January 27, 2009

Mayor Fenty's Announces Stimulus Agenda

The City Paper reported Friday that Mayor Fenty has released a letter he wrote to Representative Norton outlining what he would like her to ask Congress to fund. As the City Paper notes, some of the news isn't surprising. Mr. Fenty's number one priority is "School Modernization," most of which would be for capital improvements. Also included are a couple bridge projects (Eleventh Street and Capitol South Street Bridges), a forensics lab for the DC police, and a big sewer.

All of those are good, logical things. Even more interesting is his last request: for Congress to temporarily raise Medicaid matching rates, something long overdue. Despite his rather meager stimulus agenda (by my calculation, the projects on his agenda don't cover DC's budget shortfall), I was a little surprised at how much was left out. Though Mr. Fenty makes a passing reference to UDC, there is no mention of money to train or retrain residents currently out of work. Also cited is HUD's Neighborhood Stabilization Project, under which DC does not get as much money as it could because Congress does not treat the District as a state, but equally important is increased funding for the almost dormant Housing First Initiative, which didn't make it into his request. There are a number of small things Mr. Fenty could have asked for that would have been significant to the one-fifth of his city's residents living below the poverty line. Asking for a moderate amount of funding to shore up all of the programs he cut would have been a good gesture. With crisis comes opportunity, and it would be a shame and a blunder to request a minor amount of assistance in the face of a major and prolonged economic downturn.

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