The dark cloud over last year’s District budget deliberations had a silver lining. As I noted in my review of the Fair Budget Coalition’s new report, advocacy on behalf of low-income District residents shifted to a savvier strategy. Instead of just insisting on spending at or above prior levels, advocates offered recommendations for balancing program cuts with revenue-raisers.
At the same time, they reached out to engage a broader base of supporters, including a number of local congregations and small businesses. The campaign also birthed an online grassroots component–Save Our Safety Net. This was initially a one-time effort to raise awareness of pending cuts and let the DC Council hear from concerned constituents.
The Save Our Safety Net website has been relaunched as an ongoing source of information, stories and opportunities to weigh in. Unlike some more staid sites, it’s essentially a framework for diverse social media–original videos, tweets, petitions and, coming soon, a blog.
The SOS website aims to be a virtual community of individuals–a platform for voices that aren’t generally heard in the halls of the John A. Wilson building. The hope is to build an active coalition of residents whose lives are or have been affected by our local safety net programs and others who care about their well-being and the well-being of our community as a whole.
As with the FBC report, the bottom-line message is the need for a balanced approach to this year’s budget shortfall. Safety net programs have already taken more than their share of cuts–a total of $100 million, SOS says. It advocates instead a new top tax bracket for the city’s highest-income residents.
You can help give force to this message by signing the petition to the mayor on the site’s home page. And be sure to click the box(es) if you’ve received a safety net service and/or would be affected by the tax proposal. The latter, I think, is especially important.
We’ve heard a lot about how better-off residents and small businesses will flee to the suburbs if District taxes are made more progressive. We haven’t heard, but can reasonably assume that Mayor Fenty and DC Councilmembers are anxious about their re-election campaigns too.
They need to know that funding sources–for the city and for their campaigns–will do their share to save our already-tattered safety net. And that includes holding them accountable for how they choose to balance the budget.