I wrote to you yesterday reflecting on the last four years and our work to push back on federal interference in DC values. And I told you I would be writing again today as we get back to work on our shared priorities. Below are updates on a wide range of issues from helping small businesses to protecting residents from eviction to strengthening our antitrust laws. Let's dive in!
Quick Links: Brickies! | Ward 6 Comp Plan| COVID Alerts to Your Phone | Small Biz Bill | Black Restaurant Week | Gun Violence | Karon Hylton |Antitrust Bill Advances |DCPS Delays Return | Stronger Eviction Notifications | Leaf Collection Schedule | Unemployment Extension | Testing Locations | Free Meals | Rent Help | Mortgage Help | Volunteer | Diapers | Groceries
Announcing The 2020 (Virtual) Brickies - December 3, 2020
I'm excited to announce the 14th Annual Ward 6 Brickie Awards will return on Thursday, December 3. Because it is 2020, it will be yet one more tradition we'll have to move online in order to be safe -- sadly, we won't be able to celebrate together in person this year. But I wouldn't miss this important Ward 6 tradition for anything, and I hope you'll still plan to join in! If you're new to the neighborhood, the Brickies are an annual event (14 years and counting!) when Ward 6 comes together to give out literal bricks as awards to our neighbors and community organizations who have gone above and beyond in "building" Ward 6 in the past year. The photo to the right is from last year's Brickies at the brand new DC Water headquarters.
In a normal year, we receive generous donations from Ward 6 and DC businesses of food and drink. Given the challenges facing our favorite restaurants, bars, and small businesses during this pandemic, this year I'm planning ways we can support our businesses as part of the virtual Brickies. More to come on that front. Two steps to take today:
- RSVP here to be sure you receive all the info to participate.
- Nominate a neighbor or two for a Brickie award here.
Ward 6 Comp Plan Meeting - November 17, 2020
One of the most important public planning processes is moving forward and it will determine how we build our city of tomorrow and for whom. The DC Council will have a hearing on the next steps for the Comprehensive Plan on Thursday, November 12 and Friday, November 13. There's an enormous amount of attention and testimony that will be presented at this hearing. I want to be sure I hear from my Ward 6 neighbors and organizations, so I'll be holding a virtual meeting on Tuesday, November 17, at 6:30 pm if you want to share your priorities or concerns with me. This one will feel a lot like a hearing, because I want to give folks a chance to weigh in with me and share their priorities. I will start the meeting providing an overview of the Comp Plan as drafted, so tune in even if you just want to understand why it is important.
To testify, email Chris Laskowski on my team (CLaskowski@dccouncil.us) with the subject line "Ward 6 Comp Plan Sign-Up." Assuming we have a lot of interest, please plan to limit testimony to two minutes so we can accommodate as many Ward 6 neighbors as possible.
Have You Activated COVID Exposure Notifications on your Phone?
Given the national spike in the spread of the novel coronavirus, we need to be using every tool to track, inform, and stop the spread here. Along with the use of masks and physical distancing, tracking and quickly informing people who might have been exposed can be a major tool as we try to get back to normal under this pandemic. If you haven't already, make sure you activate the DC COVID Alert app. More info here on how to activate it on your phone.
Help for Small Businesses Advances
Earlier this month, the Committee on Business and Economic Development advanced important legislation aimed squarely at helping our small and local businesses. I've posted a longer update on what the bill contains on Facebook and Instagram, but many measures were included by Committee Chair Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie from two bills I introduced last fall. I felt these bills offered important support for our small businesses before the pandemic, but now they are going to be critical to provide investments in long-time businesses and newer businesses as we look to recover from the pandemic and recession after a long winter. The bill, available here, combines a few different approaches to make it easier to be a small business in the District.
- It creates a new category of "Legacy Businesses" that have been operating in the District for 15 years or longer that will make these businesses eligible for extra support;
- Uses the District's excellent financial health to give small businesses equal footing when competing for commercial space leases with national brands;
- Gives the Department of Small and Local Business Development new tools to support small businesses moving forward.
The full Council will vote on the bill at a legislative meeting later this month.
DMV Black Restaurant Week is Happening - November 8-15.
Welcome to the 2020 DMV Black Restaurant Week. Knowing how challenging the COVID-19 pandemic has been for our small businesses, including restaurants and the people who have made their career in the service industry. Make a point this week to find a participating restaurant and get takeout or enjoy outdoor dining (be safe, wear a mask, and only if you feel well) to support our Black-owned restaurants.
