ACC Faith Community Committee
These meetings occur the second Saturday of each month, 9 a.m to 11 a.m. They are sponsored by the Anacostia Coordinating Council, East of the River Clergy Police Partnership, and Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative. Ward 8 houses of worship are requested to send representatives to all meetings. The schedule for upcoming 2017 meetings is:
- December 9, 2017, Matthews Memorial Baptist Church. Guest Speaker: Rev. Barry Black, U.S. Senate Chaplain
Next Ward 8 Faith Leaders Meeting
IMPORTANT TOPICS FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
DC Water and Sewer Authority Water Bill Crisis in DC Metro Area for Residents and Faith-Based Institutions
I am writing with another update on our efforts as your physical support and attendance will be needed in the coming weeks. Please read this in its entirety.
First, there is another installment schedule to air on Channel 4 this evening at 6:45, this time focusing on the burden on District residents and expert commentary from a Brookings Institute researcher who stated years ago that this effort is ill conceived. I encourage you to view it this evening, record the newscast or view it on the NBC 4 website after it airs. The media coverage of the DC Water situation is forcing action on a number of fronts, which is where your help is being requested –
- The board of DC Water is meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 9 a.m. to specifically discuss possible resolutions to the situation. While this is a step in the right direction, I (personally) am not viewing this as a completely definitive sign that they are actually serious since they refused to actually take action in February; and
- The D.C. City Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment is having a hearing to discuss “water rates” on Friday, Nov. 17 at 11 a.m. at the D.C. Council Chambers in the Wilson Building.
In either case, it is vitally important that we have a significant presence at both gatherings to demonstrate the seriousness of the problem. In the case of the DC Water Board’s meeting, I am not anticipating (right now) that we will have a chance to speak to the matter. However, the DC Council hearing does afford us that chance.
As you know, we are working with the broader faith community on this and are mobilizing all of our forces. I am asking you to do the following:
- Share these updates with your parishioners and encourage their participation by emailing their respective Councilmember asking for their support of the religious community on this matter and/or attending either or both meetings in person;
- Share the media reports via your parish website or other means of communication; and
- Plan to personally attend one or both meeting yourself.
We are planning to print t-shirts with special messaging that we (both ADW and the Coalition) will wear to both events. It is my hope that we can have at least 100 people on hand at both meetings to show them our commitment and passion on this matter, particularly as it hinders our ability to devote resources to the community ministries we conduct in the neighborhoods and the overall social service support we provide to the city. Your parishioners attendance that these wearing our shirts will simply embolden our cause as homeowner (as you will see this evening) are also impacted negatively.
Finally, Sean Kennedy of the Washington Post just penned an editorial and forwarded it to me while I was composing this message, asking DC Water to end the Rain Tax. I am including a link to the website where you can read it. I strongly encourage you to have copies available in your parishes this weekend and next leading to the meetings (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/end-dcs-rain-tax-on-the-poor-and-the-dead/2017/11/03/ee71f99c-be4d-11e7-8444-a0d4f04b89eb_story.html?utm_term=.e713c3b11eb8).
Please stay tuned for more details as things are moving VERY quickly and in a very good direction. Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions.
Blessings to all!
Craig M. Muckle
Manager, Public Policy
Archdiocese of Washington
5001 Eastern Ave.
Hyattsville, MD 20782
Office (301) 853-5341
Cell (202) 365-7400
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Skyrocketing DC Water Bills Leave Some Customers Unable to Pay
By Jodie Fleischer, Rick Yarborough and Steve Jones
NBC Washington Channel 4 I-Team Report
Channel 4 Report on CRIAC Fees link and verbatim.
Water bills are skyrocketing across the District by hundreds, even thousands, of dollars a month, and the News4 I-Team found it has nothing to do with how much water customers are using.
The fees are funding a multi-billion dollar project, and DC Water is charging each of its customers to pay for it.
A group of church leaders reached out to the News4 I-Team saying they could no longer afford to pay their growing bills, so we crunched the numbers and found Washington, D.C.'s faith community, which survives largely on donations, has already shelled out millions for these fees.
"It's dire, because we're looking at our budget now for 2018 and we can't balance it," Velma Wyman told the I-Team.
On Sunday mornings at the First Baptist Church on Minnesota Avenue, the members celebrate a higher power.
But it's the church's higher water bills that have Wyman on edge.
The church members pass the plate, but now, many of their donations can't go to the ministry or the long list of needed projects for the 144-year-old congregation."Our people are very generous, and they will do that. but at a certain point, they don't have the money," said Wyman. "They're getting hit the same way we're getting hit."
Down the road, at Bethesda New Life Gospel Church, Pastor Jesse Richardson, Jr. is also getting hit.
"We started to notice this great big ol’ water bill all of a sudden," recalls Richardson, saying at first DC Water said the church must have a leak.
"They came by and they checked all the plumbing and these things, and one of the deacons happened to look at the itemized bill and say, 'Hey, what is this?'" Richardson said.
"We're Being Robbed Without a Gun!"
It's called the Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge, or IAC, and it's on every DC water bill.
The fee pays for the building of large underground tunnels to keep sewage and stormwater from flooding our rivers. The project stems from a federal mandate to fix the environmental problem.
But when the News4 I-Team was flooded with complaints from across the District, we took a look at the money DC Water is charging customers for the project.
"It’s clearly made up, they gave absolutely no thought to the process or how much they would charge," said Richardson. "And I think it’s totally unfair."
