Council Chairman Vince Gray Comments on the Budget and Streetcars

Photo from PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

From a Vince Gray for Mayor press release:

“I strongly support streetcar development, and remain committed to seeing it become a reality here in the District of Columbia. I’ve visited Portland, Oregon, twice in recent years, seen first-hand the positive economic impact and transportation impact on communities, and I am firmly committed to a new streetcar system in the District which brings about similar benefits to our city.

But we owe it to ourselves to have a well thought out planning process. We can’t afford the Mayor’s approach of “build now and plan later,” which only results in poor outcomes and much higher costs in the end. There needs to be proper planning, comprehensive transportation and engineering work, which is why we allocated $5 million to complete the planning process. Streetcars aren’t scheduled for completion until 2030, and over the next year, we’ll do the kind of planning that’s necessary to give us the most efficient use of our dollars.

I have full intention to move forward with streetcars, however, while we do the planning over the next year, we can take some of the dollars for desperately needed and more immediate capital projects, like renovation of middle schools, while our dollars are dwindling. This approach, which passed Council by a vote of 11-2, will allow for better collaboration and cooperation with residents, business owners, and other stakeholders, and result in a much stronger streetcar system in the end.”

53 Comment

  • So you voted against?

    So stupid. So, so stupid. Your rationale is BS. There is plenty of other crap you could have stripped. This is one spending project that would have a net benefit to tax rolls in the city and you blew it. It’s the fundamental difference between an investment and a cost. This is an investment. Most of the other things in the budget are costs.

    It was never schools vs. streetcars.

    One of the major reasons DC doesn’t have a decent tax base is because your coworker Mr Barry made decisions to strip funding for infrastructure projects for years. He plowed it into crony run social services that sent the city into financial bankruptcy. You just voted in favor of this philosophy.

    • What you said.

      Not to mention the now-wasted, already-spent funds invested in the streetcars and rails.

  • If this is really his position why try and sneak his budget past at 3am the day of vote. If this was your position you should of let it known weeks ago. Underhanded & shady!

    He lost my vote and I’m pretty sure the mayoral election.

    • This might be the only glimmer of hope: no more V Gray.

      I guess politicians don’t just disappear gracefully into the night. They burn the house down on their way out.

  • What a liar and a moron. He just lost a ton of votes from people who were backing him and leaning towards doing so. This doesn’t just affect H Street, it effects all the other communities that were slated to get streetcars thereafter, Anacostia, Petworth…. So many people reinvesting in the city only to have a serious mayoral candidate abandon the city’s promises to us. Formerly serious mayoral candidate. Gray, you are TOAST.

  • Vote for Fenty!

  • Don’t forget the other circus clowns:
    Graham, Cheh, Catania, Mendolson, Bowser, Harry Thomas, and the Brown Clowns all voted for this.

  • Write in Poon for Mayor? I’ll use postal inspectors to rob rich folk in the Palisades and build maglev street cars that connect Anacostia with Friendship Heights.

    Poon in June.

  • what a joke – he will definitely NOT have my vote this Fall.

  • PoP for Mayor (er…Prince) and Alpert for Chairman!!!!

  • I’d vote for someone in a coma at this point. At least someone in a coma couldn’t make the situation worse.

  • How ridiculous. That’s all you’ve said on the campaign. Let’s take a look and delay. This is a great idea that will have net benefit for the city. Take some leadership.

  • Abu the Ferret for mayor!

  • Evidently, Wells and Evans were the only votes against it

  • I am embarrassed to say that I don’t know what is next here. Is this a final vote on the budget? Are there other procedural moves that can be made by the mayor or Congress to restore this funding to the 2011 budget?

    • The final vote is later (not sure when), but as of now these funds would need to be explicitly restored.

  • Makes sense to me. There are busses and the Metro but crappy schools and other much higher priority needs for funds out of the capital budget that will help attract investment and boost the tax base. Building street car lines, which are cool, at $10 million a mile is just not financially doable and kinda silly.

    • The payoff would dwarf the cost. We put more money into our schools than almost any other jurisdiction on the planet. Perhaps it’s my general tilt towards conservatism, but I thought that the more money = better schools paradigm was dead.

      The neighborhoods in this city that are still getting over the riots and legacy of urban flight exist the way they do because they’re not connected with other DC neighborhoods. The money these things cost is miniscule compared to the benefits they’ll provide.

      Streetcars aren’t a novel idea, either. Other grand cities — especially in Europe — have used them to great ends in various neighborhoods (see the Amsterdam suburbs, where there’s also an underground train).

      • I just don’t get it. Buses run along H st and Georgia Ave. These are routes that are not served – to a large extendt – by Metro. I really don’t see alot of people waking up and realizing that they can hang out in these neighborhoods or buy a house in the neighborhoods just because there’s a street car. The street car is gonna get stuck in traffic just like a bus so it’s really not faster. The City can save alot of money by just relying on buses, perhaps purchase a nicer fleet or do something to make them more reliable.

        • I 100% disagree with you. A.) Many people who are already frequenting H Street are a bunch of yuppies who are afraid of buses; B.) The H Street line will run directly from Union Station, and people would be much more likely to being moving into the area–hell, they already have!

