A Budget to Build a Beloved DC: WIN’s FY2021 Agenda

To attack the roots of racism in our country and the District, we must address issues of land, labor, resources and power. The mythology of race and anti-blackness was created to justify commodification of human beings, made in the image of God, and of the land, God’s creation. 

With precious resources, especially given the budget constraints from COVID-19, the Council should prioritize investing money and land to attack the roots and effects of systemic racism and economic inequality.

The DC Council should redirect money away from projects that will further gentrify and push out Black, brown and poor and working class residents. In this moment in history, we say “ENOUGH!” to giving priority to luxury for a few at the expense of bread and roses for the many.

During the FY 2021 budgetary cycle, WIN calls for the following:

Goal 1: A shift of $200+ million in the capital budget from projects that accelerate displacement of Black people to projects that create equity and opportunity.

We believe in investing public land and money to create spaces for human development, not developers. In the last decades 20,000 Black Washingtonians were displaced from the District. To change the direction from displacement to investment we propose using public lands to create zones of opportunity and racial equity, and directing capital funds from the FY2021 budget to jumpstart redevelopment and invest in infrastructure and housing – especially PUBLIC HOUSING repairs, and investment on public lands. With public land and money, we can create:

  • Careers: Living wage jobs that protect the right of every worker to organize. We imagine hiring pipelines with government coordinated training, education and outreach to DC residents in neighborhoods with high unemployment. 
  • Community-based businesses: We can create space and incentives for small, community-based (especially Black and minority owned) businesses. Give businesses the financing and a level playing field to compete against multinational and chain corporations, while still providing their employees family-sustaining jobs.
  • Truly affordable housing: We can mandate affordability for all income levels: 1/3 of all units at 0-30% AMI, 1/3 at 30-60% AMI, and 1/3 market rate. This would include opportunities for rental and for home ownership, especially to build Black equity.

We envision these zones for human development, not developers at locations such as:

250 acres at RFK Stadium/Reservation 13

Remaking Reservation 13: Why A Plot Of Undeveloped D.C. Land ...
Aerial photo of Reservation 13 site (highlighted) next to RFK site (photo: WAMU)

The Reeves Center at 14th St & U St NW

File:Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center.JPG
The Reeves Center at 14th St (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

DC Housing Finance Agency at Florida Ave & 9th St NW

DCHFA Building at 9th & Florida NW (Photo: Bisnow/Jon Banister)

A) Reinvest $150 million by cancelling the Streetcar Benning Road Extension. Reinvest in infrastructure East of the River and projects creating racial equity and economic justice.

The Streetcar, as implemented in DC, does not further the goal of equity, but as envisioned and implemented increases gentrification and benefits developers and residents who prefer not to take the bus. The current line and the contemplated extension runs parallel to an existing bus lines and not even in a dedicated lane.

By redirecting the funds we could increase equity and opportunity by: 

  • Improving bus service and infrastructure for riders in ward 7 and 8.
  • Investing in infrastructure for community uplift East of the River, including those that make residents safer, such as lighting. This also includes investments that make residents healthier such as quality grocery stores or food markets, repairs to unhealthy conditions in public housing, and the opportunity for residents to access affordable internet.
  • Fighting displacement and creating opportunity by investing in building at Reservation 13, public housing repairs, and projects that create housing and jobs.

B) Reinvest $50 million from Akridge’s Burnham Place Luxury development by Union Station, and invest instead in housing at Reservation 13, DCHFA Headquarters, the Reeves Center, and/or public housing repairs.

Let’s call this $50 million allocated to renovate the H Street Bridge what it is: a subsidy for Akridge Development. Their proposed luxury housing and business community will further exacerbate inequality in the District and increase the pace of gentrification. Akridge claims they have no requirements around housing and good jobs because they say there is no public subsidy in the project. That is a technicality. The taxpayer paid for subsidy through the public Department of Transportation budget.

Goal 2: Demand good jobs for DC residents at Exelon/ Pepco

This budget includes a $230 million for Exelon/ Pepco. Exelon/Pepco made $34 Billion last year. The Exelon CEO made $15 million last year. Pepco’s performance in hiring from DC neighborhoods with high unemployment is lackluster. The pay and benefits at Pepco for non-union contractors is below market and below a family sustaining level. All this while Exelon invests in community based job training in other markets. For instance, Chicago Exelon has a community jobs program that includes recruitment, training, hiring and union scale pay. Why not in DC?

Goal 3: Create a $100 Million “Reimagine Community Safety” budget. Redirect funds from policing.

Law enforcement alone cannot eliminate violence in the District of Columbia. We propose a budget to reimagine safety through a large expansion of community and evidence-based violence prevention programs. Some examples of what the District could fund include:

  • Community based mental health and domestic violence teams to respond to crisis instead of the police.
  • Fully funding violence interruption programs at the Office of Neighborhood Safety, Pathways Program, Violence Intervention Initiative, School Based Initiative, Family and Survivor Support, and Community Based Crime Reduction Program. Also fund Cure the Streets, the violence interruption program at the Office of the Attorney General, as well as DPR’s Roving Leaders program.
  • Fully funding the NEAR Act, including the District’s Hospital-Based Violence Intervention.
  • Investing in programs like the Credible Messenger Initiative at the Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Services.
  • Providing youth and teens more engaging after school and summer programming. Also expand mentoring and programs that create relationships between youth and adults.
  • Sustaining funding through the Office of Victim Services Justice Grants to provide trauma support.
  • Expanding school and community-based counsellors and mental health providers.
  • Jobs programs, especially those that provide paid training or real employment in at-risk communities.

The funding could be achieved through redirecting Metropolitan Police Department personnel and capital investments. Even with this shift, Washington DC would still have more locally funded police FTEs per capita than almost any other major urban area or state in America. We acknowledge that it is hard to make apple to apple comparisons between other cities and the District as the nation’s capital. But we challenge District leaders to imagine a new way of investing our District funding that can build trust on the ground in communities and ultimately make our neighborhoods more peaceful and safe.

Goal 4: Join racial equity housing and economic development budget demands posed by community allies

WIN supports and signs on to the budget proposals of our allies at: