Some members of the D.C. Council are trying to curtail the city’s traditional spending on the presidential inauguration this January, when Republican Donald Trump will assume office in a city that voted overwhelmingly against him.
A proposal first floated by council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) would eliminate or drastically reduce the District’s funding for a stand built on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Avenue NW to view the inaugural parade.
Silverman said her suggestion to scale back the city’s inauguration spending was at least partially motivated by nonpartisan concern over wasteful spending. In 2013, the glass-enclosed stand was carpeted, heated and included flat-screen televisions. About 2,000 people — including elected officials, their staffs and constituents — used the stand during the course of the day, and it cost about $342,000.
But Silverman said she also wanted to trigger a discussion among the District’s elected officials about their stance toward the upset presidential victor who will soon be their neighbor on Pennsylvania Avenue.
“President-elect Trump has stated positions that are hostile to our residents,” Silverman said at a breakfast meeting of the D.C. Council on Tuesday, expressing specific concern about Trump’s vows to shrink the federal regulatory agencies that employ many in the District. “We are a unique jurisdiction. What he does in terms of the federal government will impact us.”
The stand would be a small expense when considered against the $18.2 million the District spent for President Obama’s second inaugural parade, including the cost of security and additional stands for the media and the inauguration ceremony. Roughly half of that money was ultimately reimbursed by the federal government, according to city budget officials.
However, the move could stir ill will with Trump, who has at times been acutely sensitive to snubs by the political class against which he railed throughout his campaign.
Silverman said she was still coming to terms with the result of the election, which many predicted would be won by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“I still think this is like an episode of ‘Dallas.’ Bobby’s going to come out of the shower,” Silverman said. (Bobby Ewing, a character in the popular 1980s soap opera “Dallas,” reappeared in the shower on the series a year after the show’s writers killed him off. His death was explained as a dream of his ex-wife’s.)
Silverman’s proposal was met with mixed reaction from other council members, some of whom said it would send the wrong signal to depart from past practices.
“I think that it’s very important that we as the government of the nation’s capital put our best foot forward on Inauguration Day,” council member Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4) said. “Donald Trump has won. The people have spoken.”
“We would not have the conversation if the Democratic nominee won,” said Todd, a Clinton supporter.
Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) said that he would like to reduce the costs to taxpayers of the stand outside city hall but that it was important to separate the action from politics.
“It’s not in the city’s interest to just kind of give the middle finger to the president-elect,” Allen said. “My objection is to spending almost a half-million dollars on a viewing stand that’s torn down after one day.”