A better argument would have been for the suburbs to step up

So the Post has another feel bad about gentrification opinion piece that appeared in Sunday’s print version but has been on-line for several days. Reading “Poverty is Moving to the Suburbs but the On Poverty Didn’t“, I almost think the author is trying to argue that poor suburbanites should use DC resources.

No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

My ire burns and seethes every time I see a car with Maryland tags drop off a kid in front of a DC charter school. If Maryland parents like DC charters so damned much they should fight for tons of them in Maryland. It’s not just schools, it’s other services that DC taxpayers support and Maryland citizens, who have the privilege of a vote in both houses of Congress, something DC voters lack. It does not help that many DC government workers live in the suburbs, it may have them forgetting about boundaries. In some cases, boundaries don’t or can’t matter, like foster care* and libraries**. I’m not against co-operation between the Districts and the burbs, but like WMATA, the costs need to be shared.

Or/and suburban areas need to step up. Where they can’t do it themselves, they need to partner with the District or other suburban where it makes sense. But Maryland or Virginia residents using DC agencies as if they were DC residents is wrong. The suburbs have something to offer DC, there are welding classes out there, but not here. We can all help each other out, but each government needs to be accountable to and responsible for their own citizens.

 

*There are many DC kids with Maryland foster families.

**Some systems allow for people who work in the area to apply for cards and privileges.

3 Great things about Bradley A. Thomas, who happens to be running for the Ward 5 seat

Bradley A Thomas on roof

So my ANC Bradley A. Thomas is running for Kenyon McDuffie’s Ward 5 seat. I have mixed feelings, mainly because I don’t want to lose a good ANC. But if you don’t know anything about Bradley Thomas, here are three things that I think makes him a great guy.

1. He’s competent. That might not seem like a great thing, but when you’ve had or observed ANCs who weren’t, especially when you were trying to work on something that required a semi-functional ANC, it is a big deal. This is why I don’t want to lose him to the rest of the ward. At the last BACA meeting I did ask him what was meant by ‘affordable housing’ and he knew the government definition along with a general idea of what incomes fell into the target categories.

2. He’s honest or he doesn’t sell you B.S.- Yes, he will tell really bad dad jokes, but I noticed he won’t always tell you what you want to hear but what you need to hear in order to achieve the best possible goal. A great example of this was with the store at 3rd and P that wanted a liquor license and the neighbors up in arms against it. The store operators had a advisor/attorney so familiar with the ABRA license process, that a license was almost a given. The neighbors, included a faction that believed their mere opposition was enough to deny a license. Bradley, could have told those neighbors what they wanted to hear but he didn’t. He reminded resident’s how the system worked and aimed for the best case scenario given what residents (who weren’t going to hire their own lawyer & Bradley is a lawyer) were up against.

3. He has worked to make the neighborhood better for all residents. Really early on he was one of many people who helped make the reconstruction of the Florida Avenue Park reality. Before it was a park for homeless and drug dealers, not for children, regardless of the playground equipment. Now old-timers hold court in one section, basketball players are on the courts, parents and their children get the playground area, and the residents of the co-op don’t have to live with a criminal element under their windows. He has kept an eye out for opportunities, where the neighborhood could take advantage.

I probably should mention, Bradley nor anyone from his campaign didn’t pay me to write this. I’m just home with the flu and figured I should post something.

Bradley A. Thomas
Website- https://www.bradleythomas4dc.com/
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/bradleythomas4dc/
Twitter- https://twitter.com/bradleythomasdc/

Oh #4-His name is not a color.

Subsidized daycare

No this this not going to turn into a mommy blog, but parenting stuff is on my mind, a lot.Eyeglass binky DC bike map

Recently my daycare had an information session and though not said directly, I’m not paying full price for my son’s daycare. The DC government is requiring that child development staff have a 2 year AA degree. I don’t know how the DC government reimburses those who have to take on that burden. What I do know is that our day care provider takes local and federal monies to operate the place. Those of us paying “full price” aren’t really covering the full price necessary to run an accredited daycare center. As one who would prefer a smaller government footprint in her life, this was a little hard to accept. But then my daycare provider had a bunch of qualities I wanted at a price that worked better for me than other places, so I accept it like the ‘terms and conditions’ thing for a program I need.

One of the things mentioned in the info session was how much money the center got per kid for a feeding program. There was a form the center bugged us about inquiring about our income that I avoided and ignored because I knew we, a dual income family, made too much to qualify for subsidized food. After a phone call asking us please, please, please fill out the form, I did. Apparently they needed everyone’s income for a government program and the center gets so much for lower income kids and so much for those who aren’t low income. The difference is big enough that it seems that it would be bad if my daycare was not economically diverse.

