Government shutdown 2013: Mayor Gray to declare all D.C. operations essential

Photo: Samuel Corum

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - The mayor of the District of Columbia is taking a major step toward standing up for his city in the face of a possible government shutdown.

In a letter to the director of the federal Office of Management and Budget, Mayor Vincent Gray said that he plans on declaring all operations of the District as essential, thereby bypassing the possibility that many city agencies would close if the federal government shuts its doors.

The District requires appropriations from Congress to spend its own money, meaning that many city services operate at the whim of the federal government. In the event of a shutdown, city services like garbage collection, recreation centers, libraries and the DMV would all close within D.C.

By declaring each of those employees essential, though, Gray would bypass any interruption of services to District residents.

"I have determined that everything the District government does - protecting the health, safety and welfare of our residents - is essential," Gray said in a statement. "It is ridiculous that a city of 632,000 people cannot spend its residents' own local tax dollars to provide them the services that they've paid for."

Gray called in to NewsTalk on NewsChannel 8 Thursday morning to defend his action, saying that the fact that Congress still has the authority to meddle in the District's affairs is ludicrous.

"If they weren't, we wouldn't be making these investments," Gray said. "If (some city employees) weren't important, why are they on the payroll in the first place?"

Ed Bailey, who owns a bar in the District, is one of the many that could be impacted by a shutdown. His bar needs to renew its liquor license by Oct. 1.

"I think the mayor did what he needs to do," says Ed Bailey. "Does that mean things are going to be put off? Are renewals going to happen? Are they not going to happen?"

Gray cites the fact that the District has balanced its budget for 18 straight years and keeps a "rainy day" fund of more than $1 billion as an example of the city's economic stability.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting representative in Congress, fully backs Gray's decision to keep his city fully functioning during the potential shutdown.

"I will not second guess his determination that all D.C. government operations are essential and will therefore continue if the federal government shuts down on Oct. 1," Norton said. "The District government is not a federal agency and should not be treated as such for any purpose, especially federal appropriations."