DURING HIS years in private business, Donald Trump was frequently accused of not paying and underpaying people who performed services for his real estate holdings. Everyone from carpenters to waiters to drapery makers complained that they had been left holding the bag after doing business with Mr. Trump or one of his entities. Now, adding its name to the list of aggrieved creditors is the D.C. government, which says unpaid bills from Mr. Trump’s inauguration have helped to bankrupt a fund critical to securing the nation’s capital.
Pay up was the underlying message of a letter sent this week to the White House by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), which raised the alarm about a special fund that covers costs for protecting the city from terrorist threats and hosting events such as protest rallies and visits from foreign dignitaries. Extra costs associated with Mr. Trump’s extravagant revamp of the Fourth of July celebration have further depleted the fund, which was already under strain because of unrecompensed inaugural expenses, and Congress has been appropriating insufficient money to meet the increased expenditures. Unless replenished, it is estimated the fund will have a $6 million deficit when the current fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
A White House spokesman said the mayor’s letter was received and will be answered “in a timely manner.” Some issues are in dispute. Trump administration officials, for example, say the District agreed to use unspent money in the emergency fund to pay for the additional inaugural costs and has not requested additional money. The city says that’s not true.
What should not be at issue is that this is a serious matter that needs immediate attention. It is simply not an option for the city not to provide the services that major events demand. Extra police must be deployed, emergency responders must be on hand and city crews must be dispatched for cleanup. What is paramount, as the mayor’s chief of staff noted, is “ensuring the safety of our residents and visitors.”
It is not fair to expect D.C. taxpayers — who are already taxed without representation — to have to pick up the tab for expenses that are a federal responsibility. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s nonvoting representative, is pushing for an emergency infusion of funds to keep the fund from running a deficit. Congress should make that happen and then ensure that the fund be on sound footing with adequate annual appropriations.