Gun Violence & Next Steps
Like many cities around the country, DC has witnessed gun violence increase during the pandemic. This is in part because so many of the tools we use to reach people in crises or at-risk - such as programs at recreation centers and libraries, after-school programming at our schools, in-person violence reduction efforts, and more - are closed or greatly curtailed due to COVID. In Ward 6 yesterday, three different neighborhoods experienced gun violence and people were hurt. And of course, gun violence took place in many other parts of our city as well. I've spoken with MPD leadership and they are investigating each of these shootings, neighbors have shared video and witness accounts, and illegal guns have already been recovered. But we also know public safety must go beyond MPD's response and action after the trigger has been pulled. I believe we have to treat gun violence as the public health emergency that it is and that all the levers of government should be brought to prevent violence before it takes place. That's why this summer, I created the city's first Gun Violence Prevention Director. It's an outgrowth of the great advocacy from Moms Demand Action and others that share a desire to end gun violence in our city. Applications have been pouring in and the city is moving forward in creating this new effort - seated at the top levels of government to ensure that they can marshal every agency and effort to combat gun violence in any form. This is just one more way we're creating specific action steps to put strategies into practice to fight violence and ensure safe communities for all neighbors.
Karon Hylton Should Be Alive Today
On Friday, October 23, Karon Hylton-Brown died riding an electric moped in a collusion that resulted from a police chase when four officers tried to initiate a traffic stop after allegedly witnessing Karon riding without a helmet on the sidewalk. After reviewing limited body-worn camera footage, I released this statement and discussed this tragic loss on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. Karon was 20 years old and had become a father just three months before to a baby girl. The Metropolitan Police Department maintains a 'no chase' policy with only a few exceptions to avoid a tragedy exactly like this. To this point, MPD has not provided an explanation that would justify the pursuit, though a review by the US Attorney's Office is underway. It will almost certainly be followed by an internal investigation by MPD. There is much we do not know about the beginning of this interaction. Last week, the Mayor released limited body-worn camera footage from two of the four officers involved, in line with the requirements I led the Council to implement this year. However, it appears none of the officers activated their body-worn cameras until after the collision took place, in violation of department policy. As Chair of the Council's Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, I will work with my Council colleagues to ensure a transparent and thorough investigation into what happened.
Strengthening Antitrust Laws to Protect DC Residents
Also in my role as Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, late last month I held a mark-up vote to advance legislation to strengthen DC's laws around antitrust lawsuits brought by District Attorney General Karl Racine on behalf of District residents and businesses. The bill passed unanimously. Our antitrust laws are outdated and limited, and the result is there's a very low penalty for businesses that violate antitrust laws to gain an unfair competitive advantage. The bill brings the District into line with around 40 other states' laws, including dramatically strengthening the District's hand in civil lawsuits. This bill now advances to the full Council for a first vote, likely on Tuesday, November 17.
DC Public Schools Delays Return to In-Person Classes
I was glad to see DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee announce DCPS would rework implementation of its plan to resume limited in-person instruction. After the initial announcement, the Council held a roundtable with the Chancellor to walk through the proposed plan and pushed back on a number of areas where parents, teachers, and lawmakers had serious concerns. I hope we will see DCPS leaders work to earn the trust of parents and involve teachers in shaping what a safe return to in-person school should look like and when. As a DCPS parent myself, I promise you I cannot wait for the day I can safely send my kids back into their classrooms. And for students with learning loss or that need more robust supports that are found in school (but hard to deliver at home), the city needs a successful plan in place. But the plans they outlined didn't include what was needed for our student and teacher safety, didn't work equitably to bring students most in need back safely, and didn't bring many voices into the planning process the way it was needed. More than ever, trust is needed with all of our school communities to support our students and eventually get back to in-person school. More from DCist.
Related: I was able to visit Good Projects DC, which has created a safe and reliable place for students living in Greenleaf, Syphax, and James' Creek to participate in virtual learning and give their parents time back during the day. I was impressed by the safety protocols in place and the ingenuity of this non-profit to pull together support and resources to help each student. And I've committed to helping marshal whatever support can be offered from DC government to encourage more of this kind of creative and fast-acting community work. A few more photos on Instagram.
Unemployment Benefits Extended Another 7 Weeks
This week the Council voted to extend unemployment benefits another seven weeks, taking advantage of federal funding that can help keep a lifeline to our workers who have lost income due to the pandemic -- this should apply both to PUA recipients and traditional unemployment insurance recipients. Thanks to my colleague and Chair of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Elissa Silverman for her hard work to make this happen. More information on the extension on her website.
Closing a Loophole for Evictions
Earlier this year, reporting from DCist highlighted a disturbing trend by landlords seeking to evict residents by skirting requirements to be sure they've properly informed them that they are facing an eviction in court. Reporting found many notices and court dates were never reaching the residents in time for them to explore their own legal options. I have helped lead the District to become a more fair place by guaranteeing the right to legal representation in landlord-tenant court as a way to balance the wildly unequal outcomes in legal proceedings. I joined with Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh to introduce emergency legislation to tighten the notification requirements landlords and their legal representatives must meet when beginning eviction proceedings. It serves everyone's interest when we find ways to avoid the disruption of housing loss in our community. And that work has to start with a clear understanding from all parties of where things stand. More here.
