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Stop The Cuts

On Tuesday, May 30, 2017, the Council of the District of Columbia will consider Mayor Bowser’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget. I’ve said many times on the record that this is the worst education budget I’ve seen in my five years on the Council. It’s not only the education portion of the budget, but the entire city budget that needed improvements. The Council has worked together to improve this budget, but there is still more to be done. In particular, I have yet to understand why we are continuing to give tax cuts to the wealthy while we are underfunding education, social services, and the arts and humanities.

Just in the Education budget, the Committee on Education worked to restore cuts to early childhood literacy programs, increased the Universal Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) to 2.38% over last year’s approved budget (the Mayor’s increase was 1.5%), expanded the number of pre-K enhanced slots, and increased the book budget for the D.C. Public Library. You can find out more about the Committee’s work here. However, we still have so much more to do not only in education but throughout the entire government.

This is why I support stopping the estate tax cut, which will only benefit approximately 150 families in the District of Columbia, and cost the District $12 million in annual revenue. I also support a new proposal by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute of stopping the implementation of the business franchise tax reduction for businesses earning $5 million or more in annual revenue. This would save the District approximately $21 million per year that we could put right back into education, social services, and the arts and humanities. We can also use this money to plan for potential federal funding losses due to Trump’s reckless policies and heartless budget proposal.

Let the Council know that the wealthy should not benefit while our education system, social services, and arts and humanities communities suffer. E-mail and call your Councilmembers and let them know that you support stopping the estate tax cut permanently, and only allowing the business franchise tax cut to be implemented for businesses earning under $5 million in annual revenue. This will provide much needed investments across the District of Columbia.

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Surviving CFSA

By Ashley Strange*

Six years is more than enough time to learn how foster care operates. Surviving it is another thing. I entered the foster care system at the age of 15, one month before my 16th birthday, and was emancipated six years later. Year one in the system left me confused. Who were these strangers I am being told to live with? Year two was when I lost hope of living with my family. Separation and unintentional isolation will change anyone’s behavior. Year three is when things started to look hopeful because I had finally settled into a loving home. Year four I found my voice. I started demanding my clothing and transportation stipends, and advocated for the Youth Bill of Rights to be provided to every foster home. Year five is when the fear of emancipation struck hard. With no immediate family support, I became depressed and worried about homelessness. Year six, I finally cracked. I was aging out of foster care and I was afraid of what adulthood would bring. The struggle to maintain grades, travel across town to school, have enough money, and find housing in an overpopulated and expensive city is enough to drive anyone crazy, but I survived. It is because of my story that any significant changes that deal with child welfare concern me.

Child and Family Services Agency

Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) is the District of Columbia’s child welfare agency that protects child victims and children and youth at risk of abuse and neglect, and assist their families. Overall, CFSA currently serves 2,675 children and youth: 951 (36%) youth are in foster care and 1,724 (64%) youth are served in their homes. [1] CFSA is responsible for investigating allegations of abuse and neglect of children and youth under the age of 18 that are residents of the District of Columbia. When victims of child abuse and neglect are identified, CFSA’s trained social workers work to keep children safe by assisting families and connecting them to services to prevent future endangerment. The agency also provide safe out of home care which involves the temporary removal of a child from a dangerous home with the hope of reestablishing permanent homes.

Youth in care are people too, and they deserve what is owed to them. To ensure that youth are aware of their rights, by law CFSA must provide all youth in care a copy of the Bill of Rights.

Safe Haven Redesign

CFSA’s goal is to continue to reduce the number of children in foster care by increasing placement in homes, reunification with the child’s family, guardianship, and adoption. Recently, CFSA’s Director Brenda Donald announced significant changes to the agency. She proposed a Safe Haven Redesign which will reduce foster care providers from seven to one, eliminate the traditional and therapeutic designation, bring all D.C. foster homes under direct care of CFSA, and ensure that the entire system is trauma-informed. In early March 2017, CFSA released a Request for Proposals (RFP), which solicited applications for services of a contractor to provide foster care placement and case management services for approximately four-hundred (400) children and youth in foster care who will be placed in Maryland only. For more information, please view Safe Haven Redesign Request For Proposal (RFP). The RFP closed on last Friday. A few providers have applied.

