Letter to the Editor: District’s high debt should force more careful spending

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The Duke Ellington School of the Arts is located at 3500 R St. NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/August 2017)

If the excessive costs and the faux outrage expressed by D.C. Council members in response to the modernization at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts weren’t bad enough [“A reckless process,” The Current, Sept. 6], the revelation that the school repair budget has exploded from $586 million to $1.4 billion should have had District residents marching in the streets. But wait there’s more: It was recently revealed that the Department of General Services is unnecessarily leasing buildings at a cost of $180 million per year because officials have lost track of District-owned buildings.

Yes, that’s the very same department that was investigated by Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh, a process that exposed both questionable practices by contractors and attempts by other council members to be less than forthcoming in regard to their testimony. Even the recent “win” for the District in luring San Francisco based Yelp firm comes at a steep price — some tax breaks will be in perpetuity, but unfortunately taxpayers aren’t privy to such details because the deal was made using “confidential business information.”

Unbeknownst to most citizens, the District is carrying about $10 billion in long-term debt that costs approximately $700 million per year to service. It is the avowed goal of Mayor Muriel Bowser and the council to gain statehood. When the next recession occurs, the District — which has some of the highest long-term debt per capita of any city in America — will suffer greatly not just as a result of macroeconomic issues but because of the proliferate spending, corruption and the “attack it because it’s moving” deal-making impulses of our elected officials. If they’re not careful, these same officials could very well spend us into receivership and put us further under the thumb of the federal government.

Greg Boyd, Mount Pleasant