Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Misguided proposal on how to fund DC's Office of the Attorney General

DC has recently created a separate, independent agency for the "State" Attorney General, comparable to how many other jurisdictions have an elected Attorney General, who while representing "the government" also represents "the people," thereby justifying a separate election process.

(Unlike other jurisdictions, criminal prosecution of felony offenses is under the control of the federal government, one of the many artifacts that have derived from the "District" of Columbia ultimately being under control of Congress, as the national capital is not a separate state.

That is a big area outside of the control of the DC Attorney General although my hope is that as the office develops, executes and builds maturity, Congress will cede control of criminal prosecution to the city.)

The first election for Attorney General was held last fall, and Karl Racine won, taking office in January.  Asking for an annual budget increase of $20 million, he argues ("DC's attorney general seeks bigger budget," Washington Post) that now that there is an independent AG office, funding should be increased to support the various areas that the office should address.

While I don't doubt that is the truth, he proposes rather than use general funds appropriated to the office, a budget increase could be funded out of the fines and judgement awards earned by the agency's activities.  Currently those monies go to the general fund.

Seeking funding through a percentage of fines and legal judgments creates the opportunity to misuse the legal process to generate funding, not unlike problems with police departments seizing assets of alleged criminals to fund activities.

DC's Metropolitan Police Department has been a fervent proponent of asset seizures, which sets a troubling precedent for other DC Government agencies.

-- Stop and Seize | Collections | The Washington Post, series on asset seizures by state and local police departments

I'd rather the agency be funded through normal appropriations processes.

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