by Brandon Todd
Serving as an elected official is all about listening – to residents, small business owners, and the many stakeholders that together, stitch the unique and vibrant tapestry that is Ward 4.
That is why, during the summer recess, my staff and I listened carefully to Ward 4 neighbors about your concerns and your hopes for the future. I repeatedly heard how as the cost of living in the District rises, families feel increasingly financially squeezed. So I took that input back to City Hall and got to work on concrete legislative solutions. At the September 19th meeting of the DC Council, I introduced three bills that would save DC families money and enhance their quality of life.
First, the “Universal Free Lunch for All Amendment Act of 2017” amends the Healthy Schools Act of 2010 to provide free lunches for all students in DC public schools, public charter schools, and participating private schools. With many families reporting that they spend upwards of $50 per student, per month on school lunch, this bill would put more money in the pockets of DC parents, regardless of zip code or socio-economic status. It would also shift the conversation back to providing healthy and nutritious lunches – a major concern for parents. By joining the ranks of other major American cities that already offer universal free lunch, such as Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, and New York, we could level the playing field for all students, support the remaining 25% of students who do not already receive free or reduced price lunch, and end lunch shaming of our youth simply because they are unable to afford it.
Second, the “Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday Amendment Act of 2017” would reinstate a sales tax holiday for school-related items under certain amounts during the last weekend in August. Every year, District parents flock to neighboring Maryland or Virginia to take advantage of their back-to-school supply tax holidays. That’s a major inconvenience, and disadvantages families who are unable to travel outside the District to save money. A DC back-to-school sales tax holiday would save Ward 4 families money, keep hard-earned DC tax dollars in the District where they can be reinvested into our neighborhoods, and serve as a boon to local school supply retailers. In 2009, the District cancelled its scheduled tax-free weekend due to budget constraints. In light of our strong financial footing, it is high time we reinstate this program and join the sixteen other states with back-to-school sales tax holidays.
Finally, I introduced the “Farmer’s Market Meter Fee Cap Amendment Act of 2017,” which would set a daily limit of $50 on the amount a farmer’s market is required to pay in daily parking meter fees to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT). The legislation comes in response to our own Petworth Market’s exorbitant fees, which threaten the viability of the Market’s future operations. In 2015 and 2016, the Petworth Market paid just under $1,000 in meter fees. After DDOT increased fees city-wide and carved out more parking spaces, that bill shot up over 800% to a whopping $8,800. This is unsustainable, and without action we could risk farmers markets shutting down across Ward 4 and the District, taking with them the locally-grown fresh produce, art, craftsmanship, and camaraderie that so many residents cherish. I know how much our families enjoy the Petworth Market, so I will continue to advocate for them and their long-term sustainability.
I hope you’ll join me in supporting these bills by talking to your neighbors and contacting my colleagues on the Council. As your Councilmember, I will continue to eagerly seek out ideas for smart and innovative policies that address the needs of our community.
As long as I represent you in City Hall, I’ll keep listening. For more, visit www.brandontoddward4.com.