DC for Democracy is a leading unaligned progressive group of activists, community leaders and everyday voters in the District of Columbia working for positive change in our local & federal government and statehood for the residents of Washington, DC. We are the Washington, D.C. local group of Democracy for America (DFA).

TO JOIN US, email us at dcfordemocracy@gmail.com.
To join us on Facebook, click here.

We generally meet on the second Wednesday of the month. Our next meetup is Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at 7pm . Venue TBD.

On May 27, the Council will hold their first vote on the Fiscal Year 2016 budget, the single most important piece of legislation this year. DC for Democracy is working with the Fair Budget Coalition to ensure that important investments, particularly in affordable housing, are maintained, and to urge the Council to increase investments in such programs as rent supplements and tenant protections.

We have prepared the following letter to Councilmembers and hope that you will join the steering committee in signing it. We will hand deliver the letter to the Councilmembers in the next week.

Click here to sign the letter.

Dear Councilmember ________,

We are members of DC for Democracy, a progressive all-volunteer grassroots organization that promotes the political empowerment of ordinary citizens. We are residents, voters and taxpayers in the District of Columbia who appreciate that the annual budget is the single most powerful tool for aligning our government with our values.

DC for Democracy is an active member of the Fair Budget Coalition and we support their recommendations for the FY2016 budget. In particular, we applaud the investment of $100 million in the Housing Production Trust Fund. This sum would create and preserve 1,000 affordable units a year, a modest response to the affordable housing crisis in our city. The Council should commit a minimum of $100 million to the HPTF every year into the foreseeable future.

We urge you to expand the funding for the Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP). Government policy has promoted the influx of wealthier residents to our city, fueling gentrification and displacement. If the Council is serious about protecting the diversity and stability of our communities, it must increase funding for rent supplements.

We also urge you to beef up staff at the Office of the Tenant Advocate, which serves approximately 300,000 renters in DC. The Council has passed good laws to protect tenants, but they are meaningless if not enforced.

We are pleased that the Mayor has proposed extending the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) for the next fiscal year. The 6,000 families who desperately need these funds should not be penalized for the flaws in the program’s management. Until those flaws are fixed, these families should be guaranteed the benefits.

The budget engagement meetings made clear that the public places a high priority on the vital programs listed above. The Council loses credibility if it fails to fund these services claiming a lack of resources, while offering tens of millions of dollars in tax subsidies to wealthy corporations, and piling up billions of dollars in reserves. Neither can we believe we lack resources when the wealthiest residents pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than low- and moderate-income families, and polls show they are willing to pay their fair share. If the Council fails to fund these desperately needed services, the public will lose faith that the Council is committed to solve our most pressing problems. The District of Columbia is a city of immense wealth; let us use it for a purpose we can be proud of.

In closing, the budget must reflect the values of the people of the District of Columbia. We will pay close attention to the budget debate and your vote in the expectation that the FY16 budget will provide the resources necessary to make the District of Columbia a more just and equal community.

Click here to sign the letter.

At the meetup April 8, DC for Democracy endorsed Renée Bowser in the special election for the Ward 4 council seat. We also voted to sign a petition calling for the creation of a public bank in DC. Read on for more details, including actions you can take.

Ward 4
The votes were as follows:

  • Renée Bowser: 18 (72%)—with 2nd choices, 20 (80%)
  • Dwayne M. Toliver: 2 (8%)
  • No endorsement: 2 (8%)
  • Douglass Sloan: 1 (4%)
  • Brandon Todd: 1 (4%)

Renée easily met the two-thirds threshold required for endorsement. Members liked her strong and consistent track record as a champion for DC’s working families. Whether it be fighting to ensure that development policies encourage small business and job growth, requiring accountability for developers and contractors receiving public subsidies, or advocating for a $15/hour minimum wage, she has consistently stood with us where it matters. Members were also impressed by Renée’s commitment to public financing of elections to reduce the role of money in politics, and her concrete ideas for expanding affordable housing. We know we can count on Renée Bowser to be an independent voice on the council, one who will never stop working for the residents of Ward 4.

DC for Democracy is proud of our record of backing up our endorsements with enthusiastic volunteers, and some of our members were already out last weekend volunteering. Let’s show Ward 4 voters that voters, not Mayors, decide elections! Join Renée Bowser’s campaign at the Takoma Park Recreation Center (convenient to Takoma metro) this Saturday, April 18, and next Saturday, April 25, for one or more 2-hour shifts from 9am to 5pm. Saturdays are always popular among early voters, but we can also use your help on weeknights 5-8pm. We will be joining volunteers with the American Federation of Government Employees, United Food & Commercial Workers, and Washington Teachers Union, among others. Please contact Kesh Ladduwahetty at KeshiniL{at}yahoo.com to sign up or to get more information about these and other volunteer opportunities.

Visit renee4ward4.com and contribute if you can.

Ward 8
In the Ward 8 endorsement vote, no candidate reached two-thirds, so DC4D is not making an endorsement. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Trayon “WardEight” White: 12 (48%)—with 2nd choices, 15 (60%)
  • Eugene D. Kinlow: 9 (36%)
  • LaRuby May: 4 (16%)

Public Bank
Members supported the idea of a DC public bank overwhelmingly:

  • Yes: 18 (86%)
  • No: 3 (14%)
  • Abstentions: 4

Accordingly, DC for Democracy has signed the petition of the DC Public Banking center, and we urge our members to sign as individuals.

