- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The opening salvos on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s fiscal 2018 spending plan were frighteningly tame, considering there’s nothing on the chopping block, nothing bolstering parents’ cries for school choice and nothing that declares a war on strenuous oversight.

Seems the Bowser plan is begging for a fight.

If members of the D.C. Council want to prove themselves worthy of being labeled lawmakers and not rubber stampers, here’s what they must do:

1) Prove support for the city’s young people by boosting per-pupil spending in public charter and traditional schools.

The city’s public school’s chief, Antwan Wilson, said he is “confident that we have what we need.”

That’s baloney.

The mayor’s own advisers recommended a 3.5 percent increase, but the proposal she released on Tuesday came in at 1.5 percent, which means the kids, through no fault of their own, draw the short straw.

Explains Ramona Edelin, executive director of the D.C. Association for Chartered Public Schools: “Half of District public school students are defined as ‘at risk.’ Nearly three-quarters live in economically disadvantaged homes — almost 80 percent in D.C.’s charters. The District’s tax base and public school enrollment are expanding, so must its investment in D.C.’s children.”

Bazinga!

2) Stop the streetcar project in its tracks.

This is a hard line, for sure, but the city and the Trump administration could save millions (reportedly $280 million) by focusing on the needs of motorists and Metro instead of progressive pipe dreams.

Mary Cheh, the council’s Transportation Committe chair; Charles Allen, the Ward 6 rep, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao should engage in a triple-threat match: Hop onto the streetcar near Union Station (in the dark of night) and ride it to tracks’ end in nowhere land (in the dark of night). (I’m willing to wager they’d call Uber and Lyft in the name of safety.)

The streetcar project is a waste of public dollars, public resources and public planning. Junk it now, and focus on meaningful projects, such as moving residents, truckers and buses from Point A to Point B without being jammed by gridlock.

3) Beef up oversight. Lawmakers must remember this: It is their job to legislate and dispose and it’s the mayor’s job to execute and propose.

When neither branch performs its lawful responsibilities, accountability disappears — and that’s where the city stands right now.

Surely all programs for D.C. stakeholders are not effective and efficient. The council should investigate as much.

For example, are so-called workforce programs actually training and hiring D.C. residents? No. D.C. unemployment rates are staggering in Wards 7 and 8, 10 percent and 12.9 percent, respectively.

Put another way, lawmakers must stop allowing the mayor’s crew and their advocates from merely saying “We served X amount people during fiscal year such and such.”

Poppycock.

Oversight means asking the tough questions and getting reliable data to explain to stakeholders precisely how agencies and nonprofits spent taxpayer money.

Think of it this way, too: If lawmakers do their job, the mayor would be forced to do the same.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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