The Childcare voucher program

Another thing that came out of the information session was questioning if we made too much for a voucher. The voucher covers a portion (maybe all, I didn’t catch that part) of the cost that the parent pays. There are bunch of things one needs to do to maintain their voucher status, but it was touted as a very good program. An example was provided of someone making what I would consider a good salary who qualified. They were very encouraging of the voucher program. So I checked out OSSE’s site and according to a report we qualified as we needed daycare for certain things. Regarding income: 200.7

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENT:

DOES THE FAMILY’S INCOME EXCEED THE MAXIMUM INCOME THRESHOLD?

In order to be eligible for subsidized care, the child shall reside with a family whose:

(1)Annual gross family income does not exceed two hundred and fifty percent (250%) of the federal poverty guideline (FPL) or eighty five percent (85%) of the DC median income (SMI) [sic] for a family of the same size, whichever is lower, as provided in Appendix 6: Maximum Income Guidelines for Subsidized Child Care; 

and (2)Family assets do not exceed $1,000,000
Well, our family assets are less than $1 million, but we’re above 400% of the 2017 FPL for a family our size, only because both my spouse and I are working. If one of us were to quit or die, we’d totally qualify.
Hey, we now have a safety school
In efforts to support the daycare and leaving no funding rock unturned, the daycare will be expanding into the Pre-K program. They will be starting a program in 2018 where they will be part of the DC pre-K program…. that’s why they need college educated staff/teachers. There is funding, they are going after the funding, and hopefully they will get enough participants lord willing.
What does this mean for me? For the babyman (formerly known as Helpless)? It means we have a safety school when he heads for the school lottery in 2-3 years. Oh hells yes we have been thinking about schools. There are two elementary charters with pre-K programs that I am thinking about for our son. My plan B (I also have Plans C-E) was to have Center City Charter as a safety school. Just like college, you have the school(s) you really want to go to and the safety school you apply to just in case the ones you really wanted don’t pan out. Now his daycare can be a safety school if the PK3 is still around (and we’re still in DC) when he hits the eligible age.
Ours isn’t the only daycare getting into the PK3-4 system. Associates for Renewal in Education, Inc. the center taking up space in the deteriorating Slater school, next to the crumbling Langston school on the unit block of P St is one. Maybe they, like our daycare have also been able to find monies under government and other rocks in order to hang on to that space with an iron grip….. Maybe that’s what we need for the crumbly schools on P Street, a developer to partner with a child development program, to create ‘family housing’ with daycare on the bottom floor.

Daycare- what I’m looking for is not what the government provides

Eyeglass binky DC bike mapThe Washington Post has an article that mentions a DC government website to help parents locate daycare/childcare. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has a website called My Child Care and it isn’t half bad. It is useful if you want to know where the daycare is, ranging from individuals caring in their home to full out child care centers. The Post article goes on to mention other resources, some paid, geared towards parents looking for child care.

What I can get out of the OSSE website is location, general age range, are vouchers taken, if is food provided and a few other things that are not too high on my list. The search function for hours is useless and you’d have to look at an individual provider’s operating hours, as there is a field where almost all the providers I searched were 12:00AM to 12:00AM, which is incorrect.

No what I was looking for beyond where were places were things no so well addressed by My Child Care. I wanted to know 1)do they take babies, 2) how much, and 3) is there a wait list and how bad is it? On the first point, My Child Care is so-so. There is an search field for infants 0-12 months, but 6 weeks seems to be the youngest for many places that take infants. On the second and third points there is no information. I found a website, Care Lulu that seems to allow for searching by price, and the 0-3 month age range but I did not see the price for individual day cares. Care Lulu did mention if places took 6 week old babies and I spotted one spot that took infants as young as 1 week, but that place has no openings.

Do I care about accreditations? My little guy hasn’t figured out crawling, or his name (he might just be ignoring me), so right now, no. It just has to be licensed, and better than the child care my mother provided when I and my sister were kids*.

But there are things the DC government cares about. I’m sure there is federal funding and grants behind those cares. As a entity that grants vouchers, they’d care who would take those vouchers. Yet, for the government to include the things I care about, including latest pick up time for infants before they start charging extra, and the other things I mentioned, they would need someone to be proactive in updating the list.

Better than nothing….

