For many DC renters and small business owners, many have been working up to and preparing for today’s big day at the Wilson building.
At 2 pm, members of the DC community will testify at the FY13 budget oversight hearing for the DC Department of Housing and Community Development as well as rally with the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) for Housing for All outside the Wilson building at 6 pm. More than 40 residents and community advocates have signed up to testify and call for restoration of funding to key programs, including the Housing Production Trust Fund, the Small Business Technical Assistance Program, and the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP).
2012 started out strong as the grassroots tenant movement began priming itself for the 2013 budget season. In January, LEDC teamed up with CNHED for a five-week training course with community residents to improve their advocacy skills. The training included topics such as Advocacy Basics, Creating and Giving Testimony, Relationship Building and Utilizing the Media. More than 25 tenant leaders participated in the training to strengthen their involvement and impact during the hearing process.
For many of the attendees, testifying before the council was not a new concept, but for others, it was the first time they were aware or interested in the process.
“I was anxious and upset,” says Faye Herbert, tenant leader with the Petworth Station Apartments. “I never really talked before the City Council; I’ve never even been down there. I consider myself low key and live my life off the radar. I like to work behind the scenes, I feel more protected that way. I exposed myself by speaking in public. But I was able to testify and advocate for myself and my community because I had the support of my community and I had support from LEDC.”
For entrepreneurs like Maria Lopez, one of seven members of the Semillitas daycare cooperative who will give testimony today, DHCD’s Small Business Technical Assistance Program has helped the cooperative to move closer to realizing its dreams of becoming the first worker-owned daycare cooperative in the Washington region.
“If they cut $1.7 million from the program, this would not only affect us but all of the Latino community in Washington DC,” Lopez says. “We have come to this marvelous country to create a better future and accomplish our American dream. We believe that by starting a small business we will have accomplished our goal.”
LEDC Tenant Organizer Manny Ruiz says hearing directly from the community makes the experience very different for Council members who make decisions on what to fund and what not to fund.
“Advocating at the City Council for these oversight hearings is important because council members get to directly hear from the people these policies impact as opposed to hearing from people in their offices and government agencies who have different perspectives,” Ruiz says. “It’s only by demonstrating a force in numbers at a City Council event or a hearing that the council members will really know whether or not they need to make changes or improve on a policy or a budget.”