In a well-crafted and well-delivered speech, Mayor Vincent Gray says the city has finally ascended to a fiscal vigor that is the envy of other mayors and laid out his vision for an even greater future.
The District is in good shape financially, the mayor said, and rightfully claimed in his State of The District address Tuesday night, that any governor or mayor around the nation would like to be in our financial position. Since last June there has been close to a $400 million turnaround in what is colloquially called the city’s “rainy day” fund, which now stands at $1.1 billion.
The mayor spoke confidently about the potential for the District to continue to grow and add to the 17,000 taxpayers who have moved here in the last 12 months. He forcefully stated that he would fight any effort to move back to the days when we spent more than we took in or go back to the last four years when our reserve fund was raided each year to meet budget needs. But, he said, we must be prepared for the possibility of a weak economy and the loss of federal funds in coming years.
He spoke of the turnaround on jobs and that the District added 9,500 jobs in the past year. He projected that by 2015 we will add another 45,000 to the local economy.
He bragged, deservedly so, that we are a city of firsts.
“We are the No. 1 retail market in the country, the No. 1 place for young professionals to move, No. 1 in foreign retail investment, No. 1 in metro household income, and No. 1 for quality of living in the mid-Atlantic region.” But the mayor also underscored that, “some of our fellow Washingtonians have not yet benefited from the economic turnaround. They still struggle to find a job, put food on the table, and pay the rent …. while continued economic growth is a priority, we must remain committed to getting our unemployed citizens back to work.”
The mayor spoke of the drop in crime, and that he recognizes a basic demand of members of any community of their government is the expectation that their home, their neighborhood and the city’s streets be safe. While last year’s 108 homicides were the lowest number in the District in nearly 50 years, they were still 108 too many, the mayor stressed. He complimented the Police Department and Chief Cathy Lanier, who was in the audience, on the astonishing 95% homicide closure rate compared to the national average of just 56%
He also spoke of his commitment to not only continue education reform but move it ahead more quickly.
The mayor apologized for missteps his administration made early on, and took full responsibility. He pledged to work steadfastly to regain the peoples trust. With his new hires, his record of accomplishment and with his commitment to a totally transparent government, the mayor believes he is on the right road.
All-in-all it was an upbeat speech, with strong facts and a realistic vision for the future of the District and its people.
By Peter D. Rosenstein
I am a shameless red carpet watcher and the Academy Awards is no exception. This is my Super Bowl, baby! In fact, I usually settle in for the evening with a couple of girl friends, champagne and Oscar Popcorn* among other delicacies. One year, I hand-delivered “Oscar” envelopes—really an invitation to my black tie party, complete with a red carpet and life-size Oscar. Everyone came dressed for the red carpet or as their favorite nominated character. The winning costume was awarded with—what else? A chocolate Oscar!
So, you can see I take this very seriously. In anticipation of the BIG SHOW on February 26, I’ve assessed the fashions from the 2012 Golden Globes and SAG Awards. The real standouts—aside from the disastrous Sarah Michelle Gellar in a blue and white tie-died strapless Monique L'huillier—are Charlize Theron in a soft pink Dior dress, Angelina Jolie in a white strapless Atelier Versace and Emma Stone in an Alexander McQueen black strapless tea-length stunner. An honorable mention goes out to Octavia Spencer who did the plus size gals proud in Tadashi Shoji at both shows.
Don’t get me wrong! There were scores of gorgeous dresses on perfect bodies—just nothing original, creative or fun. We saw the same tired body hugging, breast oozing strapless gowns with a variety of textures and trains to set them apart. They’re the uniform of the Hollywood red carpet. Yawn.
I want to see new and daring! Let’s have fun with fashion, people! That’s what it’s all about in case you’ve forgotten. I am not suggesting that stars should make their entrance in a golden egg ala 2011 Gaga Grammy style. Nor, do I recommend a swan dress such as Björk wore to the 2001 Oscars. But, perhaps we could bring back glamour, sophistication and originality as did our three fashionistas from above. Their dresses were about structure, femininity and timeless looks. The lines were simple and classic. There’s no question that all three of these women looked sexy, beautiful and comfortable—and raised the bar doing so.
Ah, but this is all just a warm up for the big night. What will they wear? Will they get it right? Who will be a train wreck due to some tragically trendy stylist? We can only wait and see. This year I am watching with my BFF from college. I will also be texting with my 22-year old daughter, toasting and trashing gowns as the stars appear. Oddly enough, despite our age difference, she and I always agree on the winners and losers. Must be that good taste and good fashion never go out of style.
*Speaking of good taste, here’s the recipe for
Oscar Pop Corn
1 bag popped microwave buttered pop corn (10 to 12 cups)
1 cup salted mixed nuts
½ cup dried cranberries
1 12 oz package white chocolate
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Edible gold powder (optional)
Pop corn and pour into large bowl.
Add nuts and cranberries; stir well.
Melt white chocolate in double boiler or microwave, then pour over pop corn mixture till evenly coated.
Spread onto large rimmed baking sheet; sprinkle with cinnamon, stirring to distribute evenly. Cool completely.
Sprinkle with gold powder if desired.
Store in air-tight container.
Serve in martini glasses.
Written by Robin Jones
Though it is nothing new, I am still amazed at the pandering politicians do when it comes to taxes.
On Monday the District announced its best audit results in years. It was confirmation that we once again have an administration that is focused on bringing long-term financial stability to the City. This is the kind of financial oversight that people say they want and that we haven’t had since Mayor Tony Williams’ administration.
So instead of discussing the importance of this audit result to the District, what do the Council chair and the chair of the Council’s Finance Committee do?
They immediately begin talking about potential new tax cuts and lamenting recent tax increases. They do this without any real review of where the potential future problems will be within the city’s budget based on the impact of a continuing slow economy and the real danger of less federal funding coming into the District.
What is interesting is that this pandering seems unnecessary. There hasn’t been any great outcry from District residents about D.C. income taxes. Many of the approximately 6,000 people that were impacted by the .4% rate increase in their income taxes, from 8.5% to 8.9%, most likely didn’t notice any difference in their lives. In addition, the impact of the increase was actually less than the .4% as they could take that small increase and deduct it from their federally taxed income.
One of the biggest benefits of the District once again being able to rebuild its reserve fund is that it will put us in good stead with the bond rating agencies, keeping our credit ratings high and thereby potentially lowering our long-term debt costs.
Instead of talking about lowering taxes it would be better for the Council to focus first on continuing to comb the budget for more cost savings. Then it would serve all residents well if they reviewed all the programs where additional spending could make a real difference in the long term for all the people of the District. Among those programs could be infrastructure, public safety, education, and job training.
Another area that could use some increase in funding in the District is the arts. We often forget that a strong and vibrant arts community often brings much more revenue into the District than the contribution that we make from public funds.
In the coming years there will most likely be cuts in various programs that we count on from the federal government. These include healthcare, public transportation, education and housing programs to name a few. We should begin planning for that eventuality, not just cut taxes today and find we have to raise them again a year from now. When government is efficient and watches our money carefully, the public is generally much more accepting of paying taxes.
I suggest all of our politicians have a conversation about efficiency, productivity and producing the best possible services for the people of the District instead of immediately making the easy call and suggesting lowering taxes because they think it makes them more popular.
By Peter D. Rosenstein