 

*I swear my mom just grabbed random women outside the county mental health clinic and asked if they’d watch us. We had some crazy babysitters. She laughs it off when I bring it up.

Senior Citizen Deduction on Real Property

I just need to post something and people keep forgetting about this very generous deduction for senior citizens who own their homes. The DC government does take into account low income homeowners as well as low income senior citizens, but I’ll talk about low income in another post. This post is about old people. The thing is they need to apply, it is not automatic. You don’t get a deduction on you 65th birthday. DC government is not tracking you, it is not that organized.

So you’re old (65+) and you own your home but the property taxes keep going up and up, what are you to do? One, are you getting a homestead exemption? If not, why not? Are you not living in a residential property? If you live above your liquor store that you run, sorry no deduction for you. That’s a commercial property, probably. This is for a house, a townhome, a duplex, a triplex (and anything 5 units or less) or a condo. But most importantly this residential property must be your primary residence. The homestead deduction should take off $73,350 from the assessed value.

Okay so you have the homestead deduction. Great. Are you 65 or older? Here is what the Office of Tax and Revenue says,” When a property owner turns 65 years of age or older, or when he or she is disabled, he or she may file an application immediately for disabled or senior citizen property tax relief. This benefit reduces a qualified property owner’s property tax by 50 percent.” 50%!! Half off from regular priced taxes. Old timers whose house is worth over a million dollars will be taxed like their house is over HALF a million dollars. But what if it is a couple living in the house and one is 65 and the other is say 35? There are things I could say but they’re judgey and not polite. As long as the 65 year old owns 50% of the house or condo or whatever it’s still good.

But wait you say, “I’m 65 years old and on a low fixed income, half off does not cut it.” Well guess what, you can have your taxes deferred. I understand the 0% deferral, not so much the 6% deferral. I am familiar with ‘deferring’ things like student loans, it just means you don’t have to pay now, but it’s gonna get paid. With seniors I figure it just means those taxes have to get paid when grandma goes to the great beyond. Maybe that’s why this particular program needs your lender’s okay. Anyway, low income means a household Federal Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $50,000 or less. You get the 0% deferral if you are 75 years or older, have lived in your home 25+ years and make no more than $12,500 from dividends and interest. But you get nothing if you don’t fill out and send in the application (Word .doc file).

So if there is an old timer complaining that all these young white whippersnappers are moving in and raising their taxes, ask them if they have taken advantage of the real property programs for seniors and offer to help them fill out the application. Also remind them that nursing homes are friggin’ expensive and Medicare doesn’t cover everything, so having an ever increasing in value asset is a good thing…. provided their pot head daughter doesn’t blow all the proceeds from the sale of the house once she gets power of attorney…. Yes, apparently I’m still pissed off with my sister in law.

Some federal job advice

I don’t post as much here at InShaw, for various reasons. One, but not a major one, is that I tend to post a lot of material to an internal work network. However, at this hour I am technically unemployed, as I enjoy my 5th Federal shutdown, and so figure I could share one of my internal posts. Maybe someone might find it useful. I’ve edited it a bit.

Our section had a regular meeting about general stuff but [cool supervisor guy who is not my supervisor] encouraged staff to apply for positions, as there are highly qualified staff in lower positions. I just wanted to credit him for those words of inspiration to not let anyone other than OPM to tell you if you are or are not qualified for a position. Apply and find out for yourself. Another thing mentioned was sometimes extra vacancies become available for an announcement for that same location and same job title, in the same department.

So apply.

For one it is good practice. Also you’ll never know how easy or hard each job is and maybe the ones with a dozen ‘describe in 500 words/characters’ essay questions will help when you apply for your dream job, which might have 1 or 2 essay questions. The education/experience question stumps me every time, but each application and how far I get into the process tells me that maybe C- the mix of education and experience might be the right answer…. but I’m not 100% sure. Recently I applied for a position at NASA or Air & Space, I forgot, and I don’t know ‘nothin about no space or no aeroplanes, but applied anyway. OMG that was the easiest application ever. It was just answer a few multiple choice questions about my grade and current job that could have been lifted from an SF-50 and submit my resume. That’s all they wanted. It took 5 minutes to apply. I’ve also applied to positions at the Library of Congress that took days, no about a week, to get my page long essay questions for half a dozen of such questions. That work went into a black hole of nothingness…., but good practice and those answers are somewhere on my home computer should I ever need to write a novella on how I can [do a particular task].

So apply.

Just because you applied doesn’t contractually obligate you to take the job. You can withdraw if it gets to an interview. You can withdraw after the interview. You can decline the job offer. For the love of whatever you hold holy don’t accept if you don’t want the job.

