GLAA urges increase in OHR budget 04/13/00
GLAA writes councilmembers on FY 2001 budget recommendations
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
MEMORANDUM FOR ALL COUNCILMEMBERS
GLAA'S RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FY 2001 BUDGET
MAY 18, 2000
Office of Human Rights
GLAA is very pleased that the Committee on Government Operations has voted a $200,000 increase above the Mayor's proposal for the Office of Human Rights and has dedicated these extra funds to reduce the enormous case backlog at OHR.
OHR's backlog has hovered around 700 cases for the past several years, with little net change. Its budget has been adequate only to close about as many cases each year as it opens -- about 300. Typically, anyone filing a new case with OHR can expect to wait 2 years or more before OHR can reach a finding of probable cause. That is a far cry from the statutory requirement that OHR must issue a finding of probable cause within 120 days of the filing of a complaint.
GLAA urged the Government Operations Committee to boost OHR's budget for the next several years on a temporary basis so that the backlog can gradually but systematically eliminated. The Committee's favorable response in this direction amounts to a major breakthrough in a battle GLAA has been waging with precious little success for the past five years. We urge the full Council to accept the Committee's recommendation and to fight strongly for its retention in subsequent negotiations with the Mayor's Office and the Financial Control Board.
Citizen Complaint Review Board
CCRB Chairperson Mai Fernandez testified before the Judiciary Committee that the new Office of Citizen Complaint Review would need $350,000 in additional funding for FY 2001 above the Mayor's request, primarily because the Mayor's proposal would allow no funding for mediation and other contract services. Since the law establishing the new CCRB envisioned that most of the complaints filed would be settled by mediation, this seemed to indicate a lack of clear planning by the budget office. Nevertheless, the Judiciary Committee rejected Ms. Fernandez' request. We believe her analysis is sound and should be honored.
We understand Councilmember Catania has a proposal that could help resolve the problem. He favors taking $500,000 from the federal funds allotted for CCRB operations in FY 2000 and carrying them over to FY 2001 instead. Since there is no way the new CCRB could spend these funds in the current fiscal year, this approach seems sensible to us. However, we would warn against using these carryover federal funds to justify any cut in the $1.3 million in local funds allocated for the CCRB in FY 2001; instead, the $500,000 in federal funds should supplement the $1.3 million in D.C. funds as envisioned in the Mayor's budget for a total spending authority of $1.8 million. If local funding for the CCRB is reduced from $1.3 million to (say) $1 million because the carryover of federal funding, past experience indicates that the Mayor and Council may be reluctant to increase its budget in the future when federal funding expires. The CCRB would then be forced to cut back its operations. Development of a backlog would be inevitable.
The Council should not be helping to attack a long-entrenched case backlog at OHR and simultaneously helping to create a backlog at the new CCRB.
D.C. Public Schools
Thanks to GLAA's leadership over the last year, the D.C. Public Schools system has recently adopted a comprehensive anti-harassment policy that protects students from harassment from both their peers and by school employees. The new policy not only forbids harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, but also outlaws harassment on the basis of any of the other categories enumerated by the D.C. Human Rights Law of 1977. Once that policy was announced, we at once urged the Education and Libraries Committee to provide funding for implementation of a training program to explain the new policy and procedures for DCPS employees.
DCPS staff has told us and the committee that they can afford to implement such a training program out of the planned teacher training and development budget; thus, they claim, no separate line item is needed for this purpose. We urge the full Council to include language in its final budget report indicating the explicit expectation and requirement that the DCPS will implement anti-harassment training as part of its training program in both the current fiscal year and in FY 2001.
Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance