Democratic ideals.
-- 6) On Memorial Day weekend demonstrate in front of the World War II column that says Washington, DC. Display a large sign listing: Number Died, Number Wounded, Number who Served. [We need to move on this one quickly to make it happen this year.]
-- 7) Consider persuading Congress to allow much taller buildings away from our Monumental core and existing neighborhoods. Tall buildings would provide more tax income to permit restoring the lower tax rates we enjoyed when we first got Home Rule, which our leaders have failed to preserve for us.
-- 8) In addition to “coupling” our D-40 Deductions and Exemptions to the more favorable Federal rates, allow a Deduction for anyone who is seriously disabled and dependent, not just for blindness. Let us lead the nation in promoting this critical change that will be so important to our aging population.
-- 9) Promote better nutrition and health by using high school greenhouses, land around public housing and parks to grow seedlings for distribution, and edible plantings both seasonal and permanent food. Also restore allowing trucks to circulate in neighborhoods selling fresh fruits and vegetables.
-- 10) Large amounts of perfectly good paint are being thrown away. Let's provide a central repository where people can pick up free paint for worthy projects like painting schools, and elderly housing.
-- 11) Develop a fall carnival similar to the spring ones in Brazil. There, each neighborhood has a “Samba School” where everyone works all year to create costumes, dance routines, and floats for the big parade. This would be a great opportunity for young and old to spend summers being creatively involved together to prepare everything for the big event in the fall. It could be a big money maker and jobs opportunity for the city's hotel and restaurant industry. See Brazil Carnival or Brazil Samba Schools at Google.

These are just some of the ideas I have had. I would love to see any ideas that you think would help too. Please email to  You can also add them as a comment as I check them periodically.
G. Lee Aikin, April, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

ARE YOU A FROG? Jump out (of the tax pot), call DC Council!

In the previous blog I point out how much money we have lost personally since we gained Home Rule. This was simply because our elected leaders were not paying attention. Yesterday, after reading his bi-weekly Newsletter, I sent a long email to Councilmember Jack Evans. Here is a portion .

"I am glad to see that some increase in Deductions and Exemptions, as well as the Homestead Exemption has been proposed [by the Mayor]. However, until the D&E is coupled with the Federal rates as I proposed to Mr. Catania in 2004, and he submitted as a bill [actually in Committee where it failed] in 2005, we will remain far behind where we were in 1974 when these figures were comparable. I realize we did some kind of deal [with the Federal government] back in 1996, but did it work out to our advantage? Somehow, it does not appear that it has. More information needed here. Our Class 2 business tax, which is much higher than the surrounding jurisdictions, despite the fact it was the intent of Congress that our tax rates should be comparable [DC Code, Paragraph 47-817], really needs a major fix. Please check out my new blog for more details on these issues. "

We have been like the frog who was put in a pot of water which was then slowly brought to a boil. Because the process was so slow, the frog did not notice and was cooked. We have been like that frog as our tax rates gradually became so high. Now, it's time to jump out and demand that our leaders turn off the heat. Here are the email addresses for the City Council: Chairman; At Large,,,; Ward 1, Ward 2, Ward 3, Ward 4, Ward 5, Ward 6, Ward 7, Ward 8 For other information, like your member's phone number, contact the main Council office: phone, 202-724-8000 or contact

Let them know we're mad as hxxx and are not going to boil any more!!