So apply.

As [cool supervisor dude] mentioned, there are lots of highly qualified staff here in entry level positions. Maybe you are where you are because that was what was available when you were looking. Great. Your foot is in the door, but nobody is going to drag your body up the ladder. You see an agency only job, and you’re that agency’s employee, guess what, you can apply! You’re a GS-4/5 and it’s a GS-13 but open to the public and you happen to have experience in the private sector that is equivalent to a year at that level, apply, if you want. So what if it is also open to veterans? That’s no excuse not to apply. You might be more qualified, let OPM or the computer algorithm decide who is qualified enough to make it to the next round.

So get training.

I know, I screwed up my theme and rhythm. Our organization offers training. I keep meaning to sign up for the [technical]  training thing. There are detail opportunities, sometimes cross training. Outside of the organization Lynda.com is available through many public libraries for free. Community college is cheap (compared to universities) and cater to working adults with lives. Volunteering isn’t just for feeling good and doing good, you can also gain experience. Being a church deacon got my retired truck-driver uncle to really spiff up his computer skills. My spouse, who loves old time radio, sat on a museum board for a radio museum, and he can cite the experience of trying to bring the museum from a cabinet of curiosities to a real learning center. Life experience might help, as I have snuck in my activism, neighborhood historian activities, landlording and house renovating (5 projects, 3 properties, 2 different general contractors, 2 architects, a 1/2 dozen subs, with a total budget over $200K) in some of my answers if they don’t specifically ask if was a part of my federal/paid/ regular work experience. So improve yourself.

And Ye Will Be Judged By Your Sidewalks

So yes it is still friggin cold, which means some of the ice and snow is still on the sidewalk. Some good citizens shoveled their (and maybe their neighbors’) sidewalks. And there were others, who did not shovel, or deice their sidewalks. For the safety of pedestrians and neighbors please remove the ice. Sidewalks after Snow
There used to be a thing on my DC 311 app for shoveling enforcement, however right now the only thing I can find is the exemption for snow shoveling for senior citizens. It’s the old ClickFix app and I have yet to sign up with the one created by the city. But I see the city one does have something to complain about unshoveled sidewalks. The web version, under all city services, does have “Snow Removal Complaints for Sidewalks”.

If you itemize think about paying your property taxes before Dec 30th

So I was planning to write about how great and walkable Shaw/Truxton Circle is, but I got an email from my ANC that is very time sensitive.

Long story short, in 2018 the tax rules change. There is a limit on local taxes, including local property and income. If you are paying more than $10K in property, income, and whatever passes as a local tax* (look at your 2016 DC tax return for the income part), you may want to pay your property tax early, so it can count with your 2017 taxes.

See the announcement below from The Office of Tax and Revenue https://otr.cfo.dc.gov/release/statement-prepayment-real-property-taxes

Statement on Prepayment of Real Property Taxes
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The new Federal tax law limits the amount of state and local income and real property taxes that individuals may deduct from their Federal income tax, beginning in calendar year 2018.

Under the new law, the amount that may be deducted is limited to $10,000 of the combined local income and real property taxes.This applies ONLY to taxpayers who itemize their income tax filings.

District property owners may pay their 2018 real property taxes in 2017 to get the full benefit of that deduction in 2017.These payments MUST be received and recorded in calendar year 2017.The payments made will be credited to the calendar year 2018 real property tax obligation.

About 40 percent of District taxpayers itemize their income tax filings.Taxpayers who do not itemize will not receive a tax benefit by paying early.

The Property Tax payment can be made two ways:

  • The District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue’s (OTR) website www.taxpayerservicecenter.com provides the opportunity to pay by electronic check (e-check). Click on “Prepay your 2018 Real Property Tax Here” to get to the correct form. The payment MUST be made before midnight December 31, 2017. The information required to make the payment is the property address (or lot and square numbers), your bank routing number and bank account number.
  • Wells Fargo will accept payment by check or credit card at any DISTRICT branch office. Payment MUST be received by close of business on Saturday, December 30. You MUST bring a 2017 real property tax bill to the bank so that they can process the payment. Some Wells Fargo branches are not open on Saturdays.

Do not mail payments as they may not be recorded in 2017.

*So had a fun conversation with a relative who said they deducted some building fee assessed by their version of DCRA as a tax, that and permits. So…. anything the local government charges you that relates to your house….That was a bit more creative thinking than I was willing to do for myself.