Safe and Stable Families Redesign

Additionally, CFSA plans to leverage the fiscal flexibility of the Title IV-E Waiver to spend more funding on community-based prevention and family-strengthening services rather than foster care resources due to the reduced number of children and youth in foster care. CFSA hopes to revamp their prevention and in-home services for families to stay together in a safe environment.

Concerns about the changes

On April 7, 2017, Mayor Bowser released her proposed fiscal year 2018 budget for CFSA. The Mayor’s proposal allocates $226,485,929 for CFSA’s budget in fiscal year 2018, which is a $6,143,893 reduction from fiscal year 2017. Though these redesigns could bring about some benefits, I am concerned that the current proposed budget does not provide CFSA with adequate funding to properly implement these changes or to respond to unanticipated challenges. CFSA has maintained that the reductions in the budget corresponds with the decrease in the number of youth involved in the foster care system. However, this theory may backfire on them.

I am also concerned about the timing of these changes. In 2015, CFSA experienced a shortage of foster care placements when the agency terminated two contracts that placed children in homes. In CFSA’s FY2016-2017 pre-performance oversight responses, CFSA alluded to the fact that the agency is still experiencing difficulty when it stated it “continues to refine the process of matching children entering care to available foster care homes.”[2] 11 children in out-of-home care slept overnight at CFSA’s offices while awaiting a licensed placement in fiscal year 2016.[3] In fiscal year 2017, 6 children slept overnight in an office. Although some of these instances were exceptional cases, they still underscore the difficulties that the agency experiences placing children, especially youth in certain sub-populations: teens, pregnant and or parenting youth, or youth with special needs. Only 25 % of foster children are expected to be placed with kin by the end of this year.[4] I experienced this shortage first hand.

In 2015, my second foster home allowed me to stay there as long as I needed while completing school. However, CFSA began pressuring my foster parent to take in another child immediately. My foster parent became overwhelmed with the number of calls she received. I began to receive calls asking about my housing plan and was provided a list of shelters. I made the decision to leave and entered a transitional living home, named Wayne’s Place.

Wayne’s Place

Two years ago, Mayor Bowser and Director Donald announced the opening of a new transitional home for youth between the ages of 18 and 24. The Wayne’s Place Project is a partnership between CFSA and the Department of Behavioral Health that is managed by the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative. Wayne Place is a complex of six buildings with 22 two-bedroom apartments that can house up to 44 youth. It receives an annual funding of $1,015,250. The program was designed to help young adults who need support to live independently and succeed.

I lived in Wayne’s Place in my sixth year, from September 2015 to March 2017. When I first entered the transitional home at the age of 21, the security guards consistently made inappropriate comments to me. Additionally, some of security guards were engaging in inappropriate relationships with some of the young women there. Both issues were more or less taken care of after I testified before the Committee on Health and Human Services on March 3 2016. Still, Transitioned Aged Youth (TAYs) complain about unprofessional staff. Many of the female TAYs continue to express to me that they feel uncomfortable, and several have left the program. Additionally, TAYs voice frustration that their caseworkers did not provide enough housing and employment support. Thankfully, I had great caseworkers who supported me. The idea of Wayne’s Place is good idea in theory, but there still remains a lot of unresolved issues that need to be addressed. Their goal to transition youth to middle-class, for the most part, is proving more difficult than they had hoped.

Tutoring Services

The Mayor’s FY18 proposed budget insufficiently provides tutoring services for youth in care. In a letter to Director Donald, Councilmember Grosso asked about the agency’s budget plans, and funding for tutoring services for youth. Director Donald responded that the “proposed budget is sufficient to improve the educational progress” of their children. However, I disagree.

Just a few years ago when I requested tutoring services for a college course, I was denied and told to used my school’s services. When I explained that the process to request a tutor at the school would take time, and that I desperately needed one now, I was provided a tutor who could not help me.

Similarly, when I first entered foster care my foster family grew impatient with waiting for the agency to respond to tutoring requests and eventually paid for outside tutoring services. My math and reading tutors came three times a week for two hours each. These tutoring sessions allowed me to make up what I missed in elementary and middle school. Eventually, the cost became too much for them to pay. My foster family was very frustrated that they were never reimbursed for services the agency were supposed to provide. 

