D.C.'s Ward 8: Safety net needs and success stories

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

The June 13 front-page article "In Ward 8, recovery is a world away" offered a bleak portrait of employment in that part of the District. It doesn't have to be this way. Significant investment in job training and work supports would foster an economic recovery that includes low-income neighborhoods -- which, after all, have the most potential for growth. But it's not cheap. Meeting the need for job training alone would cost the city $90 million.

Unfortunately, city leaders haven't even tried to venture down this path.

In April, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) proposed a $4.6 million cut in job training programs, along with major cuts to programs such as child-care subsidies that are essential to people trying to hold jobs. In the midst of a crippling recession, Mr. Fenty divested from the most vulnerable communities -- all to honor a reckless campaign pledge not to raise taxes.

The D.C. Council has not shown the courage for a more responsible approach. Under the leadership of Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), the council restored funding for some programs. But the trend of divestment largely continued as Mr. Gray shot down truly progressive solutions -- like tax increases on the highest-earning D.C. residents, who suffer least during the recession. Even as Mr. Gray struggles to contrast himself with Mr. Fenty, both men have allowed their political ambitions to shortchange the District.

Joni Podschun, Washington

The writer is campaign manager for Save Our Safety Net.

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As a 42-year resident of Ward 8, I know all about the untenable situation facing this city's neediest residents. The central fact of this saga is that every mayor who succeeded Walter Washington failed miserably to revitalize this community. Moreover, the citizens of Ward 8 failed themselves by supporting the grossly ineffective Marion Barry (D) as their representative on the D.C. Council.

In fact, it was Mr. Barry who coined the phrase "the last, the least and the left out of Ward 8." He should know, because he created these people to be his sycophants only to leave them on their own, scratching for survival. It is safe to say that no business will invest money in a ward that is considered by many to be unsafe, lawless, poor, unaccountable and apathetic about the quality of life. It is a crying shame that people have to endure such suffering.

But there are many residents and families in Ward 8 who are striving and thriving despite the economic downturn and the failings of mayors gone by. Why is that? Perhaps The Post should cover more Ward 8 success stories as well. They, too, exist.

David J. White, Washington

The writer is president of the Chicago/Shannon Civic Association.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company

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