Did anyone have 80 degrees for the first weekend of November on their bingo card? I certainly didn't. It's been a beautiful weekend to get out and about across Ward 6 though! October has already come to an end – I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween.
Last Friday I stopped by Hilloween along with what felt like almost all of Capitol Hill – people were excited that Hilloween was back! Lots of great costumes for kids of all ages and even our doggy pals, but I know the “Spook-ulator” bus driven by a scary skeleton driver was a big hit in my household.
In addition to fall events throughout the neighborhood, we’ve had a busy few weeks on the Council. More below, so let’s get started.
Quick Links: Public Safety Update | Revised Criminal Code | General Election Voting | Spielberg Park | Automatic Voter Registration | Parking Proposal Update | Pumpkin Disposal | COVID and Flu Shots | Rubell Museum | Randall School History Project | Leaf Collection and Street Sweeping | Free Weatherization Tools | Congresswoman Norton's NPS Parks Town Hall | ONSE Pathways Ceremony | Penn Ave and Florida Ave Bus Lanes | Transportation Planning Board | Safeway Feast of Sharing | Electric Shuttles Coming to SW | Water Assistance | RFK Updates
In the past two weeks, I’ve met with neighbors in every part of the Ward to talk through public safety challenges in their immediate area. In each neighborhood, different factors are at play and it’s been helpful to share what steps the city is taking to address issues, what more is needed, and how MPD and the city is listening to and working with the community. If you need to connect with me and my team on public safety in your neighborhood, please don’t hesitate to reach out or just reply to this email.
I wanted to share a few tidbits from a presentation Chief Contee gave to the Council last week as well. MPD has reported that while we're no where near where we want to be, they are seeing progress in most of the crime data they report, with most of the difference being seen in the last six months. City-wide violent crime is down about 5% compared to last year, and comparing the second half of 2022 to the first half of 2022, the reductions are more significant. Although, certain crimes like carjacking remain up from last year. I always share stats with a caveat — if crime just happened to you, to your family, to your neighbor, or to your community, then crime just went up for you and all the stats in the world don't mean a thing. For example, MPD is reporting that there were several robberies around the District last night, including in Ward 6. When I talked with MPD leaders this morning, they let me know that 1D officers made an arrest of three individuals, recovered a handgun, and think it's likely these individuals will be connected to other robberies. I commend the work of these officers and it's an example of the action needed to hold those who do harm accountable, but for the victims of those crimes or the neighbors on the block, stats and trends don't capture the trauma they just experienced.
But digging back into these numbers, the city's public safety leaders note the source of the declines is probably due to a few factors. First, I’ve seen much better government-wide communication and coordination between law enforcement, violence interruption, and city services to improve hot spots and engage more directly the folks we know are most at risk. That's putting the "both/and" you've heard me talk about into practice and I'll keep working to push and partner to make sure this hard work continues.
Second, MPD has made some key arrests. As MPD and others have said many times, most violent crime is committed by a small group of people. So when you make an arrest, you can see drops in crimes, particularly with crimes where we know it's more organized around carjacking or theft.
But don’t mistake me — we are not where we need to be and I am not satisfied. I also understand there's a difference between data trends that might show progress, and the very real emotions behind not feeling safe. I talk every day with folks that don't believe public safety is where it needs to be and I agree. It's why this remains the top issue we're working on across government. And while we’re trending below where we were last year, 2021 was a year that saw big increases over previous years. So we’ve still got a long way to go.
Arrest Made in H St Shooting: This week I joined Chief Contee and First District MPD officers as they announced an arrest was made in the shooting of Washington Commanders running back Brian Robinson. You’ll note in this article with the Chief’s comments, this was in partnership with federal law enforcement and the community. That’s been a part of the success we’ve seen with investigations that lead to an arrest. Whether the victim is a famous football player, or anyone else, the collaboration and action is expected across the board and I commend the work of MPD, ATF, and the community in helping lead to the arrests and accountability needed.