I am grateful that the Committee on Human Services added $250,000 for increased tutoring services when they unanimously voted on the budget on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. I believe this additional funding is sorely needed. I am also pleased that the Committee provided $500,000 additional dollars for rapid housing. I would have liked to take advantage of this program but I was told by an officer at the Office of Youth and Empowerment that 23 years olds could not receive these vouchers, which is unfair.

In closing, my time in care was not all horrible. Without services like the Education Training Voucher (ETV), a college scholarship for youth foster care, and Capital Area Asset Builder, a match savings program, I would not have been able to graduate debt-free or pay my first month’s rent. Now I am a college graduate with full time employment. No system or organization is perfect, but if CFSA wants to reach their goal of protecting and serving all youth under their care they need to do three things: improve, improve, and improve!


*This post is part of an ongoing series of posts by Councilmember Grosso’s staff to support professional development. All posts are approved and endorsed by Councilmember Grosso.

 

[1] Pg. 3. March 1, 2017. Fiscal Year 2016 CFSA Performance Oversight Hearing: Testimony of Brenda Donald, Acting Director of CFSA

[2] February 21, 2017. CFSA Performance Oversight Hearing FY2016 2017 (First Quarter) p. 113

[3] Ibid p. 117

[4] Ibid p. 111

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Grosso proposes tax credit to expand affordable housing

For Immediate Release: 
May 16, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso proposes tax credit to expand affordable housing

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today introduced the Community Impact Investment Tax Credit Act of 2017 to spur the creation and preservation of more affordable housing in the District of Columbia.

The legislation encourages impact investments—investments made to solve social, environmental, or infrastructural challenges while yielding a financial return—in affordable housing through community development financial institutions (CDFIs) by providing to investors an income tax credit of up to 33 percent.

 “The affordable housing crisis will not be solved overnight, nor by any singular entity. Using every financing tool and partner is essential,” Grosso said.  “Through this legislation, we will continue the city’s affordable housing initiatives and multiply our public resources by promoting private investment to create more homes that D.C. residents can afford.”

While the city has made historic investment into the Housing Production Trust Fund, additional dollars are harder to come by as D.C. balances investments in other priorities such as education and city services. The bill would leverage public investment of up to $1 million in tax credits to provide $3 million for affordable housing.

“It is clear investors want to support affordable housing,” Grosso said.  “In just the last year, a local CDFI, Enterprise Community Partners, has been able to raise $11 million in impact capital to finance the preservation and production of local affordable homes. We can make that impact even greater by incentivizing this type of investment.”

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Community Impact Investment Tax Credit Act of 2017

Community Impact Investment Tax Credit Act of 2017

Introduced: May 16, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, and Charles Allen

Summary: To amend Title 47 of the District of Columbia Official Code to establish a tax credit program for local community development financial institutions to spur the creation of more affordable housing.

Two-Pager

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Across the country, the shortage of affordable housing serves as a significant impediment to the improvement of quality of life and economic competitiveness.  According to a report published by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition last year, there is not a single state in the U.S. where a minimum wage employee working full-time can reasonably afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent.

Here in the District of Columbia, rents have risen by almost 30 percent over the past 10 years.  While the city has made historic investments into the Housing Production Trust Fund, meeting the actual affordable housing demand would require an investment of around $5 billion according to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute; a figure that is untenable to achieve while still investing in other needs and priorities.

That is why today along with my colleagues, Councilmembers Robert White, Elissa Silverman, and Charles Allen, I am introducing the Community Impact Investment Tax Credit Act of 2017.

This legislation establishes a tax credit program for taxpayers making an impact investment through a community development financial institution or CDFI, to spur the creation and preservation of more affordable housing.  

Under the bill, individuals, corporations and foundations—stakeholders that may not otherwise directly invest in affordable housing efforts, will be eligible to claim as a credit against their District income taxes, unincorporated business franchise taxes or corporation franchise taxes, 33 percent of their investment up to $1 million.

