Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee Charges DGS With Flouting Law Budget Oversight Law
By Larry Janezich
Donna Scheeder, Chair of Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC), told City Council members last Monday that DGS – contrary to DC law – is not respecting EMCAC’s legal obligation to advise and provide oversight on Eastern Market’s budget. Her statement came during testimony before CM Mary Cheh’s Budget and Oversight hearing on the Department of General Services.
According to Scheeder the law requires the Eastern Market Manager to submit the market’s budget to EMCAC prior to the start of each DC fiscal year budget cycle. “You will note that you have no recommendations from EMCAC because there was no prior submission to EMCAC for review. What is required in the legislation was not done,” she told the Committee.
Scheeder said EMCAC was told by DGS’s Market Manager by email, that the budget would have to remain internal until it is released to the City Council. Scheeder added, “DGS’s refusal to follow (the law) is an affront to both our organization and the Council….”
On Friday, March 24, EMCAC did receive was a document designated “Mayor’s Proposed Budget for the Eastern Market Fund,” but, Scheeder said, the document fails to break down the several sources of income and provided no information about what is needed for maintenance and capital improvement expenditures – nor did it include any information about what was budgeted for 2018. Scheeder told the committee that without out having access to current meaningful budget information, EMCAC has no way to advise whether DGS’s proposed substantial rent increases for the South Hall merchants are justified.
Other issues raised by Scheeder and EMCAC Secretary Monte Edwards include the failure of DGS to provide funds for capital improvements as required by law, DGS’s slow walking of EMCAC’s advice on the need to address security for the 7th Street open air market – a target for terrorists, Scheeder said – and lack of clarity on DGS’s intent regarding funding for the prospective five year strategic plan.
CM Cheh responded, noting that she had heard the concerns of the South Hall merchants at an earlier oversight hearing on city agencies, adding, “I take it we’re not very good as government in managing operations – I will be talking to DGS about that. We need to press for repairs and management to make this a good and effective market everybody seems to love.”
CM Allen responded, saying he wanted to focus on how to put together a strategic plan, asking, “Do I need to work with the Chair for funding?” Scheeder told Allen, that EMCAC doesn’t know the status of any funding for the study, but before funding is allocated, “we need to have a stakeholder’s meeting to talk about the scope of the study and what needs to be included.”
Allen agreed that engaging the community would help chart a path forward and said he would follow-up with DGS Director Gillis about budgeting for the study and about EMCAC’s budget oversight role.
DGS has submitted a request for proposals regarding a strategic plan, but EMCAC has refused to consider it because their advice had not been sought on elements of the request. See here: http://bit.ly/2HPlMSg
EMCAC will hold a special meeting at 7:00pm in the North Hall of Eastern Market on Wednesday, April 4, to advise on the DGS proposal to contract for the development of a strategic plan for the Eastern Market Special Use area.
2 responses to “Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee Charges DGS With Flouting Budget Oversight Law”
I have been a direct participant in Eastern Market for quite a while. The challenges facing the market are real. A falling share of the food market in face of better choices elsewhere, has lead to search for political solutions to a marketing problem. The interior merchants scapegoat the outside vendors for their own competitive shortcomings. Depending increasingly on a kind of charitable boosterism from first generation re-gentry and occasional civic shopping duty by later generations, while entirely misunderstanding the competitive environment around them and people who populate it.
With the best of intentions, EMCAC has approached the market as a politically driven restoration project. They have sought to maintain a de facto subsidy of family dynasties with no incentive for improved entrepreneurship. After a 25 million dollar renovation, a temporary building in the breach, all new equipment, a financial settlement, and 10 years of rent very far below market, a representative the merchants recently testified before city council that ‘DC Government was sucking the marrow from their bones’.
In the meantime, this city has change rapidly. Diversity and choices are now dominate. While EMCAC remains unchanged after seeing to the elimination of their own term limits in 2004. Would an institutionally stronger EMCAC improve the market’s position or hurt it? My speculation on both is: I doubt it.
Thank you Joe Snyder! The use of DC taxpayer funds to substantially subsidize the business operations of profit businesses that I believe are mostly owned by families who don’t reside in DC or on the Hill, is absurd. EMCAC doesn’t provide meaningful oversight, it essentially bullies the DC government based on EMCAC’s personal favoritism towards the South Hall merchants. It needs to stop.