Jack Evans Report: Big Plans for Term
Council Period 20 is now well underway, and we will soon be swept up in our oversight and budget season. Before that happens, I want to lay out some of my top priorities for the term.
Our public education system continues to be one of my top areas of focus. I was pleased to work with the community in helping to advocate that the Chancellor keep Garrison and Francis-Stevens open. Fortunately, the Chancellor took note of what we are already well aware of in Ward 2 – demographic trends in our neighborhoods require our city to pro- vide residents with the educational and other resources our new children will need. I hope families will continue to decide to stay in the District, unlike in past years, when so many young families would move to the suburbs once they started having children.
Next, public safety is a continuing prior- ity of mine. As the District’s population continues to grow, not to mention the daytime commuter population, we need an expanded police force to continue to keep us safe. While I applaud the Chief for reporting the lowest homicide rate in decades last year, we have to give her the resources she needs to continue this trend. When I first moved to DC, we had 5,200 officers on the police force. When I joined the Council, we had 4,800. Would you believe that today we have only 3,890 sworn officers? I introduced a bill a few weeks ago that would mandate that the Mayor fund 4,000 officers as a minimum staffing level. That is not a magic number, but in my judgment, after 20 years of service, it is a first step in the right direction. We also need to fund overdue pay raises to the officers currently on the force – when you don’t give pay raises for several years, retention starts to become a problem.
Third, I want to continue to focus on providing access to quality health care for all our residents. Hopefully, it is well known by now that we have the second-highest state insurance coverage rate in the country, with only Massachusetts consistently outscoring us. Isn’t it nice to finally be at the top of one of those state ranking lists? I am excited about the implementation of the District’s new health care exchange, which should make it easier for individuals to avail themselves of private health insurance options. I want to make sure, though, that this is not done in a way that increases insurance costs for our small businesses.
Fourth, I want to continue to fund afford- able housing. I was one of the original cre- ators of the Housing Production Trust Fund, and I still support it because it is one of a relative few government programs that con- sistently exceeds our performance expecta- tions. I believe it is critical to subsidize private developments, such as the Howard Town Center project, so that they include affordable housing components. I was dis- appointed to see undoubtedly well-meaning but nonetheless misguided opposition to this project from a handful of public officials and public interest lobbying groups. I think there is a misunderstanding by many of how this business works – developers will choose the most profitable business proposition available to them. Care to take a guess as to whether affordable housing generates more profits than the development of an office building? Anyone familiar with economics knows that if we don’t at least help cover the opportunity cost spread between the use we want (such as a mixed use that includes affordable housing) and the most profitable use (yet another office building), all we will get is office space. Not to mention that with regard to Howard Town Center, specifically, the land was sitting vacant for nearly a decade and will continue to do so if not for our efforts.
All of these priorities lead to my fifth goal – more jobs for District residents. When you provide a world class education system, a safe environment, and affordable housing, as well as health care, to all our residents, jobs will follow. While many parts of our city are doing well, other parts of our city remain at very high levels of unemployment and deserve our best efforts in facilitating job creation in the District. Helping to incentivize the creation of construction jobs through city projects prepares our residents for long-term career paths through apprenticeship programs. Once the developments are completed, permanent hospitality jobs result as businesses occupy the new spaces, and we receive many dollars in expanded tax revenue for each dollar we initially invest in subsidies.
Thank you for all your support and good ideas, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if you have any constituent services requests with which we can assist you.