- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2007

What have the D.C. taxpayers bought with a city budget that is nearly doubled from only seven years ago? In the year 2000, the city budget was $3.4 billion and now it’s nearly $6 billion. What has Mayor Adrian Fenty done in his first 130 days to either trim the budget or spend the money more wisely than over the past several years?

According to some seasoned observers, Mr. Fenty’s budget could be in the red by $30 million or more. How do we nearly double a $3.4 billion budget in seven years and still need more money? Leave it to Mr. Fenty to find a way. Hidden within the mayor’s 2008 budget is a provision to repeal a provision of law enacted in 2005 that drives down property tax rates when real-estate values rise. Mr. Fenty’s proposed repeal of the so-called calculated rate translates into a backdoor tax increase for D.C. homeowners.

The mayor also included a tax increase on every residential and commercial telephone line in the city. Right now, each landline telephone is assessed a monthly fee of 76 cents to help pay for 911 call operations. A cell-phone fee is about 66 cents. Both would jump to $1.55 per month, per telephone line if the mayor’s proposal passes. Mr. Fenty defends his tax increase by referring to it as a fee. Whatever you may call it, the mayor’s actions will most affect the elderly and people on fixed incomes. So much for Mr. Fenty’s campaign promise not to raise taxes in his first term.

If you were to ask a typical D.C. resident to choose between $5 million in overtime costs each year for city employees or for 52 new police officers, the answer would be 52 additional police officers on the streets. In Mr. Fenty’s first 130 days, he has failed to fix the District’s one-of-a-kind police booking system which requires officers to take their reports to the courthouse and meet with prosecutors — usually on overtime. Rank-and-file officers and our new chief, Cathy Lanier, say it is costly and a morale-buster. Thanks to the mayor’s failure to dig into details, the D.C. taxpayer will continue to pay for overtime costs rather then 52 new officers.

To make up for part of his $30 million budget gap, the mayor has proposed shifting unspent money from the public safety funds to the city’s personnel and procurement agencies, and asked agencies to identify unused funds. Many residents must ask themselves, what was done to recruit public safety personal that failed? How does D.C. have $7.4 million in public safety funds that went unused for the mayor to transfer to a different department? Where was the oversight from the city to ensure that the city did everything it could to hire only the best officers before the money was stripped for the mayor to use to patch his bloated budget?

Mr. Fenty couldn’t pick a worse time to propose cuts in public safety. Just last week, New Jersey avoided a terrorist attack. But we still haven’t heard from Mr. Fenty about what Washington is doing to protect the capital against a similar situation that occurred in New Jersey.

Following last week’s arrest of suspected terrorists planning an attack on Fort Dix in New Jersey, many of us thought what happened in New Jersey could happened here. Mr. Fenty failed D.C. residents by not providing a clear plan for dealing with a potential terrorist attack. Instead, the day after authorities arrested the suspected terrorists in New Jersey, Mr. Fenty called for a press conference to discuss revisions for driver’s licenses for people over the age of 75. The mayor received criticism last winter when storms blanketed the streets and the Fenty administration was slow in responding. Once more, the mayor failed D.C. residents by not addressing the city’s homeland security and public safety concerns.

In the first 130 days of Mr. Fenty’s mayoral term, we get a budget that has ballooned and is in the red; more overtime pay as opposed to more police officers; slow to no response when the city is faced with an emergency; and cuts to the public safety budget instead of more police officers. D.C. residents have quickly learned they have elected a mayor who is everywhere all the time smiling for the cameras. Now average D.C. taxpayers must ask themselves, how much is that smile worth?

Robert Kabel is chairman of the D.C. Republican Committee.

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