(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), today announced plans to launch a multifaceted media campaign aimed at drawing attention to what it calls a deficit in city services caused by Mayor Fenty’s proposed DC budget. Newspaper ads urging DC residents and workers to “Take the City Back” were launched last week. Radio and television ads as well as a social media program are also in the works.
“We recognize that the District is facing a significant budget shortfall but that is no excuse to shortchange the residents of the District of Columbia who rely on city agencies for support ,” said Dwight Bowman, AFGE 14th District National Vice-President, who represents public employees in the District. "The City Council and the Fenty Administration should come up with alternative solutions that don’t put people out of work and restrict city services," he said.
"The proposed budget cuts will have a devastating impact on residents. The budget slashes childcare programs provided by the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, cripples services provided by the Addiction Prevention, and Recovery Administration, (APRA) and other social services programs. At the Department of Public Works (DPW) citizens will now be required to go online to register their vehicles when clearly there’s a large segment of the population that does not have Internet access.” said Bowman.
According to the budget, the Department of Health’s agency, APRA stands to lose 80 fulltime employees despite the clear and desperate needs for the District’s estimated 60,000 citizens with alcohol and substance abuse issues. Similarly, Fenty plans to eliminate 240 positions in the area of mental health, an agency that already suffers from short staffing and a lack of resources.
Bowman said the union is also taking a close look at how the Fenty administration plans to privatize city services which he said could cost taxpayers more not less. “The Fenty administration has argued that these services can be privatized, but previous attempts to allow the private sector to meet such needs have not boded well for taxpayers or those in need of help. Some of these privatization schemes have cost D.C. taxpayers millions, including a boondoggle involving the housing of youth offenders,” he said. The Washington Examiner revealed earlier this year that the D.C. Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) was spending $175,000 per youth offender to house convicted juveniles across the country. The union has been joined in its campaign to restore city services to the District by other public employee unions and by a broader coalition of community activists.