Today is Emancipation Day in DC - a District of Columbia holiday that marks the anniversary of 3,100 enslaved people being freed in the District of Columbia 157 year ago - eight months before President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It's an important opportunity to remember the path that lead us to where we are today, and if you've never really learned what the day is all about, here's some helpful reading.
After 15 Years Sitting Empty, Randall School in Southwest to Move Forward, Including Nearly 100 New Affordable Homes - The Council approved a bill I introduced clearing the way to redevelop the old Randall School in Southwest DC into mixed-income housing and a first floor contemporary art museum. There will be 498 homes constructed, 20% of which will be priced at reduced rates for residents earning between $30k and $75k - more here). I amended the legislation before it passed to include some multi-bedroom homes at deeper affordability. The first floor will be an art museum and offer space to the community. Green space will be expanded to connect with Randall Recreation Center next door. The building has sat unused for nearly 15 years. I'm proud it will finally move forward - and is supported by so many Southwest neighbors - by providing housing in units ranging from studios to townhomes to keep families in the District.
Spring Recess April 15-19 - A quick reminder that the Council is on its annual Spring Recess this week. Of course, that doesn’t mean offices are closed - just that there will be no hearings or legislative action this week. My office is still open regular hours, but it's a quick legislative pause along with DCPS spring break.
Ward 6 Budget Town Hall! Important Budget Decisions Will Be Made In The Next 6 Weeks - If you have questions or requests to be included in the budget, join me at my annual Ward 6 Budget Town Hall on Tuesday, April 23, at 6 pm at the Arthur Capper Community Center. The Council is almost through our budget oversight hearings, which means soon it's time to start making decisions on what to fund and at what level. Come talk with me and my team about your priorities for Ward 6 and hear what I'm focused on as we move this important process forward together.
Capital Bikeshare Is Removing 500 E-Bikes - This weekend Capital Bikeshare announced it would be pulling all of it's e-bikes out of service to fix the front brakes, which had received a small number of complaints according to a release from CaBi. A little more information here.
Do You Know Someone Who Needs a New Career? On Wednesday, the Ward 6 Career Fair returns to Arena Stage, bringing together 40 employers looking to hire DC residents - interviews can be scheduled on the spot. I am fortunate enough to co-host this event with my At-Large colleagues Councilmember Elissa Silverman and Councilmember Robert White. More information here for anyone interested in attending.
Improving Special Police Officer Accountability - Following a series of reports by NBC4 looking at the challenges residents have had in filing complaints against Special Police Officers (SPO) assigned to rental housing complexes, I am looking into moving complaints against SPOs from the Metropolitan Police Department and into the Office of Police Complaints. Special Police Officers are private security officers hired by a private business, licensed by DCRA to operate only on the grounds of the business where they are hired. It goes without saying that DC residents deserve to know their complaints are being heard, and I believe the Office of Police Complaints is well positioned to investigate any complaints in a timely manner that ensures SPOs are following the law and executing their job responsibilities appropriately.
An Infuriating Abuse of Government Funds Hurting Vulnerable Residents - The Washington City Paper reported this week that in 2014, an organization that received funding from the Department of Behavioral Health to do HIV outreach to heroin users completely falsified their reports in performing that work. The program funded a van that would drive around and offer users a free blood test for HIV and provide connections to addiction treatment. Knowing what we know about the devastation fentanyl-laced heroin has wreaked on vulnerable District residents living with addiction, this is truly shameful. As a new Director of the Department of Behavioral Health is being nominated, I will be looking to hear how internal investigations and accountability will be prioritized under her leadership.
Relief for DC Water Bills For Residents and Nonprofits - The DC Council set aside funding to support both residents and nonprofit organizations from water bills based on impervious surface runoff fees. The fee was put in place as part of the effort to prevent extra runoff from a rainstorm reaching our rivers and to fund the Clean Rivers Project, including the modernized tunnel systems that will prevent runoff from polluting the Anacostia River. Here's information on the program for both residents and nonprofit organizations.
Hayes Senior Center Visit - I stopped in to chat with the seniors during lunch at the Hayes Senior Center near H Street last Friday. The Hayes seniors have created a great community among themselves and asked some good questions about what's going on in the neighborhood. As I told this group, we need to protect and expand our senior community centers which provide a comfortable space where senior neighbors can get together to eat, laugh, and exercise.
DC Central Kitchen Homeless Services Contract - I've heard from a number of residents concerned over DC Central Kitchen losing a contract to provide meals to the District-run emergency shelters for our homeless neighbors. I'm a big fan of DC Central Kitchen and I know their work well. While I don't sit on the Committee on Human Services, I do want to see the meals served in our homeless services facilities improve - that's why I was an eager co-sponsor of the Healthy Shelters Act of 2019. Regarding the contracting process, I am working closely with my colleagues on the Committee on Human Services, including the committee chair Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, to review these decisions and ensure our processes are always transparent and fair.
Community Meetings Update - Last week I completed my annual visit to each ANC meeting in Ward 6. While I often attend ANC meetings during the course of the year, I make a point to always provide an update on the budget and hear from residents and commissioners directly during the budget process. I also enjoyed a special evening office hours in NoMa last Monday in addition to my normal Friday morning office hours. I appreciate the many neighbors who carve time out of a busy day to stop by. Seriously, it means a lot to me and my staff, and it helps us understand the issues you face each day with more clarity and gives us some good ideas for new legislation. If you haven't been out before, I hope you'll consider coming soon!Just a reminder, all of my upcoming community office hours are listed on my website (the next office hours is this Friday April 19 at The Pretzel Bakery in Hill East).
Upcoming Events I'll be Attending:
Emancipation Day: Tuesday, April 16
Ward 6 Career Fair: Wednesday, April 17, 9 am - 1 pm
Hill East Office Hours: Friday, April 19, 8-9:30 am
Anacostia River Festival (rescheduled): Saturday, April 20
Ward 6 Budget Town Hall: Tuesday, April 23, 6-7:30 pm
Bike to School Day 2019!: Wednesday, May 8
Southwest Office Hours: Friday, May 10, 8-9:30 am
Bike to Work Day 2019!: Friday, May 17
Eastern Market Office Hours: Friday, May 17, 8-9:30 am
Shaw Office Hours: Friday, May 31, 8-9:30 am