The D.C. Council passed its $46 million budget freeze in a heated meeting yesterday that started off with protests outside the John A. Wilson Building. Advocates of low-income residents protested, hoping to delay the vote to give time to find alternatives to the trims, but their efforts were thwarted.
The council, led by Chairman Vincent C. Gray, said that the body was making hard, painful decisions, but that those choices were necessary as the nation's economy continues to spiral downward. The $46 million in new spending will be placed in a reserve fund and possibly released in February, if revenue sources are looking better, Gray said.
Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) battled for a delay of the vote and speaking in defense of the city's poor residents. But in the end, he voted with the chairman and the rest of the council. Hamil R. Harris reported from the council's chambers.
D.C. Wire notes the freeze includes Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's Housing First program, meant to provide 800 permanent apartments for some homeless in the city. The program interrupts the effort midway. It's not lost on the Wire that the Housing First effort has been a controversial one and that lawmakers had been frustrated by their inability to get more details from the mayor about how the program would work.
Secondly, the freeze may be lifted in February, the chairman said yesterday, if the revenue stream looks better by then. There's a good chance of that, one supposes, given the city will host what is surely to be one of the country's largest Inaugurations---if not the largest--- in January, when President-Elect Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president.