DC Water does have a formula based on aerial photos of every D.C. property. Those photos are used to calculate the square footage of the buildings and any areas of concrete, like sidewalks or parking lots.
The thinking is the properties with the most concrete would contribute the most stormwater runoff and should pay more.
"Some churches in our least affluent communities are paying the most, like close to $50,000 at a Ward 8 church. How does that even make sense?" said Craig Muckle, with the Archdiocese of Washington, many of whose member churches are also at a breaking point.
The same is true for synagogues and mosques, where the main source of income is donations. And congregants who live in the District are also paying the fee on their own water bills at home.
"It’s not fair," said Muckle. "Some people are paying it twice, or three times if they happen to own a business."
For months the News4 I-Team filed records requests and crunched the numbers. The District's faith-based community has already paid more than $11 million just in Clean Rivers fees, largely because of their parking lots, which city law requires.
"When you build a church in District of Columbia, you have to have one off-street parking for every 10 members," said Pastor George Gilbert, Sr. of Holy Trinity United Baptist Church.
When the charge first started in 2009, it was so small, no one really noticed. Now some churches pay $6,000, $9,000, even $12,000 a month, just for the IAC fee."We’re being robbed without a gun," said Pastor Richardson. "You have to remember, we cannot charge, we cannot go up on our rates to allow people to come into the church."
"Unfortunately Someone's Got to Pay the Bill."
The News4 I-Team took the pastors' concerns to the head of DC Water, George Hawkins.
"It pains me to explain this to our ratepayers but it is the hard reality. We have a giant project. It's the biggest public works project in Washington, D.C., since Metro was built," he said.
Hawkins pointed out that one benefit of the current fee system is it allows DC Water to collect IAC fees from properties that are only parking lots, with plenty of stormwater runoff and no need for regular water service.
But Hawkins says he's aware the faith community and other non-profits are hurting, and it's something of great concern.
"One of the challenges we have in the District, perhaps more than most cities, is an enormous number of our customers are nonprofit," said Hawkins. "Government is nonprofit. We have every nonprofit known to humankind located here."
And some of those non-profits have not expressed any trouble paying the higher bills. So the board would have to consider how to help the ones who can't pay while making sure the ones who can don't get an unnecessary break.
"Every discount we give to one customer is money we have to raise from everybody else," said Hawkins, pointing out that regular homeowners, local business owners, even the government-owned buildings whose bills are paid with tax dollars will all have to make up the difference.
"We look at every option. And there aren't that many. Unfortunately someone's got to pay the bill," said Hawkins.
A $2 Credit on a $420 Fee
First Baptist Church of Minnesota Avenue has tried everything church leaders can think of to lower the fees.
In 2013, D.C.'s Department of Energy and Environment and the Anacostia Watershed Society helped build the church two rain gardens and funnel water from their roof. They also replaced a large section of concrete with porous pavers to limit the stormwater runoff.
"If we get a heavy rain, it looks like a little river coming through the channels here and there," said Wyman.
But the credit on the church's bill only amounts to $2.45 off of the $420 fee.
"Oh yeah, you feel good, but your purse doesn't feel good because it's costly," said Wyman.
And the I-Team found DC Water actually increased the church's fee, instead of lowering it.
"I think it's words, they say they're going to look at that. But looking at it and doing something about it are two different things," said Wyman, adding that churches could be forced to cut things like feeding programs, bookbag giveaways and holiday help for the needy -- things that really impact the community.
The I-Team found the average church is paying about $400 per month just for the IAC fee, which will continue to rise each year for the foreseeable future.
"It's a it's a painful reality for what is necessary to improve our system," said Hawkins. "My comment to any of those customers is we are aware of the issue and we know it's a challenge."
He committed that the board will thoroughly evaluate the hardship for churches and other non-profits, but that would likely not happen until the beginning of 2018 at the earliest.
"We understand their dilemma but it's hard, it's really hard on us," said Wyman.
Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.
The Chair: Rev. Donald Isaac, Sr.
Rev. Isaac was called, licensed and ordained at the S.E. Tabernacle Baptist Church, founded by his great grandfather and where his uncle Rev. W.W. Flood served as Pastor for over 50 years.
Rev. Isaac is the Director of the Mayor's Office of Religious Affairs. He is the Senior Minister at the Community Action Group (CAG) of the Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic Church where he directs the Leadership Council coordinates the activities and development of the ministerial staff and evaluates ministry operations.
As the former Executive Director of the East of the River Clergy, Police, Community Partnership, Inc (ERCPCP) Rev. Isaac was responsible for resource development, program development and strategic planning.
Rev. Isaac worked as the Chairperson of the Mayor’s Interfaith Committee and the CSOSA Faith Advisory Committee. Rev. Isaac is also a Co-convener of the Enterprise Foundation Faith Based Development Initiative. In addition, Rev. Isaac is on the Board for the Center for Non Profit Advancement and the Universal Healthcare. Rev. Isaac is also the Managing Member and broker of record for D&D Properties, LLC a real estate business specializing in brokerage, consulting, development and special needs housing development. He also serves as the chair of the ACC-sponsored Ward 8 Faith Community Committee and leads its meetings.
Rev. Isaac has studied at the Washington Technical Institute, Howard University, and the University of the District of Columbia receiving an A.S. in Urban Planning, and a B.S. in City Planning and Development. He graduated from the Washington Baptist Seminary and attended Howard University School of Divinity in the Master of Divinity program. Rev. Isaac also has received a M.P.A. (Non-Profit Management) from Southeastern University.