It’s now budget season at the DC Council, and the hearings of the coming weeks and months will provide opportunities for constituents and ANC commissioners to make their priorities known to the Council members.
Currently under way: The Council performance oversight hearings, which began on January 10th and will continue until the final hearing on March 4th. In March, the mayor will submit her budget proposals. And then, the Council will begin its budget hearings.
Both sets of Council hearings are avenues for getting local issues into the public record – and potentially into the final budget legislation for fiscal 2023.
The most direct way for residents, interest groups and ANC commissioners to weigh in is to provide live or written testimony, which main contain critiques, praise and suggestions for the agencies. (Greater Greater Washington is hosting a virtual workshop on February 3rd on presenting effective oversight hearing testimony. Register here.)
You can also influence the questions the Council committee chairs ask of the agencies at – and in advance of – the performance oversight hearings.
Before the hearings, the chairs of each committee send a list of questions to the agencies their committee oversees. The public can ask the chair to include certain questions, which become part of the public record along with the answers. For example, Council member Mary Cheh chairs the Transportation and Environment Committee and has oversight of DC Water. Residents could email Cheh and ANC 3F could pass a resolution with suggested questions about the Soapstone sewer rehabilitation project.
Here is a list of local issues and corresponding committee hearing dates and times:
Soapstone sewer project and stormwater management by private property owners
Cheh has been following up on community concerns about DC Water’s plans to reline the Soapstone sewer pipe using thermal CIPP technologies, and she brought it up during the Transportation and Environment Committee oversight hearing for the DC Department of Energy and the Environment on Tuesday, January 25th. (watch the exchange here at 4:41:28)
The committee will be accepting written and voicemail testimony until February 8th. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-350-1344 (speak slowly and clearly).
DC Water will appear before Cheh’s committee for its own oversight hearing on Monday, February 28th from noon to 6 p.m. To sign up to testify live, contact committee staff assistant Aukima Benjamin (email@example.com or call 202-724-8062) at least one business day prior to the hearing to register and receive instructions on accessing the hearing on Zoom.
Written and voicemail testimony will be accepted into the public record until March 14th.
Traffic safety and streetscapes
Cheh’s Transportation and Environment Committee holds the DC Department of Transportation’s performance oversight hearing on Friday, February 18th from noon to 6 p.m. See the above instructions for testifying live, and submitting written and phone testimony. The record will be open until March 4th.
Testimony could touch on the Connecticut Avenue reversible lane and safety project (which includes protected bike lanes), traffic calming on Connecticut and neighborhood streets, protecting street trees, and budgeting and planning for the Van Ness streetscape project.
Support services for the homeless and voucher renters
The Council Committee on Human Services will hold its oversight hearing for the DC Department of Human Services, the DC Housing Authority and the Interagency Council on Homelessness on Thursday, February 24th from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. To testify live, sign up here or call 202-724-8170 by February 20th.
Written (email firstname.lastname@example.org) and voicemail (202-350-1927) testimony will be accepted until March 3rd.
Locals could press the agencies on services (or lack thereof) for residents renting apartments through voucher programs, and for better coordination among agencies working with the homeless and newly housed.
Public safety – on the street, in businesses and at home
The Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety holds its oversight hearing for the Metropolitan Police Department on Thursday, February 17th from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Written testimony will be accepted at email@example.com until March 4th. PDFs are preferred. To testify live, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, phone number, and organizational affiliation and title (if applicable) by February 15th.
Housing affordability, rent-controlled apartments, landlord accountability
The Committee on Housing and Executive Administration performance oversight hearing for DC Housing and Community Development is Thursday, February 17th from 9 a.m. to noon.
To submit written testimony, email a Word or PDF document to email@example.com by February 24th. You can also leave a three-minute voicemail with your testimony at 202-350-0894. To testify live, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-724-8198 to register.
Here’s the entire performance oversight hearing schedule and more detailed instructions on each committee’s requirements for submitting testimony.
Shaping the DC budget is an almost year-long process, and there are other ways constituents can influence the funding priorities.
Agencies start working each fall to determine how much money they need for the next year, and their capital funding needs for the next six years. ANCs can influence this part of the process by passing a formal resolution on what they would like to see. That could include increased funding, or funding designated to address certain needs of their community. The resolution is then sent to the agency, the mayor, and the Council.
As the mayor works on her budget, she will incorporate the agency proposals. Mayor Muriel Bowser will also be seeking public input. During the FY 2022 budget process, she sought feedback through this online survey. Before the pandemic, the mayor also held in-person budget workshops. This gave residents access to Bowser, her deputy mayors and agency heads. Constituents could simply walk up and talk about what they wanted to see in the budget.