D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) took time at his recent neighborhood budget meeting to remind residents that they are an important part of the city’s legislative process.
At the RISE Demonstration Center on Wednesday, April 25, White highlighted his budget victories and reported developments for budget requests he said will help build “a greater, stronger, safer and prosperous community” for residents in the wards.
His budget priorities included resources for career development opportunities, expanding the ward’s healthcare system including a new hospital, developing more affordable housing and create extracurricular opportunities outside of schools. His budget priorities also called for other critical needs in the area including resources to combat public safety issues such as recreation centers for youth and seniors.
“It costs us about $300 per day to incarcerate a young person in our facilities, but it costs $72 per day run an after-school program,” White told the crowd.
He also urged residents to get involved to ensure that the ward’s priorities became a priority for the city.
“The reality is, the power lies in the people — there are 70,000-plus people in Ward 8, and so you’ve got the power,” White said. “You have four at-large council members that you have to elect, you have a chairman that you have to elect and you have a mayor that you have to elect. So that’s enough leverage to get anything done. That’s six people, and you have to get to seven to get anything done.”
White said an engaged community would make the District government stronger. He invited residents to work with the seven working groups that operate from his office. The groups take opportunities to collaborate with residents and community organizations to tackle issues in public safety, education, social services, health, housing, business and workforce development. Most have operated for about two years, according to his office.
While one of the office’s working groups, the Ward 8 Health Council, consists of over 30 partner organizations, the office’s public safety group developed the council member’s 40-page violence prevention strategy released earlier this year.
White said the working groups help him to develop and push his legislative agenda for the ward, but more leverage in the Council is also needed.
“Part of our struggle is that we don’t have a committee,” he said.
White does not currently chair a committee in the Council though he sits on six. He is currently in negotiations to chair a committee.
“On the Council, you have to have a certain level of support to get things done,” said Ward 8 ANC Commissioner Sharece Crawford. “We need to get behind council members to get legislation we care about passed.”
Crawford said part of the job as an ANC commissioner is identifying and gardening support for legislation that fit her constituent’s priorities. Recently she gathered a group to rally for White’s proposed bills that would eliminate failure to answer infractions of traffic tickets and implement an amnesty program for D.C. residents that owe more than $1000 in certain motor violations.
She said the current penalties economically disenfranchise residents in her area.
“We need to show up and move things forward,” Crawford said. “Supporting our council member is supporting ourselves.”
But others said several factors stand in Ward 8 residents’ way when trying to get involved in the city’s legislative process, especially when it means getting to the John H. Wilson Building downtown.
“The issue that surrounds Ward 8 residents in wanting, needing and knowing how to advocate in their best interest, a lot of that revolves around transportation to get down to the Wilson Building,” said Wendy Glenn, a resident of the ward. “It costs too much getting on the Metro, you have no place to park and then you have tickets.”
Glenn said ANC commissioners often work to gather supporters for bills and assist them with preparing their testimony, but they need to go further.
“The next thing that needs to happen is we need to find transportation,” Glenn said. “It becomes an issue with us when we have to go from this side of the city to that side of the city.”