Impact investments serve to encourage responsible investing by mobilizing capital into mission-oriented entities that strive to make a positive impact in areas presenting social, environmental or infrastructural challenges while yielding a financial return. 

Through this legislation we will accomplish the public policy goal of expanding affordable housing across the city by leveraging the private market to seed investments in affordable housing production and preservation.  

Since just last year, Enterprise Community Partners, a local CDFI has been able to raise $11 million in impact capital to finance the preservation and production of local affordable homes.

Their ability to raise this amount of capital in less than a year demonstrates investor demand to support affordable housing.  Unfortunately, we currently lack tax benefits and incentives for this sort of investment, which serves as a barrier to attracting many people that may be interested in making an investment of this kind.

Solving the affordable housing crisis is not something that will occur overnight and is not something that can be accomplished by any one entity or organization; however, through this legislation we will add another financing tool to the arsenal and partner with the private market to expand the amount of debt capital available for affordable housing projects.
 

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Mayor Bowser attempts to game Council budgetary process

For Immediate Release: 
May 11, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105 (Grosso), Kelly Whittier, (202) 431-5697 (Cheh)

Mayor Bowser attempts to game Council budgetary process

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso, Chairperson of the Committee on Education, and Councilmember Mary Cheh, Chairperson of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, released the following joint statement in response to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s errata letter on the education portion of the D.C. Fiscal Year 2018 budget:

“Several weeks ago, after months of planning, Mayor Muriel Bowser submitted to the Council her budget for fiscal year 2018. We, along with parents, teachers, students, administrators, and advocates were very disappointed when we received a budget that leaves our schools without the resources to put every child in the best position to succeed.

“Our committees, like all council committees, have examined agency funding levels, historical spending, and will make a determination as to the appropriate spending for fiscal year 2018.  We found that the mayor drew up her budget and, like many mayors, built in funds to be used at her discretion, beyond effective Council control.

“Today, she sent the Council an errata letter, usually meant to fix minor mistakes in the submitted budget.  However, this letter bears all the hallmarks of an attempt to regain control of those funds. And it irresponsibly claims to have solved the uniform per student funding formula shortfall that the mayor created. In truth, it includes only one-time money.

“Through our oversight of the budget, we have found sources of funds that can be reallocated to provide a more sustainable solution to investing in our students’ futures by providing recurring, not one-time, dollars to increase the uniform per student funding formula over the mayor’s original proposed 1.5 percent.  Recurring dollars represent a real commitment to our students, providing year-to-year funding, rather than having to go through this exercise in the next budget cycle.

“The mayor now attempts to defeat that reallocation by saying ‘Oops – we see some errors and want to correct them.’

“The public is ill-served by the mayor’s political gamesmanship which lacks transparency and is contrary to the system of checks and balances. The mayor proposes, the Council disposes. And that’s exactly what we, working with our colleagues, intend to do, regardless of today’s letter.”

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Grosso concerned over implementation of student loan ombudsman

Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB) raising concerns over the dual-expertise qualification needed for the District of Columbia's Student Loan Ombudsman that could delay hiring of the vital position.

Legislation introduced by Councilmember Grosso and passed by the Council last year created an ombudsman in DISB empowered to establish licensing requirements for student loan servicers in the city.  They are also charged with informing D.C. residents about their options when seeking student loans and when working to repay them.

DISB advertised the position as a "Student Loan and Foreclosure Ombudsman", requiring applicants to have qualifications in both fields, a move that Councilmember Grosso feels will yield no qualified candidates and thus delay the hiring of a student loan ombudsman.

"The District of Columbia, one of the most educated cities in the U.S., is the most indebted jurisdiction when it comes to average federal student loan debt," wrote Grosso. "The 140,000 student loan borrowers residing in D.C. owe an average of $40,885, about 40 percent higher than the national average."

Recent actions by the Trump Administration to halt a planned overhaul to student loan management initiated under President Barack Obama have cast the system into doubt and made the need fir a dedicated student loan ombudsman in D.C. even more important.

"Now more than ever, a dedicated Student Loan Ombudsman is necessary to ensure that our residents will be able to lodge complaints and receive vital educational information as it relates to their student loans.  Further, this role will enable the District of Columbia to take a critical step in protecting student loan borrowers by creating servicer accountability and providing stringent oversight of this industry," Grosso wrote.

