D.C. Budget vs. The Healthy Schools Act


Mmm, cruciferous veggies!

Balancing the city’s budget is going to require some painful cuts in spending…but who should get less? If you’re concerned about how cuts could affect D.C.’s youngest residents, this may be of interest to you (via DC Action for Children):

A last-minute opportunity to take action for DC’s Kids! The DC Council is holding a hearing tomorrow morning on the Mayor’s gap-closing budget, and more than $4.6 million in funding for the recently passed Healthy Schools Act is on the chopping block.

The Healthy Schools Act was passed this summer to help ensure that children in DC Public Schools receive fresh, healthy meals in the classroom and comprehensive wellness services to combat childhood obesity and malnutrition. With 43 percent of District students overweight or obese, we can’t afford to squander this progress to fix a short-term budget gap.

I know that it’s almost 4:30 pm, but I just saw this and there’s still time to call your Councilmember if you are so moved. Readers: are there other, similar programs you are worried about, with regards to gap-closing?

A Drop in the Bucket


Salvation Army Red Kettle, Social Safeway, Washington, D.C.

Last week, for the first time this holiday season, I put money in a Salvation Army red kettle– at a Safeway, not Giant. However, whatever I or my fellow shoppers have been dropping in that nostalgia-inducing red bucket isn’t enough to make up for Giant Food’s new policy which limits the charity’s access to its shoppers:

One of the Salvation Army’s most recognizable fundraisers — the Red Kettle campaign —isn’t performing well in its first week and representatives are pointing toward a new Giant Food policy as the reason.

The National Capital Area Salvation Army reported today that the campaign — where volunteers and paid personnel stand outside shopping centers during the holidays ringing a bell to draw attention to the large red bucket next to them — has seen a $74,000 drop in donations compared to the same week last year…Area Commander Major Steve Morris, reported today that “the economy’s tight hold on family budgets” and a new policy instituted by Giant Food account for the decrease. The grocer’s policy reduced the number of days the Salvation Army can be at the grocery stores to one week in November and one week in December for four hours each day.

How accessible is marriage, to the poor?


Local blogher and Campus Progress Editor Kay Steiger writes about a Time/Pew Poll on marriage, and whether there are issues of classism intertwined with weddings (Thanks, SOH):

The Time story that relates the poll goes on to say that “the richer and more educated you are, the more likely you are to marry, or to be married — or, conversely, if you’re married, you’re more likely to be well off.”

The idea of tying marriage to wealth isn’t that surprising when you look at the wedding industry…As weddings become more status-oriented and more costly, it makes sense that the less educated — and therefore the less financially well off — become less likely to see marriage as accessible to them. This has roughly been my problem with weddings all along, although I suppose I haven’t been particularly articulate about it until now. If the standard for weddings becomes a Vera Wang dress, an ornate venue, and freshly imported flowers — all amounting to that “one perfect day” — then marriage itself begins to be viewed as an institution for those who can afford all those things.

Of course, not every couple has to do that, and many don’t. Lots of couples elope at the court house and have a low-key celebration later on. But the trouble is that there aren’t many options for folks that want something in between — or at least, the wedding industry leaves you with the distinct impression that there isn’t such an option.

No, he doesn’t need bus fare to Quantico.


OCS Graduates at Quantico.

I’m proud to be a member of a Military family, so this post over at Prince of Petworth immediately got my attention– one of his intrepid readers managed to photograph an alleged scam-artist on the Metro:

He asked for $60 for a bus ticket back to Quantico…This was on the Red Line…the elements of the story were that he was away from base, he had been mugged or pickpocketed (could not hear which), and he needed $60 to get back. He got off the train at Judiciary Square saying something about needing to catch the train back the other direction, but I think he may have seen me take the picture. Immediately after the scammer got off the train, there was another man who was wearing his uniform who realized what just happened and told the woman that she shouldn’t have given him the money, because if he was actually in the military the scammer would have gone to the fellow military guy first thing.”

I spoke to two Veterans, one from the Air Force and one from the Army about this situation, to find out what would actually happen to someone in the Military if they were stranded. Bottom line? They wouldn’t be panhandling for bus fare, ever, so beware:

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One of these things is not like the other.

Jon Haynes Photography

In today’s Washington Post, Petula Dvorak points out that like their disadvantaged peers, privileged children are stressed out, too, in “No class boundaries to childhood stress“:

Three in 10 living in the nation’s capital are feeling the weight of adult problems every day.

Those kids rarely have a carefree moment. The pressure of their situation squeezes them constantly, putting the joy of a simple exhale beyond their reach.

But wait a minute. Isn’t that almost exactly what we hear from many of their more privileged peers?

They describe a life in which they aren’t given the time to just go out back and play. They are crushed by their obligations and crippled by stress.

