At a time where there is so much uncertainty for individuals and communities across the nation, it is understandable why thinking broadly and boldly for solutions is necessary. COVID-19 has emptied the wallets of millions of Americans who lost jobs and income due to the shutdown of thousands of businesses while draining the coffers of previously weak local and state economies. The District of Columbia is no exception. But for the significant budget surplus that sets D.C. apart from many major urban areas, the need to cut spending and freeze previously proposed increases by years is a reality.
After weeks of community hearings allowing residents to review Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposed 2021 budget, it is now up to the D.C. Council to approve or tweak it before sending it back to the mayor for approval. On Tuesday, the council did its job and looked for ways that might increase revenue to support much-needed community services for D.C. residents.
We get it. And we look on with pride at a council that gets it, at least in words. We don’t get, however, the short-sightedness of some who either don’t appreciate how specific measures will negatively impact jobs and commerce in the future or don’t seem to care.
Less than two decades ago, D.C. was flush with national and local media. We have watched these institutions die at an unbelievable rate. There were more than a dozen Black-owned publications in D.C. Today there are two — The Washington Informer and the Afro. Other neighborhood publications emerged, and now many of them are gone. Even our dailies have dwindled in number and pages, let alone reducing coverage of a city fighting to tell its own local story.
We are disheartened by Chairman Mendelson’s proposal to create a 3% tax on advertising — the life-blood of media — and the council’s unanimous approval. While other jurisdictions across the country have proposed similar measures, nowhere does a tax on advertising exist. And, to do so without public input is questionable.
We appreciate those members of the council who expressed their understanding of the impact this tax will have on media organizations holding on by a thread. The term “Black Lives Matter” applies to the Black Press that has never received its fair share of ad revenue comparable to what Black consumers spend. The last thing we need now is a tax that will diminish what few ad dollars we rely on to stay alive.
We urge the council to reconsider.