As the federal government careens towards a shutdown, Americans all over the country are wondering how this will affect them. They are worrying over economic growth, job security and getting social security in a timely fashion. As a D.C. resident, I have one issue keeping me up at night: How smelly is my city about to get?
Unlike every other city and state in this great nation, D.C. cannot budget and spend its locally raised funds without approval from the president and Congress. This means that in the event that Congress cannot pass a budget (or in this case, a continuing resolution) D.C. residents could lose access to some basic services. In past government shutdowns, many D.C. city services including trash collection and street cleaning have either stopped or been reduced. When a shutdown loomed in 2011, over 7000 furious D.C. residents planned to protest by leaving their trash in front of House Speaker Boehner’s home on Capitol Hill.
I was one of them.
I have lived in the District of Columbia for six years, and like many others I have grown increasingly angry about how D.C. residents are treated. I have had to relinquish my right to a voting member of Congress and have I no senator, which leaves me with no voice in Congress. I have watched my president trade away my city’s ability to fund abortion for low-income women. Now, the region I live in stands to lose $200 million in revenue and our access to trash pick up over a budget we don’t even have a representative to vote on. That’s why, on April 23rd, I voted for a referendum to give D.C. more control over our locally raised funds. The referendum passed at over 80% of the vote and has cleared the 35-day Congressional review period without Congress taking action to overturn it.
The D.C. budget autonomy battle has been heating up for months, and the shutdown has provided another opportunity for a showdown between the D.C. City Council and the federal government. Mayor Gray has declared all D.C. city workers to be essential, meaning that none of them can be furloughed. Mayor Gray also told NBC last week that he “will not allow the safety and well-being of District residents to be compromised by Congress’s dysfunction”
The Mayor’s declaration was sent to the Federal Office of Budget Management on Monday, and at press time OMB had not responded. D.C.’s attorney general has warned that the mayor could be arrested for spending money that Congress hasn’t authorized, although the District does have some funds on reserve. This unprecedented move by Mayor Gray reflects the growing anger in the district over the federal government denying D.C. our budget autonomy.
Residents like myself have demonstrated that we want local government, not federal government, to control their tax dollars. We aren’t asking for anymore than the basic rights every other American enjoys: taxation without representation, and local budget autonomy. Members from both sides of the aisle should work with the D.C. government to assure that all residents have a voice.
Do they really want to see our city trashed?