I’ll give it to Dvorak– this column could have been grating. It’s not exactly gracious to compare the problems of the haves with the have-nots, but she carefully avoided that pitfall.
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Library late fees? Don’t bring cash.

Return or renew on time, less hassle.

When I first read this on TBD, I worried about people who don’t have credit cards, since they might really need to use the library:

Starting November 1, the D.C. Public Library will no longer accept cash as payment for fines at its branch locations. Customers will be asked to log on to the library’s website either from home or at branch locations in order process their payments via Visa or Mastercard.

The issue is one of cost. If public libraries accept cash for late fees, then armored cars have to pick up that cash– and that’s expensive when the amounts in question are small.

There are provisions for those with no plastic:

Customers without credit cards may also pay fines by check or money order at branch libraries, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will continue to accept cash, regardless of which library branch the fees originated from.

Of course the easiest way to prevent the hassle of getting a money order or trekking out to what may be an out-of-the-way library is to return or renew books on time.

Hunger-Free Kids Act…would leave kids hungry

Justin Knol

SNAP cuts mean it would be hard to buy fresh fruit.

Annie Lowrey at The Washington Independent spoke to anti-Hunger activist Joel Berg about Congress’ attempt to cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (i.e. food stamps). The cuts are being made to fund a Child Nutrition bill championed by Michelle Obama. The whole article (which includes a transcript of Lowrey and Berg’s conversation) is a sobering read. Of course, I excerpted the saddest bits for you below (emphasis mine):

TWI: And what will the impact be for kids?

Berg: This cut is taking something away from every other meal for children in low-income families, to help get them a better lunch. Someone in the White House last week, I saw, claimed that the child-nutrition bill will dramatically reduce child obesity.

That’s ridiculous. They are cutting the budget from kids at home to pay for kids in school. If kids eat in school every day, in a year, that’s still only 16 percent of their meals, because there are weekends, there are holidays, there are nights, there is summer. There is no way that marginally improving 16 percent of your meals is going to dramatically change your diet — especially not if you are taking away from the rest.

People want to claim victory. They want to make exaggerated claims that the child-nutrition bill will help. The most heartbreaking thing about it, for advocates, is that this is supposed to be our great champion bill that was going to solve everything! We thought it would dramatically decrease child hunger. But, the fact is, you have hunger advocates lobbying against its passage. Our emotions are ranging from outraged to heartbroken. I’m really just gobsmacked that this happened.

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Are Parking Meters too expensive? Or just annoying?

Andrew Bossi

A meter on U Street NW

How apposite, to discuss parking on Car Free Day. Here’s TBD on Jack Evans’ quest for parking meter “sanity”, or, lower meter rates:

Evans, the influential chairman of the Council’s Finance & Revenue Committee, tells TBD, “People are angry about the meters. … I’m going to introduce legislation at our next meeting that brings us all back to sanity.”

Currently, motorists pay two dollars an hour to park in “premium demand zones” such as Adams Morgan, Georgetown, the U Street corridor, along Wisconsin Avenue, and in the downtown commercial core.

There’s a lot of discussion about Evans’ proposal on Twitter; TBD rounded up a collection of opinions stated in 140-character-or-less. The reactions are predictable: phrases like “supply and demand”, “discourage driving” and “cheaper than garages”. A few others mention that it would be easier to pay $0.25 for 7.5 minutes of parking if there were other ways to pay that fee. Continue reading

Maybe SmarTrip Won’t be Discounted, After All


This SmarTrip card is in the red...thanks to a sharpie.

Last week, I posted about having your say regarding Metro’s proposal to no longer allow negative balances on SmarTrip cards. The whole reason Metro considered changing the current system, which allows riders to exit even if they don’t have enough money on their card to cover metro fare was because of a proposal to lower the cost of a SmarTrip card from $5 to $2.50, in order to make the plastic fare card more accessible and affordable. Laudable goal, right?

Well, yes, but officials at Metro then theorized that people could abuse the system by purchasing a card and taking a ride which cost more than $2.50. That’s why they considered eliminating negative balances. What they didn’t consider was how complicated this would all become. For example, there were no plans to change the Exit Fare machines to accept credit cards– they are cash only. That was one of the reasons why negative balances were allowed in the first place; the machines for adding value to SmarTrip cards are beyond the fare gates. Continue reading

Is Metro Parking Under-priced? For Whom?


East Falls Church Metro

There’s a thought-provoking post up over at Greater Greater Washington about how VDOT wants to retain all the parking (if not increase it, in the future) which currently exists near the East Falls Church Metro stop.

VDOT cites the early fill time for the parking lot as justification for considering more parking than already exists. The lot regularly fills before 7:30 am, and data obtained from Metro cites the lot as one of the region’s most crowded.

The author of the post, Michael Perkins, thinks that the lot fills regularly because it is under-priced. Continue reading