Read the councilmember's full letter below.

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Grosso calls on chief financial officer to consider Wells Fargo divestment

Councilmember Grosso sent a letter last week to Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt calling on his office to reassess the District of Columbia's relationship with Wells Fargo, in light of its questionable and discriminatory business practices and financing of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the private prison industry.

"As Wells Fargo is the District of Columbia’s bank of record, I believe we have an obligation to reassess our relationship with this entity and join countless other cities in strongly considering divestment," Grosso wrote.

Grosso had previously introduced a Sense of the Council resolution urging divestment from Wells Fargo.

"I understand and can appreciate that state and local governments, in selecting institutions that will meet their needs for depository services, are subject to specific statutory and constitutional restrictions; however we should endeavor to prioritize partnering with business entities and financial institutions that are committed to engaging in fair and responsible business practices and we should always seek to reinvest in local banks to further support community growth.," he wrote.

Read the full letter below.

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Committed to a different approach to public safety, Grosso votes against Newsham nomination to be Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department

For Immediate Release: 
April 6, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Committed to a different approach to public safety, Grosso votes against Newsham nomination to be Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso on his opposition to the nomination of Peter Newsham to serve as the permanent chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD):

“Over the past month, the Committee on the Judiciary held three hearings on Newsham’s nomination. In addition to those who testified, I heard from numerous constituents via phone, email, and social media about this decision, and I am thankful to all of them for their engagement on an issue as important as this.

“As I thought about what it means to pick a new chief of police, I heard the praise and the criticism for the nominee. I take both of those very seriously.

“But, I also came to realize that I have a different vision in mind—that this vote is an opportunity to imagine what kind of police department we want to have, and what kind of leader will move us toward that goal.

“There are competing visions about the role of the police in our society, as well as different perspectives about what public safety means. I have seen it in my work as Chairperson of the Committee on Education, as we move away from “zero tolerance” approaches to school discipline, and instead implement restorative justice practices in our schools. We have seen a shift on the Council and among residents with the move away from criminalizing drugs, to removing criminal penalties and focusing on addiction and treatment services as the appropriate response.

“I feel strongly that it is time for a similar overhaul in our approach to policing—a transformation of the MPD into an agency whose highest priorities include promoting non-violence and collaborating deeply with the community and neighborhoods.

“Such a transformation would mean a department would have a spotless track record of internal accountability, and a culture of intervention by officers when they see a colleague doing something wrong. It would be about recognizing that people in the community should be leaders in creating a safer environment, with support of the police, not the other way around.

“A shift like this would require police leadership to see that there are very deep-seated problems with how law enforcement operates in this city, and rising to the challenge of changing the paradigm.

“To be sure, this kind of change would require hard work by the entire city, but the leadership of the MPD is vitally important.

“Leadership was the focus of a number of the witnesses during the hearings, and as an elected official, the meaning of leadership is constantly on my mind, especially in the new national political climate. At a time when the leaders in the highest ranks of the government openly espouse bigotry, flout the rule of law, and disrespect human rights, I believe we need to go the extra mile to counteract those messages and actions.

“Maybe my expectations are too high, but based on some of the feedback I have heard, our constituents are hungering for a chief of police who is visionary and transformative, and can think outside of the box.

“Unfortunately, I do not believe that this nominee fits that profile.

“I remain committed to a very different vision of what policing and public safety can be, and I am committed to working with the new chief to promote these values, and the values that we heard from so many witnesses during this process around police accountability, bolstering our sanctuary city policies, promoting non-violence, decreasing arrests, and ending the perception that more police will solve our problems.”

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on the death of Sharon Ambrose

For Immediate Release: 
April 3, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on the death of Sharon Ambrose

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso on the death of former Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose:

“The passing of Sharon Ambrose is a devastating loss, not only for me personally, but for the District of Columbia as well. She dedicated her entire life to the people of this city, including ten years as the Councilmember from Ward 6, and any attempt to honor that service fully would surely fall short.

“I had the privilege of working for Sharon for six years; had she not retired I no doubt would still be working for her. She always pushed me to dream bigger and work harder. As chair of my first campaign, her vision and leadership put me on the Council.

“I would not be the councilmember I am today without Sharon as a mentor and friend. For that, I am eternally grateful. My thoughts are with her husband Michael, and the rest of her family during this time.”

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Grosso to organize alternative Council retreat to focus on critical issues

Today, Councilmember Grosso circulated a letter to his colleagues inviting them to participate in a retreat to discuss the vital issues that face the District of Columbia, after Chairman Mendelson failed to appreciate the gravity of the city's situation and declined to assemble a diverse agenda to discuss solutions and chart a path forward.

Councilmember Grosso's letter:

Agenda of March 29 Council Retreat organized by Chairman Mendelson:

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Grosso introduces bill to promote individual power in local elections

For Immediate Release: 
March 22, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso introduces bill to promote individual power in local elections

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today introduced legislation to encourage greater participation in District of Columbia elections by providing for public financing for campaigns, shifting power and influence from big donors to smaller, individual contributors.

“Public financing of campaigns would give greater voice to all voters and reduce the disproportionate influence of big donors in D.C. politics,” Grosso said. “We must ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in and positively influence the political process, regardless of how much or how little they are able to contribute, or if they do not contribute at all.”

Under the legislation, the Fair Elections Act of 2017, qualified participating candidates are eligible to receive base amount allocations and matching payments. In exchange for receiving public financing, participating candidates would no longer be able to accept direct corporate contributions or traditional political action committee (PAC) contributions.

The contribution limits and matching funds are tiered by the office being sought, ranging from a limit of $20 for Ward State Board of Education candidates to $200 for mayor. Candidates would receive a 2-to-1 match before qualifying for the ballot, then a 5-to-1 match after.

“In addition to fighting corruption, a public financing system empowers residents of ordinary means to have a meaningful ability to compete for elected office,” Grosso said.  “This bill is about amplifying the voices of everyday D.C. residents.”

Eight of Grosso’s colleagues, Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Trayon White, and Brianne Nadeau, joined him as co-introducers.

“The Fair Elections bill is about putting more power in the hands of DC residents. Changing the way we fund campaigns in a way that prioritizes the low-dollar donor means candidates can spend more time focused on their constituents and neighbors, rather than chasing big-dollar donors,” said Councilmember Charles Allen, chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary, to which the bill was referred.

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Sense of the Council Urging Reassessment of Relationship with Wells Fargo Resolution of 2017

Sense of the Council Urging Reassessment of Relationship with Wells Fargo Resolution of 2017

Introduced: March 22, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, and Charles Allen

Summary: To declare the sense of the Council that the District of Columbia is committed to promoting fair and responsible banking and lending practices; and to call on the city to reassess its existing relationship with Wells Fargo and consider greater investment in local banks to support community growth.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with my colleagues Councilmembers Nadeau, Bonds and Silverman, I am also introducing the “Sense of the Council Urging Reassessment of Relationship with Wells Fargo Resolution of 2017.”

For years Wells Fargo has been plagued with allegations of racial discrimination in lending practices leading to some of the largest settlements in recent memory.

Recently, the financial institution has come under scrutiny for its involvement in financing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and highly questionable sales practices.

In a report published by In The Public Trust, it was found that Wells Fargo is one of the private prison industry’s most dedicated lenders. 

In light of the myriad allegations against Wells Fargo, several cities across the country including, San Francisco, CA; Takoma Park, MD; Minneapolis, MN; Seattle, WA and others have moved to divest or explore divesting from Wells Fargo.

The District of Columbia has long sought to protect the city’s interests and the public’s trust by managing and spending city funds in a fiscally responsible and prudent manner.

As Wells Fargo is the District of Columbia’s bank of record, I believe we have an obligation to fully reassess our relationship with Wells Fargo and strongly consider divestment.

We should prioritize partnerships with business entities and financial institutions that are committed to engaging in fair and responsible business practices and we should fully commit to reinvesting in local banks to support community growth.

Thank you Chairman Mendelson, I yield the remainder of my time to my co-introducer and I welcome any co-sponsors.

