Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cincinnatus on Connecticut Avenue: Eight Things to Do in 2011 to Make DC Great

by Peter Brusoe

With a new year, a new mayor, and a new city council session comes a new column for All Life Is Local: Cincinnatus on Connecticut Avenue. While the historic Cincinnatus was famous for his civic virtue and service to the Roman Republic, the Cincinnatus most famous in American politics was a pseudonym for Arthur Lee who wrote a series of public letters revolving around James Wilson’s famous October 6, 1787 Pennsylvania State Legislature speech and the great issues concerning government. This column will focus on issues facing our government.

2011 provides new opportunities for the city to become a better place. Here are eight ideas that the City Council should implement in the upcoming year to make Washington, DC a better place to live.

1) Take redistricting out of the control of the City Council. The 2010 census is complete and Washington, DC should be excited that we now have over 600,000 residents. The bigger question that looms is how do we fit these 600,000 people into wards, ANC districts, and even school boundaries? DC should take its cue from Arizona and California and have redistricting conducted by a commission. This takes a great deal of politics out of the redistricting process and leaves the city council time to focus on larger issues.

2) Bring back free parking on the weekends. Councilmember Carol Schwartz pushed for and had free parking offered on the weekends. I think it’s time that we bring it back. The revenue that we have seen from charging these fees has not kept pace with the revenue we’ve lost from sales tax. By bringing back free parking on the weekends we can encourage more downtown shopping and bring more business back into Washington, DC.

3) Reduce Executive Compensation: A new administration is a great time to make changes, trim our budgets and ensure that we are spending within our means. The first thing that the mayor should do is send a strong signal that he is serious about cutting government waste by reducing the size of his staff and likewise reducing executive compensation. Our federal employee neighbors are not receiving a COLA, and several private sector companies have frozen wages at the 2008 level. Our city government should show that it too is serious about tackling budget issues.

4) Provide a $50 tax credit for donations to DCPS, UDC, and other DC based human service organizations: Our balanced budget was done by cutting social service programs and funding to schools. To offset the impact of this the District of Columbia should offer a $50 tax credit for donations made by DC residents to DC Public Schools, the University of the District of Columbia, or certain other selected DC based human service organizations (like SOME, Miriam’s Kitchen, Food & Friends). This will provide financial relief for our residents, while at the same time helping those in need and putting back money into their budgets.

5) Invest in Ward 8: Ward 8 is badly in need of investment. Over 30% of the residents of that Ward are currently unemployed. The most important thing that we can do is to invest money in the ward. Perhaps the first thing we can do is to move a city agency or two over into Ward 8. We should be able to move some of the city agencies out of the 4th Street office and into Ward 8. Moving a city agency into Ward 8 would provide a boon for Ward 8 restaurants and local shops.

6) Create Special City Trash Bags: DC has a problem with trash. We produce a great deal of it and there is no real incentive for people to reduce the trash they use. Several cities have implemented a special “city trash bag.” This bag helps to pay for the costs of the Department of Public Works and also encourages people to reduce the amount of trash they produce. Cities like Worcester, MA and Malden, MA have all successfully used this program to bring in additional revenue and reduce consumer waste.

7) Pass Mary Cheh’s Soda Tax Bill: Councilmember Cheh developed a well-thought-out bill that would add a penny tax on sugary drinks. The bill was well written and would improve public health. However, it died from lack of support from other members of the City Council. As our public health costs increase, it is time for us to make a choice that will help improve the overall health of our community.

8) Fix the Board of Elections and Ethics: As a native son of New York, I know something about broken elections and ethics boards. However, nothing compares to the DC Board of Elections and Ethics for mismanagement. The City Council needs to develop a new approach to ethics and elections to ensure that our City Elections are carried out in a manner befitting the Capital of the United States.


Salute to Civil Servant: This column’s salute goes to Petar Dimtchev. Petar worked as the Mayor’s Liaison for Community Relations and Services and with the transition is sadly leaving his position. Petar was amazing in his position. He regularly attended community meetings and events, took copious notes, and ensured that the city was responsive to community events. He took it one step further and was active when the community held events even running in the Oyster’s School 5K. Mayor Gray has many challenges ahead of him, but none more looming than finding someone as dedicated as Petar to work in Ward III.


Peter W. Brusoe is a PhD Candidate in the Political Science and adjunct lecturer at American University. Brusoe has a Masters in political science from the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy and a Bachelors in History and Political Science from the University at Albany. In his free time, Peter volunteers with the Woodley Park Community Association, plays tuba for the American University Pep Band, and enjoys watching Great Dane Basketball.

Peter welcomes your comments below. If you have a question or prefer a more immediate response please email him at peter(dot)brusoe(at)american(dot)edu.


  1. I invite Peter Brusoe and Mary Cheh (my second invitation to Ms Cheh) to join me on a 10 minute drive by sidewalk tour to demonstrate there are situations where sidewalks are not necessary and are inappropriate choices for spending our local and federal tax dollars. There are far better ways to spend these diminished funds. The GOAL IS TO HAVE THE MANDATORY SIDEWALK INSTALLATION BILL REPEALED. These are places where the rare pedestrian walk would factor out to thousands of dollars a stroll. Deborah Kavruck

  2. Deb-
    Drop me an email at PWBrusoe(At)Gmail(dot)Com I would love to go through and see some of the sidewalks with you. I'll bring a camera with me.

  3. DC Board of Elections and Ethics has been mismanaged for years. The recent purge list published many individuals who registered in 2000 and before but never voted, let alone people who moved out of the area, wait it gets better concerning the deceased who probably voted six feet under!

    A friend moved to another state, first thing she did was get a new drivers license when time came to submit the final "DC Tax Return" which showed the current out of state address, the refund was sent to her last DC address. Luckily she filed a "Change of Address" with the Post Office before moving - the check was forwarded with two days before the request expired! Voting flyers from candidates running for office in the DISTRICT, contained her new out of state address (not forwarded) what a waste of campaign funds.

    Statehood chances are laughable!

  4. So does Ms. Kravchuk think it is ok to bar access to public space on her street or her neighborhood while the rest of us are forced to walk, or wheelchair on the grass and mud, or worse, in the street?

  5. Getting rid of paid parking on Saturdays is the WORST thing you can do for downtown shopping. When the parking is free all day, it gets filled up by workers (both retail and office workers) by 9am and shoppers can never find a place to park. The meter rates encourage turnove so that shoppers and diners have a hope of finding a place to park. The meter rates should be adjusted to achieve 85% occupancy: studies have shown this is the sweet spot for earning meter revenuevwhile still having some open spaces so that drivers can find a space.