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Posted at 11:47 AM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Jim Graham scrambles to save his "green team"

By Mike DeBonis

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.

By Mike DeBonis  | February 9, 2011; 11:47 AM ET
Categories:  The District  
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Comments

Forming a bid may be a long process but one that should have been started years ago. It is programs like this that can't get and other funding after being in operation for a number of years that shouldn't be getting earmarks in perpituity. It is sad that these individuals will lose their jobs but I think it is the role of the business community and the landlords in Ward 1 to fund such programs. After all the City has put a lot of money into redeveloping Ward 1.

Posted by: peterdc | February 9, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

With Graham as the chair of the committee on human services, the FY2012 budget process is going to be a mess. I can imagine the deals he'll be making with agency directors under his committee's purview to set aside funds for his pet projects as a trade off for preserving parts of their agencies' budgets.

DC does not know what success looks like so it is resigned to fail.

Posted by: jmc39 | February 10, 2011 6:40 AM | Report abuse

The Green Team has helped to tackle the monumental dumping problem in our alley and around our block in Park View. The absence of the Green Team has been felt already: without their helping hands, illegally dumped mattresses have remained in our alley for the past two weeks! While removing these items is DPW's job, the Green Team has proven more agile and effective in keeping our neighborhood clean. Our blog has tracked the dumping situation and has frequently given credit to the Green Team for quickly removing bulk items. http://parkviewbeautificationcrew.blogspot.com/

This is a sad day for our neighborhood. Our block clean ups will not even make a dent in the trash around us without the assistance of the Green Team.

Posted by: dcrothers1 | February 10, 2011 6:31 PM | Report abuse

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