On Saturday, February 11th from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm Mayor Gray will hold a “One City Summit” at the WalterE.WashingtonConvention Center.  (You can register here or by calling (202) 709-5132.)  The purpose of the summit is twofold:  to provide an opportunity for DC residents to voice their concerns and priorities for the District, and to allow the Mayor a chance to hear these priorities and use this community input to inform the City’s  policies and actions moving forward.

We at the Legal Clinic applaud any effort to involve DC residents in decision-making.  Our participation in government should not end when we cast our vote—that should be merely the beginning of a collaborative effort to ensure that we live in a city that functions well and meets the needs of its residents.  We encourage anyone who can participate in this summit to sign up and let your voice be heard.

However, we have been talking to our client community—those who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness—about attending this forum and we are hearing that many of our clients will be unable to attend.  Some of our clients work shifts that conflict with the timing.  Many families are unable to participate because no child care is provided and they have no one to watch their kids.  Others do not have transportation funds to get them there.

We believe that Mayor Gray really does want to govern for all DC residents, not just those who are able to attend the Saturday session, but we are concerned that the turnout will not accurately reflect the entire community.  While folks in our client community certainly share many of the same concerns as their more affluent neighbors—better schools, better jobs, fewer potholes—they also have different concerns that are in many ways more urgent affordable housing, better job training and placement opportunities, ability to obtain adequate food and basic supplies for their families.

Therefore, we urge Mayor Gray to use this One City Summit as the first in a series of community input sessions, and to plan the next session at a day program, shelter, or other service center that low-income DC residents can more easily access.  Doing so will allow the Administration to hear directly from our clients about the direction they believe the city should move in, and what services they desperately need to make ends meet.

In the meantime, whether you can attend on Saturday or not, we ask that you take a minute to speak to the needs of our clients by weighing in with your priorities on Mayor Gray’s One City Summit website.  We urge you to cast your vote in support of the programs that will make One City possible for all District residents by clicking here and clicking the Vote button.