The D.C. Council is moving forward on a proposal to eliminate all earmarks from the 2010 budget, which would deny city funding to dozens of arts and nonprofit social organizations.
At a closed-door meeting this morning, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) said he wants to remove the remaining $8 million from the budget that was suppose to go for earmarks. The Council approved about $20 million in earmarks in May, but Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) is proposing to slash them by about 60 percent to help close a budget shortfall.
In light of the controversy surrounding Council member Marion Barry's (D-Ward 8) earmarks, Gray said the grants need to go.
"I don't want to pick and choose because, inevitably, we will be accused of some bias in the process," Gray said. "These are not perceived as one-time grants anymore. People are using them as a lifeline."
Council members Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), Kwame Brown (D-At Large), Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) appear supportive of Gray's proposal.
Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Jim Graham (D-Ward 3) and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) are resisting the idea, noting many organizations are expecting to receive the money this year.
Council members David Catania (D-At Large) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) are trying to broker a compromise. They are floating a proposal that would eliminate the earmarks but set up "special purpose funds" that would allow groups that provide specific services, such as gang prevention efforts, to apply to receive some money this year.
"It's going to be a lot of heartache on a lot of organizations who have done nothing wrong," Catania said.
But Mendelson said the council's reputation is at risk because of the controversy surrounding Barry.
"We have been pilloried on the issue," he said.