Never Again

After 16 days, the District’s needless entanglement in the federal government shutdown has finally come to an end.

DC Appleseed salutes Mayor Vincent Gray, Councilmembers, and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, all of whom stood up loud and strong for the District during this ordeal. By tapping reserve funds, as we recommended just days before the shutdown, District officials showed they were willing to use all available authority to keep the city open.

This bold leadership by our elected officials has brought great visibility to the absurd injustice being done to the city. It has also come on the heels of the Local Budget Autonomy Charter Amendment, which was overwhelmingly ratified by District residents in April and became law in July. All this visibility has given new life and momentum to the effort to give District residents full control over their own local budget.

Thanks to these efforts of D.C. leaders and residents, the law President Obama signed last night will keep the District open for the rest of Fiscal Year 2014. This is a critical fix–but it’s only temporary. We agree with Congresswoman Norton that “residents must see more than a reprieve from this year’s federal shutdown brinks. We must now make use of the damage done by moving on all fronts for full budget autonomy.

One front to move on is to plan now for the implementation of the Charter Amendment, which becomes applicable on January 1. According to that Amendment, as of January 1, any local budget act the Council passes will automatically become law after 30-day congressional review, just like all other D.C. legislation.

In the coming months, the District will take steps to enact the Fiscal Year 2015 local budget pursuant to the Charter Amendment. Since there will no longer be a need to wait for Congress to pass legislation affirmatively approving that budget, the District can be sure that it will be open next October 1–regardless of what’s happening on Capitol Hill.

The last few weeks have shown that the District cannot afford to be senselessly caught up in federal budget squabbles that are completely unrelated to the city. They’ve also shown that D.C. leaders and residents are resolved never again to submit to the risk of a local government shutdown. The Charter Amendment will ensure that this happens, starting next year.

– Walter Smith

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