Greater Greater Washington

Gray budget boosts streetcar, traffic cameras; cuts housing

Mayor Gray released his proposed budget for the next fiscal year this morning. A source sent along some pictures of slides from the presentation. It shows a significant commitment to streetcars and better traffic enforcement, but puts a tax break above building new housing.

On transportation, he's budgeted $9.1 million additional for WMATA to maintain service. The agency was asking for $17 million additional from DC this year, so this only fulfills about half; unless this increases, WMATA may have to raise fares more than expected or cut service.

Some of the money would come from expanding performance parking, which is an excellent idea. Unfortunately, this number also includes taking the away the money from existing performance parking zones, which was dedicated to local improvements in the affected neighborhoods.

There's ongoing funding for streetcars including, in another slide, an item (without a specific number) about starting a new rail safety program to go with the streetcar.

It looks like the long-stalled traffic camera program will finally get moving, with $5.8 million of budget to buy cameras.

That's not really spending, though, since the program more than pays for itself in fines unless drivers start dramatically obeying the law far more often. The budget estimates $30.6 million in revenue.

Can drivers stop 82% of their speeding, running red lights, blocking the box, not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks, and more? If they don't, DC will get the revenue; if they do, our streets will be a lot safer for everyone.

Just like last year, housing affordability didn't fare so well. Gray's budget moves $19.9 million from the Housing Production Trust Fund, which finances new construction of more housing in areas where the market value of land isn't enough to attract private investment.

That money will go to the Local Rent Supplement Program, but DCFPI says that just plugs a hole from taking away other money. In the end, people in need will still get help with housing, but we won't get a new supply of affordable housing.

The revenue section also includes $12 million from changing the inflation adjustment for tax deductions on the income tax and property taxes. However, the Mayor said that if additional revenue comes in, he would spend $1.1 million to restore a tax exemption for out of state municipal bonds.

This doesn't seem to make a lot of sense; why penalize people earning income and owning homes to give a tax break to people with larger investment portfolios? Other states do not exempt other states' bonds and there isn't a local policy we advance by just giving out this tax break.

Additional funds should go toward restoring the HPTF, if not actual budgeted money. Remember, last year the Council devised a priority list for how to use any new "unanticipated revenue," then ignored it and cherry picked items off the list. The housing fund was the second highest item that didn't get any money. Now DC has a surplus for this year, and the housing fund isn't getting it either. How long will DC leaders ignore this important priority?

Other housing programs covered with federal funds will lose money because of federal budget cuts.

There were a variety of other cuts in many departments, especially social service areas.

The budget also commits to continuing planned high school modernizations at Ballou, Cardozo, and Dunbar and finishing planning and design for Ellington, Coolidge and Roosevelt. It also funds the planned new middle schools in Ward 5 and adding and modernizing more middle schools in the future.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

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does this mean the street car system is now funded?

I for one, am willing to call that a "Gray initiative"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 23, 2012 10:52 am • linkreport

Does the performance parking number assume that the rates will actually be set according to demand, or does it just mean that the rates will be set randomly, and we will measure demand but not do anything?

by Michael Perkins on Mar 23, 2012 10:57 am • linkreport

WTF is a rail safety program? Like "don't step in front of moving objects?"

by MJ on Mar 23, 2012 11:20 am • linkreport

Interesting how Gray spent last night talking out of both sides of his mouth about how much he supports affordable housing, but how we should put a private-low access football training facility in a place that would be better served with lots of housing. Then he shows just how committed he is to affordable housing the next morning by cutting its funding. What a shocker.

by Joe on Mar 23, 2012 11:22 am • linkreport

@Joe,

I have the sneaking suspicion that the difference is that working class and others don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay-to-play money to lavish on Gray and Evans, and the rest of the corrupt councilmembers. Dan Snyder does.

by oboe on Mar 23, 2012 12:04 pm • linkreport

Shocker about performance paking, eh?

Corraling the money into "local improvement" is just a way of getting buy-in. The real game, as always, is to find new and innovate way to raise rates.

Just like gas prices, there are times when higher parking fees have benefits. But let's be honest and make the case for that, rather than being mealy mouthed.

by charlie on Mar 23, 2012 12:10 pm • linkreport

I thought the six year plan for streetcars was $99 million? $236 million? That's wonderful news!

Agreed with AWITC, that is showing leadership. Gray may just be coming around. I'm impressed.

by H Street Landlord on Mar 23, 2012 1:39 pm • linkreport

@Joe, Gray is just doing what so many politicians have found so effective. Tell everyone that you're doing one thing, and then do the opposite because your voting base won't bother to check.

by cc on Mar 23, 2012 3:58 pm • linkreport

I've just learned that when the red light cameras were installed, they deliberately cut the time in which the light stays yellow, in order to increase the number of tickets issued The AAA reported that red light cameras have been set so that they ticket any car still in the intersection a whole TENTH of ONE second after the light turns red. Right now, the AAA study said 87% of all red light tickets would not be able to be issued if the length of the time period the light remains yellow were raised to reach one full second. I think the shortening of this period is aimed at the wallet rather than having a thing to do with safety, and I find that totally outrageous. It shouldn't work that way at all. It is strictly a money-finding device. Better they should raise the tax rates on the wealthiest; then the City Fathers should be able to sleep at night.
ONe who is not sleeping and who i

by Susan Meehan on Mar 24, 2012 12:27 am • linkreport

I've just learned that when the red light cameras were installed, they deliberately cut the time in which the light stays yellow, in order to increase the number of tickets issued.

From whom? Given that this is untrue, you might want to have a word with your source.

The AAA reported that red light cameras have been set so that they ticket any car still in the intersection a whole TENTH of ONE second after the light turns red

Also not true. A violation is only issued if a photo of the vehicle shows the car *outside* of the intersection before the light turns red, then a photo of the vehicle in the intersection.

Not sure where you're getting your information, but it seems almost wholly erroneous.

by oboe on Mar 24, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

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