Jim Graham scrambles to save his "green team"
UPDATED 3:20 P.M.
In a fight that is sure to presage many tough funding battles to come, D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) is scrambling to save a pet program -- a "green team" that roams his ward supplementing city services by picking up trash, shoveling snow and removing graffiti.
The team, which was created by Graham in 2003, employs 23 persons that could be out of work within days, Graham said, unless at least $400,000 is found.
According to two sources with knowledge of the situation, Graham approached the quasi-public Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. for a
$500,000 a major cash infusion [SEE UPDATE BELOW].
It was a tough sell for a group charged with doling its money to programs that benefit underprivileged children. While some of the Green Team employees are young, Graham said, they are adults-- many of them ex-offenders "putting their lives together again." The half-million-dollar request would represent a significant chuck of the corporation's budget of about $4 million.
Last week, said a source, the CYITC board unanimously rejected the request. "It's extremely sad for me and for others, including those who are losing their jobs," Graham said today.
Now Graham is scrambling to find other sources for the funding, from public and private sources.
He plans to call a press conference Friday to bring attention to the matter, appealing to Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D). "If we had $400,000, we could get to the end to the fiscal year," he said.
But there may be little appetite to save the program among Graham's fellow politicos. The "Green Team" serves only Ward 1 and has been largely funded through spending earmarks inserted via the public works and transportation committee, which Graham chaired until this year. From his new post heading the human services panel, Graham will find it much more difficult to ensure continued funding for the program, which has been a major campaign selling point.
Other commercial districts have similar outfits, but they are typically funded not by taxpayers but by business improvement districts -- special areas where businesses within pay an additional levy on top of their tax bills to fund the supplemental services.
Graham said he is exploring BIDs for the U Street and Columbia Heights areas, but there is no prospect of their creation in the near future.
"That takes time, that's a very formal legal structure," Graham said. "It's a lengthy process."
UPDATE, 3:20 P.M.: Graham clarifies that the source of the CYITC funding was from a $500,000 budget earmark for gang intervention, $250,000 of which was specifically for Ward 1. Graham says it was the Ward 1 specific money that he was seeking to use for the 'green teams.' Graham also said that Ward 1 is not the only ward with a green team. The CYITC proposal, however, only would have saved the Ward 1 program.
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