Conversations about the new budget have begun and Ward 8 residents say they’re anxious to see if their needs will be included in the 2022-2023 blueprint.
“We need more grocery stores in Ward 8,” said Pamela Jones at the Giant Food supermarket located at The Shops at Park Village on Feb. 12.
“I know we have a Safeway further up Alabama Avenue but it’s not convenient for most people in the ward,” Jones said. “A lot of people don’t have cars and have to depend on the bus or a friend to get to the grocery store. People come [here] because it is the one closest to them.”
On Feb. 9, D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) held a virtual “Ward 8 Budget Conversation” where District government leaders talked about the budget process.
During the session, acting D.C. Chief Financial Officer Fitzroy Lee said the city reported a $697 million surplus, its 25th consecutive clean audit, a Triple-A bond rating by Wall Street firms and has fully funded its pension obligations.
However, despite the rosy picture painted by Lee, White said Ward 8 has many needs which the city’s budget should address. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser will release her budget proposal on March 13 and the D.C. Council will vote on the final plan either in late May or June.
In addition to grocery stores, Jones said public transportation, including the city-owned Circulator Bus, needs a more flexible schedule.
“The city needs to improve the bus service in this ward,” she said. “The service should be more frequent. People have to wait 30 minutes for a Metrobus and the Circulator and that’s not right.”
Jones also said that while the opening of the St. Elizabeths East hospital will be good for residents, smaller health clinics throughout the ward would better serve people who now face multiple health challenges.
“I don’t know whether it is the presence of COVID-19 but people are just not well,” she said. “We have the United Medical Center but we need more than just that. Mental health is also important. A lot of people are hurting inside because of all that is going on these days.”
Tika McKeever, another shopper at the Giant, talked about how she thinks District leaders should budget “people’s tax dollars.”
“The roads could be better,” McKeever said. “There are some streets where there are potholes that don’t seem to get fixed.”
McKeever also believes the city should invest more money in youth programs.
“It looks like to me that the schools and recreation centers are empty,” she said. “Schools and the recreations centers will give young people things to do instead of focusing on negativity.”
She also said District leaders should put more money into supporting Black businesses, saying “it’s a good idea because there are not that many to begin with” and “Black businesses can hire people and put money back into the community.”
Stuart Anderson, a well-known civic and political activist, hopes the city leaders will build a new library.
“The council should look into creating a new library in the Barry Farms neighborhood,” he said. “I know the expansion of the Parklands-Turner library branch is set with it moving to the new Malcolm X Elementary School development. The new branch in Barry Farms will help school kids in that area. It is too far for kids who live in that area to travel to the Anacostia, Parklands-Turner and William Lockridge/Bellevue branches for library services.”
Anderson agrees with Jones that Ward 8 needs another grocery store.
“The city should work with developers and entrepreneurs to build another grocery store in Barry Farms,” he said. “The closest grocery store for people who live near Barry Farms and the Anacostia Metro Station is the Giant Food at The Shops at Park Village. That’s really inconvenient for a lot of people to get there.”