On Tuesday, the Council unanimously voted to approve the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022, a major overhaul, modernization, and reorganization of the District’s criminal code. As the bill is understandably getting a lot of attention right now, I’d like to briefly cover what the bill is not, since we continue to see a lot of misinformation spread. If this is your first time hearing about the Revised Criminal Code, I went into a lot of detail in my last newsletter, press conference, and press release.
Does this bill get rid of the carjacking statute? No. Under the bill approved this week, carjacking will remain a standalone offense. And the Council increased the proposed penalties for carjacking from what had been sent to the Council. The bill does follow the recommendations of the Criminal Code Reform Commission (CCRC) to create well-defined gradations based on the severity of the incident, with increased penalties to match.
Does this bill lower penalties? Not in practice. As part of its work, the CCRC sought to bring consistency across all offenses. Because our criminal code has never been through a comprehensive scrubbing like this, our laws are very inconsistent. Some charges carried mandatory minimums while others did not. Some had very high maximums, far beyond what judges actually sentence. Some had different degrees (first degree, second degree, etc) while others did not. The RCCA consistently organizes and creates gradations across all offenses. It removes nearly every mandatory minimum and brings maximums closer in line with what judges actually are sentencing. Nearly every sentence from the past decade would fit in line with the sentences in the RCCA.
It also includes increased penalties for using a gun as part of an offense, and increases penalties for repeat offenders or people who offend while on pre-trial supervision. It increases penalties for harm done to protected classes, including children. I share all of this to be sure you understand that people who do serious harm will be held to serious account.
Finally, if you’re unsure about changes to penalties, keep in mind this increase in crime the District (and the nation) has happened with our current code. The District has one of the highest per capita incarceration rates in the nation and yet we’ve endured these increases. Our current code has played a role in making us less safe, largely because it is inconsistent in a way that makes everyone’s job harder and is open to bias and uneven application.
Does the bill take away police’s ability to act on public nuisances and disruptions? No. The bill ensures MPD officers can be responsive to resident concerns around quality of life offenses. In some of these issues, such as public urination or defecation, handcuffs usually won’t solve the underlying causes (and MPD rarely arrests for these offenses anyway). But MPD will still have these tools to address these when needed. And for instances where people are disturbing the peace, MPD can still intervene and make an arrest when necessary, but I would like to see the District get serious about a more robust civil enforcement system that can free up our police officers to focus on more serious offenses.
Overall, not everyone agrees with everything that’s in the bill, and that’s okay. All the actors involved, different parties from across the criminal justice system (US Attorney’s Office, DC Attorney General, the Public Defender Service, and more) had to come to the table and collaborate, negotiate, and work together on revising DC's outdated criminal code. All parties agree that this overhaul is necessary, even if they don’t agree with every provision, which demonstrates the significance of this historic bill. As I've explained above, there has been some misunderstanding and misinformation on certain parts of the bill, which is understandable for a bill of this massive and complex. The DC Justice Lab has compiled list of FAQs as well as a helpful list of myths vs. facts on some misunderstood parts of the RCCA. This is the product of years of hard work and a lot of compromise and collaboration — I’m proud to see this move forward and will be sure to keep you updated as it moves along to a second vote in the coming weeks.
Speaking of voting, Election Day is just around the corner, but voting in DC has been underway for weeks. There are three ways you can vote:
- If you received a ballot in the mail, you can drop it off at any ballot drop box in the city or mail it back.
- Vote early in person until 7pm today at any early vote center in the District.
- Vote on Election Day (Tuesday, November 8) at any Election Day vote center in the city (Ward 6 map and locations).
If you’re not yet registered, you can also same-day register in person or update your registration at either early voting or Election Day vote centers. We’re already on pace for higher turnout than the 2018 midterm elections. Let’s keep it going! Make your voice heard and go vote!
Spielberg Park Renovations are Finally Happening!
Two years ago, I added $750,000 to the DC budget to renovate and improve Spielberg Park at the corner of 17th and Massachusetts Ave, SE. It was in Ward 6 at the time, and now is located in Ward 7. But regardless of what ward it's located in, all neighbors are going to enjoy some much needed improvements. For folks that might not know the history, Spielberg Park was created as part of the 2002 Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. Twenty years later, we're due for a major upgrade. The Department of Parks and Recreation has awarded the funds to rebuild the park, with construction beginning this coming spring. DPR held a community meeting to get feedback on the proposals and Capitol Hill Corner has a great write-up you can check out if you're looking for more information.