Leaf Collection Revised and Scheduled
You may have missed this announcement, but DPW will resume their typical leaf collection program this fall after initially opting to have residents bag leaves and leave them curbside. Find out the schedule for your neighborhood here: https://dpw.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dpw/service_content/attachments/20-21%20Leaf%20Collection%20Brochure_1.pdf
New(ish) Hours for Firehouse Testing
*Note: all public testing sites will be closed in observation of Veteran's Day on Wednesday, November 11. There is free, public testing for COVID-19 available in Ward 6 or across the District nearly every day. Keep in mind most testing sites are outdoors and are subject to closure during bad weather. It seems like testing results are getting turned around much faster the longer this pandemic goes on, but let me know if you're finding otherwise. As a reminder, here are the testing sites in or near Ward 6 each week:
Fire Station Engine 8: 1520 C Street, SE
Tuesdays, Thursdays, 3-7 pm (new days and hours!)
Saturdays, 12-4 pm
Fire Station Engine 10: 1342 Florida Ave, NE
Tuesdays, Thursdays, 3-7 pm (new days and hours!)
Saturdays, 12-4 pm
Of course, you can find a site open most days in the District here if you'd like to get tested sooner.
Free Student/Kid Meal Sites As Of Sept 1
Click here to see the updated list of school meals being provided as we begin the 2020-2021 school year. Please note, students can get a meal from any school. Here's a link to meal sites based on bus lines.
Extra Rental Assistance Available
If you are behind in your rent, there might be support available. Additional funding from the federal government will be available to assist District residents. More information here.
DC Re-Launches Mortgage Assistance
If you're a home owner in the District of Columbia whose income has been hurt by the pandemic, you could be eligible for mortgage assistance through DC's Housing Finance Agency. Get the information here!
Here's Who Is Helping Neighbors During COVID
These organizations are still doing great work to help our neighbors and they're worth your support. If you need assistance, this list is a good starting point. If you find yourself with a lot of time and you are healthy and able to volunteer, these are groups that can put you to work. I cannot emphasize enough, however, that if you are not feeling well at all, please do not volunteer.
- Ward 6 Mutual Aid Network: Started by Ward 6 neighbor Maurice Cook and Serve Your City, this is a group collecting and redistributing food and other essential items for neighbors.
- DC Medical Reserve Corps: Organized by the DC Government, here's a way to help out as our medical response scales up.
- DC Public Schools: In need of volunteers to help keep running their many meal sites for kids in DC during school closures! Please fill out the linked survey.
- Capital Area Food Bank: In critical need of volunteers to help sort and pack food in their warehouse and assist at their offsite food distributions
- Food and Friends DC: In urgent need of extra volunteers throughout the coming weeks. There are two volunteer opportunities, food preparation and packaging and meal and grocery delivery
- Food Rescue US: Volunteers with vehicles needed to pick up and deliver food from businesses to DC residents in need
- Grace’s Table: Looking for volunteers to help feed the homeless each Saturday
- Martha’s Table: Volunteers needed to help prepare and bag food for their emergency food sites across the city
- We Are Family: Volunteer to deliver groceries to seniors.
- Food for All DC: Volunteer to drive groceries to seniors, immunocompromised, and other DC neighbors who are homebound. Volunteer here.
- Aunt Bertha: Aunt Bertha’s network connects people seeking help and verified social care providers that serve them by zip code. Contact your local shelter to see what help and/or items may be needed
- Breadcoin: A nonprofit offering flexibility to folks who are hungry in where and how they purchase food or meals at a restaurant.
- Greater DC Diaper Bank: Long a staple of the region (and founded by a Ward 6er), the Greater DC Diaper Bank helps low-income families meet the need for diapers. DC Diaper Bank works with partner sites to distribute diapers. You can donate or support their work here: https://greaterdcdiaperbank.org/give-dollars/
Free groceries for residents
- Ten DC School Sites Distributing Free Groceries Each Week: I mentioned this above, but sharing here as well. Ten DCPS meal locations are now distributing groceries as well as student meals. Every Monday is Eastern High School's day to distribute in Ward.
- Martha's Table: Daily grocery distribution at 2nd and H Street, from 5:15-5:45 pm. Donate here to support their work: https://marthastable.networkforgood.com/projects/95536-martha-s-table-martha-s-table-expanded-programs-covid-19
- Capital Area Food Bank: Behind many good nonprofits is the CAFB, supplying many groceries from bulk purchasing to food pantries across the region. Help them today: https://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/donate/
- Father McKenna Center Grocery Pantry Now Open: One of the programs partnering with the Capital Area Food Bank is the Father McKenna Center at 900 North Capitol St., NW. Information on how to support or receive groceries here.
Thanks and keep wearing your mask,