GLAA calls for adequate CCRB funding, criticizes city budget planning
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GLAA calls for adequate CCRB funding, criticizes city budget planning


Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013

March 30, 2000

The Honorable Harold Brazil
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
Council of the District of Columbia
441 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001

Dear Mr. Brazil:

I am submitting this statement for the official record of your committee’s March 28 hearing on the proposed FY 2001 budget for the new Citizen Complaint Review Board (CCRB) and the Office of Citizen Complaint Review. I am sorry I could not attend the March 28 hearing, but at least I was able to monitor it on Channel 13.

GLAA wants to express our strong support for CCRB Chairman Mai Fernandez’ request for an additional $350,000 above the Mayor’s official FY 2001 budget request of about $1.36 million.

I was appalled to hear how little support the new CCRB members have received from anyone in the District government since being sworn in in January. Much time has been wasted for no good reason, and it seems like the new agency is in danger of becoming orphaned at an early age. This is not acceptable. GLAA and many others, both gay and non-gay, have invested much time and energy in getting this agency established after the Council recklessly abolished its predecessor agency in 1995 without providing for any replacement. We are not about to sit back and let this new agency be abandoned because of bureaucratic and political short-sightedness.

Ms. Fernandez warned your committee that if the extra $350,000 in District funds is not forthcoming for FY 2001, there is a distinct danger that the agency will run out of funds before the fiscal year is over. Most of the requested extra money — $250,000 — would be dedicated for contract services, such as mediation, translation, consulting, and Internet services. The Mayor’s proposed budget makes no allocation for such services — even though the law envisions that mediation will resolve 75% of the complaints filed with the new agency.

We fear this oversight is indicative of the lack of thought and planning behind the Mayor’s budget request. In view of this and the Administration’s neglect of the CCRB in the last few months, the Council should not give the Mayor’s budget request the benefit of the doubt but should instead aggressively ensure that the new agency is funded adequately from the start. Ms. Fernandez is far more credible than the Administration, and it is her judgment you should be deferring to.

Mr. Brazil, we are aghast at your response, in opposition to the request for an extra $350,000 from Ms. Fernandez, that the agency may just have to live with not being able to handle all the cases it might get. This is a recipe for instant backlog. We have been trying without success for years to get rid of the enormous backlog at the Office of Human Rights, and of course the backlog at the original CCRB was cited as a prime cause for its abolition. Why should your committee not do everything in its power now to prevent a backlog from ever forming in the first place?

Nor is it very realistic to suppose, as you suggested, that you can fix the problem a year from now during budget hearings for FY 2002, after a backlog has already developed. An ounce of prevention, in the form of the added $350,000 budget Ms. Fernandez has requested, is in order.

We can not be too sympathetic with Mrs. Ambrose’s opposition to the added CCRB budget on the grounds that it is already too difficult for the Council to shift funds from one area to another. This is called setting priorities, and it is one of the chief responsibilities for any elected legislator. We believe the CCRB deserves a high priority and should not be sacrificed at birth solely to benefit more established interests.

You stated that at this time it is not possible to project with much confidence the exact number of cases the new board can expect to get in FY 2001. The proper response to such uncertainty, however, is to err on the side of caution so that a backlog does not develop. If you err on the opposite side and underfund the new CCRB, its reputation will be damaged at the outset, and they will find it horrendously difficult if not impossible to establish a better reputation.

At our March 28 GLAA meeting, we heard some first-hand harrowing stories about the ongoing deliberate, frightening abuse of peaceful transgendered D.C. residents by viciously bigoted members of the Metropolitan Police Department. The CCRB will be getting lots of business as long as such bad apples continue to infest the MPD. The CCRB’s noble mission must not be aborted at its outset by a niggardly attitude towards its budget by our own elected officials.

Sincerely,

Craig Howell
Secretary

cc: All Councilmembers
Mayor Anthony A. Williams
Mai Fernandez, Chairman, Citizen Complaint Review Board
Carlene Cheatam, Office of the Public Advocate
ACLU/National Capital Area
NAACP Criminal Justice Task Force


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