DC for Democracy’s special election questionnaire for the Ward 4 Special Election asked the following question about income inequality.

While income inequality is far more than just a local issue, Washington has been ranked fourth highest among major cities in the country in the size of the income gap between upper and lower income residents. Do you think this broad income disparity is an issue the Council can and should address? If so, why, and what specific proposals/steps do you think should be considered? If not, why?

Ward 8 special election candidates’ responses are below. Candidates who are not listed did not respond to our questionnaire.

Stuart Anderson
Yes. I believe the Council can and should place redistribution policies in place (must address income inequality) not only to benefit of those at the lower end of the income scale, but also to benefit DC society in its entirety. Both the rich and the poor lose quality of life when they live in economic (and largely racial) segregation.
I would reduce income inequality through these steps:

    Improving education for children and promoting lifelong learning for adults — to make it possible for many more DC residents to get jobs that already pay at the upper end of the income scale.
    Giving many more workers and their families the opportunity to enter the middle class — by raising the minimum wage and by increasing Earned Income Tax Credits.I support the Fight for Fifteen — raising the minimum wage a little each year until it reaches $15 an hour (and then adjusting it annually to account for inflation).
    Furthermore, I support expanding the program that has now proven successful at the federal level — where hard working people in low paying jobs can get back not only get back all the money their employers withheld for taxes but a little extra money, through the Earned Income Tax Credit. The DC Government should expand this program to allow additional Tax Credits for DC residents who work hard all year but whose salaries doom them and their families to poverty while others live in prosperity.

Finally, I would fight to fund “quality of life” benefits like public parks and swimming pools and free Internet access, so everyone can enjoy the such benefits — without regard to their income levels.

Sheila Bunn
Yes. The DC Council has the authority to affect the wages of District workers. For instance, one area where the Council could help to decrease income inequality is by increasing the wages for tipped workers. This could be done by either raising the minimum wage for tipped workers to the full minimum wage as it is for other District workers or, to a specified percentage of the minimum wage.

Eugene Kinlow
As a Councilmember I believe income inequality in the District is exceedingly worrisome and represents a significant challenge for our low income families. For these families that fall into the low and moderate income sphere putting food on the table, paying for education related expenses, and health care coverage are extreme burdens. We must work to ensure affordable housing is accessible and that individuals can take full advantage of tax breaks to help them get by.

Anthony Muhammad
According to Census data, there are more millionaires and high income families moving into the District than ever before residing in downtown, southwest, Capitol Hill, Columbia Heights and upper northwest neighborhoods. I personally don’t think the Council will and should do anything to address this. This type of residency brings lucrative businesses and new revenue streams to
the District. When you get boutiques from Hollywood’s Rodeo Drive establishing outlets in DC, that’s a positive, not a negative. Abandoned properties, downtown strip clubs or whole-in-thewall businesses are being replaced by stores known to the rich and famous. This is good for the DC economy.

However, there are other income disparity issues at another level that can be addressed starting with discriminatory employment practices by gender and race. It has become an accepted and common practice that Blacks are giving less wages with the same education and experience as their White counterparts. The more well-known income inequality issue is that of equal pay for women who perform the same tasks as men but receive less income. Being raised in a family of six women, after the passing of my father, I was the only male. I have testified, demonstrated, protested, petitioned and lobbied members of Congress to pass the ERA bill and all other corresponding measures to ensure women’s equal pay rights. Last month, I hand-delivered letters to 40 members of Congress about this issue.

There is another area that the Council can and should look into immediately to assist District workers, who love in Ward 8. The Council should force DCPS to honor its union bargaining agreements to give pay raises according to the contracts. There are hundreds of bus drivers and attendants, who provide services for handicap and special needs students who are still waiting for pay raises over a year ago. Honor this agreement. Give the workers their pay retroactively. Many of these workers were former TANF recipients or are recipients on government subsidized programs based on income. When their incomes increase, the
government subsidizes less. This should be a no-brainer.

“S.S” Sandra Seegars
I believe income inequality is an issue the Council addresses and they have done so by increasing the minimum wage. Income can be based on the tenure of the employee, and the job title. I believe the jobs that an uneducated person can obtain is never going to equal to the ones an educated person can obtain. That is why adults, rich and poor, stress the importance of education. Job experience also heightens the salary.

Keita Vanterpool
Yes. I support an increase in minimum wage. If billion dollar corporations want to do business in the District, they should be prepared to pay our residents fair wages with benefits. Our residents must be prepared for the jobs that are comining into the District. This not only boosts the economy but reduces disparities that exist and assists residents in becomimg independent, finding affordable housing and to establish themselves in being productive citizens in society. I support proposals to establish a minimum wage toward the $13 within the next few years, with raises of about $1 per hour each year. After that, the increases should be more gradual, for example half a dollar per hour per year, until workers reach the $15 level. Then increases to adjust for inflation should continue each year.

Trayon White
Yes, I think there is something everyone can do including the City Council to address this issue of income inequality. I propose better job training and educational opportunities, so the residents can become better prepared for jobs when they apply and advancement wherever they might already be employed.

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