By MICHAEL A. BROWN
As my first term on the Council is concluding, I reflect on my accomplishments and consider the priorities I will focus on as we continue to move the District forward.
I am a proud Washingtonian, who gladly serves as a nationwide Obama/Biden surrogate and my dad was chair of the Democratic Party and Commerce Secretary in the Clinton administration. He and my mom brought me up to understand that because I was given so much, I had a responsibility to give something back. My progressive parents taught me to respect the diversity of our city and its residents. Striving to meet their standards is a high bar that motivates me to work hard and craft policies ensuring that every child, regardless of social or economic status, has the same opportunities for a quality education and the same chances to obtain a better life.
Much has been accomplished over the past four years and it is important for the community, including the LGBT community, to know that even during difficult times we have made progress. I am proud of my role in that progress but understand there is much left to do, especially concerning the growing divide between the rich and the poor, and the lack of quality affordable housing throughout the city. Within the past three years, I restored roughly $50 million to cuts from our affordable housing programs and extended rent control for another 10 years, while helping to secure millions more of needed funds for homelessness services, including increased support for homeless youth.
I led the reform of the First Source law, establishing the highest resident hiring requirement in District history for D.C.-funded or subsidized projects and have been recognized as a champion in protecting our social safety net services. I led the effort on the Council to include progressive tax reform, which created a new high-income tax bracket for those earning over $350,000 a year and my legislation clarified the tax code regarding the collection of hotel taxes from online travel companies, which will lead to the collection of more than $10 million annually. I also led Council efforts to retain LivingSocial and other technology businesses to reduce our city’s dependence on government jobs while supporting innovative competitive businesses, such as Uber car services.
Concerning LGBT issues, many may believe that since the passage of marriage equality, which I proudly supported, that LGBT rights are complete. Sadly, this is not the case. Last year, the LGBT community experienced a rash of hate crime attacks and transgender members were targeted and killed simply because of who they are. I authored the “Youth Bullying Prevention Act” to not only protect all students from harm, but to educate our youth and their instructors to understand and become tolerant of a person’s differences. I have worked closely with Metro Teen AIDS to push Public Charter Schools to fully embrace and implement these standards.
The spread of HIV/AIDS and STDs is among the biggest health concerns within the District. With an infection rate of 3 percent, which is the highest rate in the country, it is clear that eradicating HIV must continue to be a priority for our local and national government. Prior to joining the Council, I was proud to serve on the board of Whitman-Walker, where I became involved with the fight against this epidemic. In fact, one of the first bills that I co-introduced was the “Comprehensive HIV Prevention Plan Act of 2009.”
Recently, the Council passed a new and stronger ethics bill. But that is only a beginning. I’ve introduced a bill allowing for public financing of our elections and believe this is the best way to reduce the influence of corporate donations and level the playing field. It is the responsibility of everyone in government, including myself, to review our past actions and commit to ourselves and pledge to the people we serve that we will avoid future actions that even appear to be questionable.
I look forward to maintaining my 100 percent pro-LGBT voting record and will continue to work closely with and offer my support to the LGBT community. Together, we will make the District into a cleaner, greener and safer place to live, where everyone is welcomed and guaranteed an equal opportunity to reach the fullest potential.
Michael A. Brown is an At-Large member of the D.C. Council.