Budget Battle: Activists take the "Dickens" approach in D.C.
WASHINGTON (NewsChannel 8) - During his State of the District address Tuesday night, Mayor Vincent Gray announced plans to double down on affordable housing with new investments. But advocates for the homeless and housing activists are anxious to see his budget.
They winded their way through the Wilson Building on Wednesday morning. They declared, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times,” quoting A Tale of Two Cities.
Two actors, dressed as Charles Dickens, explained their concerns to staff members of Mayor Vincent Gray and Councilmembers Phil Mendelson and Muriel Bowser.
Organizer Janelle Treibitz said, “Inequality is rising in unprecedented levels. We have the worst income inequality since 1979 right now.”
The demonstrators hope to put pressure on D.C. lawmakers before the fiscal year 2015 budget process gets underway. They want more funding and more strategies for anti-poverty programs in the District.
Homeless advocate Eric Sheptock said, “There are homeless people who can and will work. But even when they work, they don't make enough money to live in this city.
This same group protested outside Mayor Gray's State of the District address in Northeast Washington Tuesday night.
Inside, Gray announced his intention to invest another $100 million in affordable housing – on top of last year's $187 million – all to meet his goal of 10,000 affordable units by 2020. He also detailed his work to end homelessness.
“Over the last three years, my administration has helped transition more than 1,200 families from shelter or short-term housing to permanent housing,” he said.
The demonstrators said that is good, but not good enough.
Schyla Pondexter-Moore said, “It's only about this new affordable housing that's 50, 60, 70, 80% of [average median income]. The average low income or disenfranchised person can't qualify for or afford that.”
Albert Townsend said, “We need a different solution and we need multiple solutions because the only solution – rapid re-housing – just doesn't work. We need multiple solutions.”
This group will learn more details when the Mayor releases his budget proposal. According to D.C. Code, that must happen by April 3.
Gray’s staff said, following tradition, that is the day he plans to release it. But it is worth noting – April 3 is two days after D.C.’s Democratic Primary Election – which falls much earlier on the calendar this year.