I hope you and your family had a great Memorial Day weekend and were able to take a moment to remember the many DC residents and Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
This week also marked Fire Fighters Memorial Day in DC, and I helped celebrate with the men and women of our fire department as they dedicated call boxes to commemorate two members that had died in the line of duty serving our city. And fittingly, yesterday, on the steps of the DC War Memorial to honor DC residents that died in service to our nation, it was announced that for the first time in 25 years, the US House of Representatives will hold a hearing on DC Statehood. More than 702,000 Americans call the District home (that's more residents than two other states and roughly equal to two more) but have no vote in Congress. On July 24th, I hope you'll keep your calendar clear -- and stay tuned for more information about how you can help and show your support!
Alright, there's a lot to cover, as usual. Let's jump into the updates, starting with what's in next year's budget.
Council Approves Next Year's Budget: The Council has approved all of the spending decisions for next fiscal year's budget, which begins on October 1, 2019. I want to begin by saying thank you. Thank you to every Ward 6 resident who spoke with me, emailed, attended the Budget Town Hall, came by office hours, or called to share your priorities. My team and I heard you, and I hope this budget reflects most of what you want to see. I believe we struck a strong balance, investing in several critical areas -- schools, parks and public spaces, affordable housing, transportation, police and fire, and so much more. I'll highlight a few key areas below, but you should check out this month's Hill Rag to read more about what's in the budget for Ward 6. A few big ticket items to share (but by no means is this a comprehensive list):
- Council increased funding in both per-pupil and at-risk funding in schools. We still need to be doing more, but this is a good start.
- New playgrounds for Amidon-Bowen and Seaton Elementary Schools
- Additional parking enforcement employees and tow trucks
- New ladder trucks for our fire department
- Eastern Market Metro Park renovation is fully funded!
- The NoMa-Gallaudet Metro will have a new entrance built closer to Florida Avenue and Union Market.
- Increased investment in the Housing Production Trust Fund and other critical tools for creating and preserving affordable housing (including this next item below).
Budget: Funding Urgent Repairs to Public Housing From Events DC Surplus: One item of unfinished business in the budget is $30 million to fund urgent repairs in DC's public housing, including units in Greenleaf Gardens in Southwest. I worked closely with Council Chair Phil Mendelson to propose moving $49 million in surplus tax funding from Events DC to the DC Housing Authority. Events DC, which is a semi-public business funded by dedicated taxes, is charged with the important mission of expanding sports, entertainment, culture, and hospitality in the District, and has a legal requirement to maintain a surplus as part of its agreements with its bondholders, which helped fund the Convention Center, Nationals Park, and more. However, during oversight, Events DC reported it had around $200 million above its legal requirement in reserves, funding collected via a dedicated tax. I believe that money belongs to taxpayers and should be used to make urgent repairs in the homes of thousands of District residents, including many Ward 6ers, who depend on the deeply affordable housing. Events DC's work has its place in our growing city. But we have to recognize there's a crisis in thousands of public housing units, where repairs are ignored as federal funding has dried up and there is an extra $200 million in tax revenue sitting in a bank account doing nothing. Most of DC's public housing was built in the 1950's and the backlog of repairs is getting longer while children are getting sicker and sicker. When I talk about ensuring Ward 6 is a place everyone can call home, our public housing plays a critical role. Let's put $49 million into fixing some of the most urgent housing needs in the city for our families and seniors with low incomes. The Chief Financial Officer has raised objections that the Council cannot use the surplus. I will be working with Council Chairman Mendelson to resolve any differences in legal opinion. Here are my remarks during yesterday's vote.
Budget: Tripling Funding for Violence Prevention & Intervention: It was a priority of mine as Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety to increase the District's violence prevention and intervention programs. We can't keep thinking of violent crime as only a police problem or we'll always be responding to the symptoms of violent crime. These programs, still very early in their efforts, are showing how to get at the root causes behind violent crime and intercede before someone pulls the trigger. I was proud to work with my Council colleagues to triple the funding available to have more people working with residents who are most at-risk of committing a violent crime or being the victim of one to address underlying causes. I recently spoke on a panel at Temple Sinai in Northwest on violence prevention and its important role in making every neighborhood safer. Here's a short clip from the evening where I talk about how deep trauma leads to violence. I'd also recommend watching this WUSA9 profile to meet someone doing the work to reduce violent crime.
Interested in Becoming a Firefighter? Start here. If you're interested in pursuing a career as a first responder working in DC's Fire and EMS Department as a firefighter or emergency medical technician, it all begins with the entrance exam. The online application (required to take the exam) is now open through June 8 at midnight.
DC Jazzfest 2019 Details Announced: The 15th annual DC Jazzfest is coming June 7-16, with a number of venues hosting artists right here in Ward 6! DC has a great jazz scene and a great history of producing some phenomenal artists. This is your chance to support and take in live jazz right in your backyard. You can check out the full schedule here.
Bike to School Day 2019 was the Biggest Ever...Again! I was proud to help lead yet another excellent Bike to School Day at Lincoln Park. We had amazing weather and outstanding turnout and organization. For me, Bike to School Day is a touchstone to remind me how much more we need to do to ensure all of our youngest residents can get to and from school safely if they want to ride a bike. I want to thank Eastern High School's Marching Band, JO Wilson ES's cheerleaders, and Tyler Elementary's All-Star Steppers (pictured) for performing, and to our many sponsors and speakers. As we chanted at the event with hundreds of school kids, "Whose streets? OUR STREETS." Let's keep coming together and reminding everyone that the streets are for everyone and not just cars. We're going to get there, and we'll have some fun along with the hard work.
Save the Date - RFK Fields Open June 8: After working for more than six years to turn 27 acres of asphalt parking at RFK into athletic fields, it seems like construction went pretty fast, doesn't it? On Saturday, June 8, I'll join the Mayor and Events DC to cut the ribbon on three new sports fields at the RFK Campus, the first step in reclaiming 190 acres of asphalt and empty stadium into usable space for the community. Plan to join me at the ribbon cutting and stick around for fun activities for the whole family. The Hill Rag has more information on the event.
Southwest Library Closing June 1 for Modernization: On Saturday, June 1, the Southwest Neighborhood Library will close to begin construction of a new, modernized facility. This is a project I funded in the budget in past years, so I'm very excited to begin the process. Over the summer, an interim location with pared down services will open at 425 M St., SW. I'll share more information once I have it. Check out the project's website for more information as well as changes to regular programming at the library that will take place nearby.
It's Pool Season in the District! This past weekend marked the start of summer, and wow does it feel like it. Take advantage of the District's many public pools and spray parks. DPR has a helpful website that shows the locations and hours for both pools and spray parks. Please note outdoor pools are on a weekend-only schedule until June 16.
DC Water Ward 6 Town Hall - June 5: If you want to connect with DC Water, understand your bill, or get a sense of how our water system works, these annual town halls are a great opportunity. DC Water officials will also be explaining new rates that begin October 1, explaining how they evaluate water runoff fees, and hearing general concerns. The Town Hall is on Wednesday, June 5, at 6:30 pm at the Kennedy Rec Center in Shaw.
Thanks and see you all again very soon!
DC Pride Parade: Saturday, June 8, 4:30-8 pm
Southwest Office Hours: Friday, June 14, 8-9:30 am