    • There was never a question of Schools vs. Streetcars. The school budget was already protected.

      Saying that this was the trade off is a red herring. $10M per mile is BS.

      Parks for kids in Georgetown seems to be the trade off according to Mr. Gray.

  • I’m glad I don’t live near H Street. You hear that? That’s the sound falling property values on H Street and Tinidad make when they crash.

    • And the sound of bars closing because people like to take public transportation when they go out drinking, not drive, and they don’t care to take a cab someplace where they probably won’t be able to catch a cab for the trip home.

    • do you only live somewhere for property values?
      h street is still cool in my book. streetcar or not.

      • H St will survive, but it’s certainly a kick in the scrotum.

      • Are you a homeowner? Because when you’re talking about 100s of thousands of dollars and your livelihood and your future, yeah. Property values are important.

        Very few people want to live places where property values are sinking. Usually just hipster renters.

        • a hipster jab? come on guy. grow up.

          do you honestly think that a delay, even a termination of the streetcar plans is going to drop values “100s of thousands of dollars and your livelihood and your future”?
          if you do, seek therapy and a new job.

          • No, but if you buy a half a million dollar home, watching $100K of your equity fly away is quite painful. The thing here is that I’m an adult homeowner, and you’re clearly not. Buying a house in an up-and-coming neighborhood is risky business, and many people that I know are interested in H St. NE because of the promised development there. If you think that not building the streetcar line isn’t going to affect property values, it’s because you possibly need therapy, or a new job. Thanks for the ad hominem, by the way. Renters ought not be critical of homeowners concerned that they’re going to take a bath for two years salary.

          • anon from 3:03,

            you shouldn’t assume things about random people on the internet you dont know.
            also, you shouldn’t freak out so much as the prospect of delayed or abandoned development projects. in dc that could be cause for a heart attack.
            relax, h street property values will increase for many reasons.
            but in the meantime, enjoy where you live.

        • I’m a homeowner and I live relatively near H ST. You’re overstating you case quite a bit.

          The tracks were just one component of the H St uplift. $100’s of thousands on a $500k property is not at all realistic. $30k maybe, but if you buy long, you’re going to make money anyway. The kids of the last generation of DC residents can’t afford the city. So as the older generation disappears, the properties go up for sale. This is true in just about every city in the country. I can’t afford to live in my parents neighborhood either.

          The bigger damage is that it makes the city council look like a bunch of clowns which hurts property values EVERYWHERE in the city. People moving to the are say, “the schools are dangerous, the houses are expensive, and the city is run by morons”.

  • Gray lost any chance of gaining my vote now. I wish we could have a progressive leader in Gray… He reminds me of those in the neighborhood that are too afraid to seek change and advancement in the community and would rather “keep it how it is” sort of attitude that leads to blighted neightborhoods. lame…

  • Gray most definitely lost my vote today.

  • Time to volunteer for Fenty.

    Fenty canuse his line-item veto, so there is still hope.

    • houseintherear

      Be careful. Don’t jump to Fenty only because of this decision. Read up and educate yourself on all of the candidates. Seriously. The corruption and lies in this city are staggering, and we all need to be careful what we do right now. Every vote counts.

      • BS. Calling Fenty out for steering money to his construction buddies is hypocrisy. Every single person on the City Council does it.

        The only issue is whether Fenty is pushing the city in the correct direction with schools and infrastructure. Which, he is.

  • Gray wasn’t the only one who voted for this….

  • Tommy Wells is trying to get people to call their Council persons to vote for an amendment to restore funding….

  • Hadn’t made up my mind who to vote for and to some extent that hasn’t changed but I do know that Gray will NOT be getting my vote.

  • Perhaps Gray is reading these comments as funding for streetcars is now back in:

    • Awesome. According to some here, my home’s value just increased by “100s of thousands of dollars.” Yes!

      • Do you own a home in the H Street neighborhood? Because you could be talking about the difference between a $600,000 house and a $400,000, depending on how stabby the neighborhood is in 10 years.

        • Over 10 years, it depends on if the development on H St is 100% dependent on the streetcars. If not, and it’s dependent on demographics too, then it’s probably a wash.

          In the short term 2010-2014, it’ll make a huge difference.

    • According to the post you link to: “Earlier Wednesday, the council approved taking $49 million from the streetcars to use to balance city’s budget and help fund other projects. That vote effectively delayed the launch of the streetcars by two years.”
      So if the council doesn’t add the money for the H St streetcars, it would delay the streetcars 2 years. That makes talk of plummeting property values around H street sound just a little exaggerated. Let’s all just take a breath and find out what exactly the Council decides and what implications it will have on various programs and revenue streams before we flip out.

      • Right but the question is can a project like this be successfully resurrected after a 2 year funding freeze?

        Ideally yes, practically probably not.

        And in the meantime, H St looks like Baghdad.

  • Thank Briefly. Was just about to throw that up. What and IDIOT!

  • Everything Gray and the Council propose is getting shot down left and right. Could they be any less tuned in?

  • The Fenty people came to my house yesterday. I won’t put a sign in my yard, but I much prefer him to Gray. Gray doesn’t have much more time to impress me, and if he doesn’t, I will volunteer for Fenty’s campaign.

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