Last week, I was very fortunate to find myself watching the legendary Dolly Parton donate her 100 millionth book from her Imagination Library to the Library of Congress. The Imagination Library is our partner with the DC Public Library to administer the Books From Birth program, which was created as part of the first piece of legislation I introduced after taking office. The work happening today in the District to close the "word gap" by getting more than 400,000 books into the hands of children under the age of five, including enrolling 83% of eligible kids who live in lower-literacy areas of the city, will have more widespread benefits than we'll ever truly see.
We've had a lot of challenges in our education system lately -- some more deep-rooted and long-standing, others the result of improper actions by those trusted to run our school system. As a DCPS parent, it's frustrating and disappointing. As a Councilmember, I am going to keep demanding our school leadership does better, whether that means fighting to modernize (and maintain) our school buildings, holding school leaders accountable for accurate data and real results, or working together with the Office of the Attorney General to more aggressively pursue residency fraud in our schools.
But we can't lose sight of the good as we work on the challenges. We should take pride in our teachers' and students' many accomplishments but also ask the hard questions about where our schools are falling short and demand accountability. At the end of the day, students should graduate from our public schools with a diploma of which we can be proud, one that truly means they’re prepared to succeed.
Imagination Library comes to Ward 6 to donate 100 millionth book: Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has given away an astounding 100,000,000 books to children under the age of five. DC's own Books From Birth program can proudly say we added 431,000 books to that total in just two years. I've written many times in this newsletter about the success of Books From Birth. As a parent with one child graduated and another enrolled in Books From Birth, it was a special moment watching Dolly Parton read to a group of preschoolers during the event. It was inspiring to know our program fits into a global effort to help more parents and kids read together, and give kids a jump start on building vocabulary and a lifetime love of reading. Thanks, Dolly!
If you have a child under the age of 5, you can register them here in the Books From Birth program.
Update on Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety's Oversight Schedule: We've made it through most of our scheduled oversight hearings after a long day last week hearing from the Metropolitan Police Department, Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, Office of the Attorney General, Department of Forensic Sciences, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Our final oversight hearing for DC Board of Elections and the Office of Campaign Finance will be on Thursday, March 8 - if you'd like to testify, email email@example.com. If you're interested in reading some of the responses to pre-hearing questions for any of the agencies I oversee, they are all posted here and contain some really interesting information.
Because I was chairing my own all-day oversight hearing, I was not able to attend in-person the hearing last Thursday with new interim DC Public Schools Chancellor Amanda Alexander. My staff was there from start to finish to hear her answers to over four hours of questions, and I'll be following up with her in coming days. My thanks to the many Ward 6 parents who testified as public witnesses the previous week to share your schools concerns in person or in writing. Your testimony helps me know what to focus on and I always appreciate it.
Public Hearing on Gun Control bills ahead of the March for Our Lives: I hope you're planning to attend the "March for Our Lives" on Saturday, March 24, and join with the movement to demand action on gun control. My office is working to coordinate a DC contingent to join the march. On Thursday, March 22, I will hold a public hearing on four different gun control bills ranging from taking guns out of the hands of those with protective restraining orders against them to making it unlawful to possess a firearm whose serial number has been tampered with, and more. It's really an opportunity to make a larger statement about gun safety and I would love to pack the room with any school-aged children or young adults who can testify why we need stronger gun laws in place. If you would like to sign up to testify, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MPD's new "Clean Routes" regulations require parked cars off of race routes: Since I first learned about it, I have been very concerned about MPD's change in protocol to require the removal of all parked vehicles from streets being used for road races. For a smaller race like the Capitol Hill Classic, these changes pose serious challenges and raise questions about the viability of holding such community events in the first place. For races like the upcoming Rock'n'Roll Marathon, the question of where to move 26 miles of parked cars remains unanswered. There will always be a need to balance sensible security measures with our free enjoyment of public spaces, but I am not convinced this is the right answer. I'll continue asking MPD about this policy as part of the Committee's ongoing oversight efforts.
Food Trucks in Southwest: I've heard a lot from Ward 6 brick-and-mortar restaurants about ongoing challenges with food trucks breaking the rules, abusing public parking, and more. Most food trucks play by the rules, but some of the bad apples can be a real problem. It's something my constituent services team and I have been working on and we shared with NBC4 some of these issues to bring more attention to the ongoing challenges. NBC4 spent a few weeks watching how some food trucks cheat the system, hurting the businesses around them who pay a much higher rent to operate. Additionally, when food trucks and other commercial vehicles flaunt the parking rules by blocking up valuable parking spaces or even traffic lanes during rush hour to secure a spot, we all pay. I have a bill before the Committee on Transportation and Environment that would allow the Mayor to create zones where repeat parking offenders would face escalating fines and ties up a parking ticket loophole that prevents most food trucks from being cited for violations.
ANC Updates: Every year, as we begin our oversight and budget season, I like to visit each of Ward 6's five ANC meetings and offer an update on the work of the Council, speak to ongoing issues in the neighborhood, and answer questions from Commissioners and neighbors. I've already had visits with 6E (Shaw, Mt. Vernon Triangle), 6D (Southwest and Capitol Riverfront), and 6B (Capitol Hill, Hill East). Next week, I'll visit 6A (H Street, Capitol Hill, Hill East) on Thursday, March 8, and wrap up with ANC 6C (Capitol Hill, NoMa) on Wednesday, March 14.
Street sweeping is back: The Department of Public Works officially resumed street sweeping on March 1. Be sure to double-check the parking signs on your street and move your car on street sweeping days to help keep our streets clean and avoid a fine!
Southwest Office Hours at The Velo Cafe - Friday, March 9, 8-9:30am
Nerds in NoMa - Tuesday, March 13, 6-8 pm
Union Station Expansion Project Open House - Thursday, March 22, 4-8 pm
Hill East Office Hours at The Pretzel Bakery - Friday, March 23, 8-9:30 am
March for Our Lives - Saturday, March 24, 10 am
DC Vote Lobby Day on Capitol Hill (Emancipation Day) - Monday, April 16 (time TBD)
DC Water's Ward 6 Town Hall, Tuesday, April 17, 6:30-8:30pm (location TBD)
Ward 6 Budget Town Hall - Monday, April 23, 6:30-8:30 pm
Free Tax Help at SW Library - Every Monday and Wednesday at 2 pm through April 18