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Gray Pushes to Remove All Earmarks from Budget

The D.C. Council is moving forward on a proposal to eliminate all earmarks from the 2010 budget, which would deny city funding to dozens of arts and nonprofit social organizations.

At a closed-door meeting this morning, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) said he wants to remove the remaining $8 million from the budget that was suppose to go for earmarks. The Council approved about $20 million in earmarks in May, but Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) is proposing to slash them by about 60 percent to help close a budget shortfall.

In light of the controversy surrounding Council member Marion Barry's (D-Ward 8) earmarks, Gray said the grants need to go.

"I don't want to pick and choose because, inevitably, we will be accused of some bias in the process," Gray said. "These are not perceived as one-time grants anymore. People are using them as a lifeline."

Council members Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), Kwame Brown (D-At Large), Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) appear supportive of Gray's proposal.

Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Jim Graham (D-Ward 3) and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) are resisting the idea, noting many organizations are expecting to receive the money this year.

Council members David Catania (D-At Large) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) are trying to broker a compromise. They are floating a proposal that would eliminate the earmarks but set up "special purpose funds" that would allow groups that provide specific services, such as gang prevention efforts, to apply to receive some money this year.

"It's going to be a lot of heartache on a lot of organizations who have done nothing wrong," Catania said.

But Mendelson said the council's reputation is at risk because of the controversy surrounding Barry.

"We have been pilloried on the issue," he said.

By Tim Craig  |  July 28, 2009; 11:44 AM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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Comments

Why hasn't the WP reported on the need for 23 mil to finish out the Summer jobs program?

Posted by: candycane1 | July 28, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Jim Graham (D-Ward 3) and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 6 7) are resisting the idea, noting many organizations are expecting to receive the money this year.

Council members David Catania (D-At large) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) are trying to broker a compromise. They are floating a proposal that would eliminate the earmarks but set up "special purpose funds" that would allow groups that provide specific services, such as gang prevention efforts, to apply to receive some money this year.
________________________________________

Now you have it D.C. taxpayers. In black and white, the members of the D.C. Council who are working hard to protect no-bid, non-competitive public grant gifts to those who financially donate to their campaign coffers. No matter what you call it "one time (indefinite) grants" or "special purpose funds" they are at the end of the day "giveaways" that other legitimate service providers who don't have the political connections are denied the opportunity to bid for.

Worse, they are protecting financial giveaways during a financial recession. That is the epitome of gall.

Remember the names Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Jim Graham (D-Ward 3) and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), David Catania (I-At large) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) when you go to the polls. VOTE FOR THEIR Opponents!!!

Clean up D.C. Government from entitlement legislators now! start by keeping score on what the sitting members are doing today and hold them accountable to their decisions on election day.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | July 28, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

While I'm not a huge fan of earmarks, the reality is that most of the organizations are using them for legitimate purposes that often are not easily covered through a normal grant process. Many foundation grants are programmatic and don't take into account indirect costs, capital costs, that are necessary to run programs. For example, a $25,000 foundation grant will not cover the cost of space to run a program, particularly if you have to renovate a site to bring it into licensing/certification regulations. It doesn't cover the cost of the accountant/bookkeeper who is supposed to manage the funds once they are received. I'm for some sort of compromise, IF the DC budget allows for it. If there is an issue, it is the way they are distributed and THAT should be addressed. Develop a process . . . make them one-time . . .whatever, but fix, not necessarily scrap it.

Posted by: sbroyles45 | July 28, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Only $23 million this year, Candycane? What's the total thus far under this mayoral regime?

Posted by: southyrndiva | July 28, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

If a $660 million dollar budget gap doesn't illustrate the DC cannot afford earmarks - I don't know what would. While I agree that there are many things traditional grants cannot be used to fund (including operational and overhead expenses), there are literally thousands of nonprofits in DC that somehow manage to find the funds to cover those types of projects without earmarks. No one is negating the fact that current and past earmarks have gone to very reputable and respectable organizations doing incredibly important work, but that does not negate the fact that those funds are also dispersed in a non-competitive process that favors those with political connections. If Gray can broker a compromise which will allow for a competitive process for applying for the funds, that would be a welcome revolution in the eyes of the public which would go a long way in remedying the fallout caused by Barry's use of earmarks.

Posted by: concernedcitizen41 | July 28, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Concerneddccitizen41, I agree, if the entire process were to be made competitive, then I would back off in my opposition. However, if it is made competitive, there there would be no need for the process to take place during the budget allocation process, it could go through the regular grant process, even if it is a "special purpose grant". If it is non-competitive, I will sternly oppose it. It is a process that has been abused by ever councilperson in the Wilson Building. If a local tax-paying business doesn't have political connections, they are denied the opportunity to bid for those tax dollars. They have overhead as well and they provide important work in the community as well. MAKE IT PUBLIC OR MAKE IT GO AWAY.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | July 29, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Not sure southyrndiva but it sure is being played down. Only the Examiner mentioned it. There seems to be no details. I also want to know if the peacaholics lost any money.

Posted by: candycane1 | July 29, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

The Peacoholics was not a grant recipient. Loose Lips at WashCityPaper livetweeted the budget back-and-forth about the SYEP. The EOM hasn't shared how much has been spent on SYEP for fy09 but to cut the program off with two weeks left wouldn't be fair to students. I believe LL quoted JGraham as saying "the dye has been cast" and pulling back for fy09 can't be done but cutting the program back to 6wks in fy10 was agreed to.

Posted by: DeanwoodCitizen | July 29, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Chairman Gray has done a brave and sensible thing. But what can be done to kill the council earmark mechanism once and for all?

Earmarks reward organizations that are the most connected, not those that best meet the social and cultural needs of the people of the District. Earmarks waste Council time as well as public funds, undercut existing panel-reviewed grants programs, and encourage the kind of insidious "horse-trading" that leads to mischief.

Posted by: MikeLicht | July 29, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Earmarks poison the body politic. There are better ways.

See:


http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/dc-council-earmarks/

Posted by: MikeLicht | August 3, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

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