D.C. Council member Trayon White’s call for his constituents to “do something” about the problems plaguing Ward 8 took a second step on Oct. 16.
Residents who joined issue groups at the White’s State of the Ward Address at the Bald Eagle Recreation Center in Ward 8 on Sept. 30 convened a second meeting at the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development in Southeast. White, a Democrat, said the momentum that started at the meeting, where residents discussed proactive solutions to the ward’s problems, needed to continue with the 2020-2021 budget process only a few months away.
“During the last budget cycle, we managed to put money back into Ward 8 schools that was taken out by the mayor’s budget,” the council member said. “Money was also put into the budget to help build two grocery stores. We got those things because people got involved. We didn’t get everything we wanted, though.”
White said there are plans for $1 billion in investments in the Good Hope Road SE corridor and he wants Ward 8 residents to be included in the conversations on how this money will be spent.
“There are a lot of people in Ward 8 that are not at the table and you know the saying if you are not at the table, you are on the menu,” he said.
White cited an example of how Ward 8 residents can make their voices heard. The DC Infrastructure Academy, located in the ward, had a cut during the latest budget cycle but residents protested loudly to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) during a meeting that White set up.
“The next day, the money for the academy was in the budget,” White said. “This is my point. We are not here meeting just to have a meeting. We need to have an agenda to present to the council and your job is to get involved in doing that.”
He said residents of other wards and interest groups have lobbyists to go to the John A. Wilson Building in Northwest to voice their concern to council members and “Ward 8 residents should be doing the same thing.”
On Sept. 30, after White’s address, residents gathered in groups marked community engagement, workforce and entrepreneurship, mentorship, service providers, faith-based institutions, financial literacy/housing acquisition, trauma/meditation/mental health and “other.”
The groups met again during the second session and discussed ideas of interest to their group. The workforce and entrepreneurship group had a lively discussion for 40 minutes about such topics as more private-public partnerships in the ward, a teen zone space where youngsters can be relatively free with minimal adult supervision, midnight summer basketball and a disparity study on how many Black businesses get District government contracts.
“The need is there for a disparity study,” said Dr. Tracey Jackson.
White circulated around to the groups, listening to what his constituents said. At times he interjected, making points on the subject matter or explaining how the council’s legislative process works.
White explained the next step in the process to The Informer.
“The groups are going to continue to meet separately and complete a report on their subject matter,” he said. “Their report will come to me and my team and I will use the information provided on how best to move forward on what the residents want.”
Crystal Gray, who has actively participated in White’s process, called the experience “awesome.”
“We have a purpose here and we want to change the lives of people in Ward 8,” Gray said. “This process has kept me informed about what is going on and how we can have voice on what impacts us. We will keep meeting and if people stray, we will get them back in and hold them accountable.
“We will do what needs to be done to move this ward forward,” she said.