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Fair Elections Act of 2017

Fair Elections Act of 2017

Introduced: March 22, 2017

Co-introducers: Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, and Trayon White

Summary: To reform campaign financing and to provide for publicly funded political campaigns.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with my colleagues Councilmembers Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Trayon White and Brianne Nadeau, I am reintroducing the “Fair Elections Act of 2017.”

Since I’ve been in office, I have introduced some version of this bill in every Council period because I believe strongly that public financing of elections is one of the most vital tools to combat the corrupting influence of outsized campaign spending.

As we all know, campaign donations are a necessary, though sometimes complicated aspect of politics.

Support for candidates in the District of Columbia today generally comes from three sources: Friends of a candidate who know his or her qualifications and support their aspirations for democracy and the common good; Citizens who have views on governance and public policy, or citizens with grievances with governance; and individuals with commercial interests that either benefit or risk loss due to decisions of governance.

All of these sources are appropriate in a functioning democracy; however, the situation we face today is that we are out of balance—big donors outweigh the ability of others’ to influence campaigns.

My legislation helps to restore that balance by establishing a robust public financing program.

In Council Period 21, then-Chair of the Committee on Judiciary, Councilmember McDuffie held a hearing on this bill, which brought about important feedback and healthy criticism.

Following that hearing, my staff worked to make the changes recommended by the Attorney General and completed an in-depth analysis of the previous3 election cycles to understand what is truly needed to run a successful campaign in the District of Columbia.

Under the legislation, qualified participating candidates are eligible to receive base amount allocations and matching payments, the latter both before qualifying for the ballot and after.

In addition to fighting corruption, a public financing system empowers residents of ordinary means to have a meaningful ability to compete for elected office.  Establishing this system will allow those who may not have personal wealth or access to high-powered connections to launch competitive campaigns.

This is bill is about amplifying the voices of everyday D.C. residents and I hope that all of my colleagues will stand up for publicly funded elections and cosponsor this legislation.

I yield the remainder of my time to my co-introducers and I welcome any co-sponsors.

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Grosso introduces bill to promote greater transparency in D.C. government

For Immediate Release: 
March 17, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso introduces bill to promote greater transparency in D.C. government

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso introduced legislation on Tuesday to foster more open and responsive government by strengthening existing open government laws.

“An open and transparent government is more likely to be an effective and ethical government—a good government,” said Grosso. “When we open up the government for our residents to see, it increases confidence in our work, and lets the public highlight areas for improvement.”

The Strengthening Government Transparency Amendment Act of 2017 strengthens D.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, Open Meetings Act, and Open Government Office Act and codifies key components of past mayoral orders on open data.

The bill establishes in D.C. law the principle that if government information is deemed appropriate to share with one person under a Freedom of Information Act request, it should be shared with everyone and ought to be proactively published. It also shifts the Freedom of Information Act appeals process from the mayor’s office to the independent Office of Open Government, bringing more objectivity and expertise to the appeals process.

Additionally, the Open Meetings Act is reinforced by requiring that a public meeting is one where the public is permitted to be present, creating a complaint process for alleged violations, and a private right of action for residents when a meeting that should be open is improperly closed.

“Having an open and accountable government is something we should constantly strive for in D.C.,” Grosso said.

Councilmember Mary Cheh co-introduced the bill with Grosso.

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Strengthening Government Transparency Amendment Act of 2017

Strengthening Government Transparency Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: March 15, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmember Mary Cheh

Summary: To amend the Freedom of Information Act to clarify procedures for public bodies to make information available to the public, to extend the time a public body has to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request, to clarify certain exemptions from Freedom of Information Act requirements, to establish the Open Government Office as the body to resolve appeals regarding Freedom of Information Act requests, to clarify reporting requirements on public body Freedom of Information Act activities, to clarify the public bodies covered by the Freedom of Information Act; to amend the Open Meetings Act to include Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and other bodies, to require that a public body’s meeting is considered open only if members of the public are permitted to attend, to create a complaint process for instances of alleged non-compliance, to create a private right of action for an individual alleging non-compliance; to amend the Open Government Office Act to change the name to the Office of Open Government, to clarify the Office’s roles and responsibilities, to require boards, commission, and task forces to make available certain information in a central location online, and to create uniform procedures for processing and tracking requests for public records.

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