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Posted at 12:13 AM ET, 04/07/2011

Many D.C. agencies would close under federal shutdown, mayor says

Should a federal government shutdown begin Friday, District residents would be unable to register their vehicles, renew their driver’s licenses, have their trash picked up, apply for building permits, register a business or check out a library book, under a plan announced Wednesday by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D).

Under the Gray plan, the District’s departments of Motor Vehicles, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Public Works and Transportation, and the D.C. Public Library, would close, in addition to several other agencies.

“This obviously affects the District government in a very significant way,” Gray said at a Wednesday news conference. “We have to prepare to shut down.”

Schools would remain open, however, and police, fire and emergency medical personnel would remain on duty. Other personnel deemed “essential” by Gray would also remain on the job.

Gray said that trash pickup would cease for one week before resuming — much like what happened in November 1995, when the first of two federal shutdowns that winter shuttered many D.C. agencies.

“That’ll be a treat, won’t it?” Gray cracked at a news conference.

Street sweeping would also cease, Gray said. While emergency repairs to city streets would take place, routine maintenance would not. A “certain set of limited health and human services” would continue during a shutdown, Gray said — meaning that public assistance, such as Medicaid and food stamps, would continue.

There is one bright spot for city residents: Parking enforcement, which is handled by the public works department, will be suspended. “These positions were deemed non-essential as they do not pertain directly to public health and/or safety,” said Tony Robinson, a spokesman for City Administrator Allen Y. Lew. However, flout parking laws at your own risk: Police officers, who are remaining on duty, are also empowered to write tickets.

Nonessential city employees, even if they wanted to work during a shutdown, would find it difficult: Gray said that employees’ BlackBerry service and remote access to computer systems would be cut off, following the guidance of legal opinions consulted by the Gray administration.

Gray said that a shutdown’s affect on the city government stands to be “quite substantial.” Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi estimated the per-week cost of the shutdown at between $1.5 million to $5.5 million.

Gray sharply lamented the fact that the federal government’s shutdown would affect the District, whose budget is mostly composed of locally raised funds. “This is not an abstraction,” he said. “This is a concrete example of what it means to be treated as a second-class citizen.”

Gray added: “There’s nothing good about this for the District of Columbia. Nothing. ... We should simply not be a pawn in a political process.”

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said that talks were ongoing on Capitol Hill to avert a shutdown, and she was working to exempt the District from the broader federal work stoppage. She added that she was engaged in efforts to prevent restrictions to city spending on controversial matters like abortion and needle exchange from being added during the congressional negotiations.

She was not optimistic: “No one can say that we’re not going to shut down.”

A quick glance at what will happen with agencies:

Closed or suspended

 Department of Motor Vehicles

 D.C. public libraries

Trash pickup (to resume one week after beginning of shutdown)

Circulator

Parking enforcement

University of the District of Columbia

Open or on duty

D.C. public and public charter schools

 United Medical Center

St. Elizabeths Hospital

Health and human services (limited functions)

911 service and police department

 Fire and Emergency Medical Services

Here is a detailed D.C. government shutdown plan prepared by Lew’s office:

DC Government Shutdown Plan

Here is a letter from Gandhi describing the fiscal effects of a federal shutdown on the D.C. budget:

Letter from CFO on Federal Shutdown Letter

Here is Twitter reaction to the shutdown news:

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