The District is already a leading jurisdiction when it comes to making voter registration and voting easy and accessible for our residents, and I’m proud to have lead many improvements, from automatic voter registration to public financing for campaigns to permanent mail-in ballots and more.
This week, the Judiciary Committee voted to approve a bill that would improve the District’s current automatic voter registration system, building off best practices learned elsewhere. Voter registration laws have long served to prevent people from voting, particularly people from marginalized communities. Automatic voter registration (AVR) is an impactful way to reduce barriers created by voter registration, which is why I introduced the legislation that created the District’s first AVR in 2015. The bill passed by the Committee this week builds upon that legislation, and converts our AVR from what is known as a “front-end” opt-out system to a “back-end” opt-out system. Unlike in front-end AVR, where a person is given the opportunity to opt-out of registering to vote during the agency transaction, in back-end AVR, a person’s registration information is sent to the Board of Elections automatically, and the person can opt-out after the agency transaction.
This might seem like a small shift, but elections experts agree that back-end AVR increases voter registration, diversifies the electorate, and enhances voter roll accuracy and election security. For example, Colorado transitioned from front-end to back-end AVR in 2019, and a recent study found that it increased registration rates significantly. Under the bill, residents who interact with the DMV and the Department of Health Care Finance would be placed on a “preapproved for registration list” if deemed eligible by the Board of Elections. Within 14 days, residents placed on the list are sent a mailer by BOE, providing instructions on how to “activate” their voter registration (i.e., move their names to the voter roll), opt-out and remove themselves from the list, or affiliate with a political party, if desired. In order to activate their registration, residents on the preapproved for registration list can simply show up at the polls on Election Day or mail back a mail-in ballot — it is as easy as that. I’m excited for this bill to move forward to the full Council, and I am confident it will continue our work to increase access to democracy for all District residents. Read this write-up in Bolts Magazine.
In my last newsletter, I told you about a proposal to change residential parking zones from the Ward-level to ANC-level (ANC maps for reference). The bill received a Transportation Committee hearing last week, which you can watch here or read about in DCist. As I stated in the last newsletter, I believe we do need to rethink how we structure residential parking, but I don’t support this bill as written. I’m concerned about tying parking to political boundaries that change every ten years. Additionally, RPP is supposed to be based on your neighborhood, and ANCs don’t necessarily align with the way neighborhoods are defined. I’m looking forward to continuing this important conversation about parking in our city and welcome thoughts or suggestions from you!
If you carved some jack-o-lanterns for Halloween this year, remember to dispose of them for composting. You can drop pumpkins off at any of the nine food waste collection sites across the District. Ward 6 sites are Eastern Market in front of Rumsey Pool and the SW Farmers Market (425 M St. SW). Please note that pumpkins with paint, glitter or other inorganic matter cannot be composted.
And remember that you can drop off other food waste for composting at these sites every weekend!
Although the weather has been quite pleasant lately, the temps will be dropping soon as we approach winter, so remember to get your flu shots and COVID boosters if you haven’t already! You can get COVID boosters at DC Health COVID Centers and flu shots at COVID centers, pharmacies, and your regular physician.
You may have heard that DC has a new contemporary art museum, located in Ward 6! The Rubell Museum, housed in the former Randall Junior High School building in Southwest, opened last week. My team was on hand to check it out and help welcome DC residents to the new cultural destination. It has a great collection of over 7,400 works of art including paintings, sculptures, photography, video art, and site-specific work from artists from all over the world. In addition to the galleries, the museum will also have public programming, flexible activation spaces, a bookstore, and a café with both indoor and outdoor dining. And best of all — admission is free for DC residents!
Check out this interesting write up about the museum and the Rubell family in the New York Times.
The DC History Center is working on a project to gather, preserve, and share the history of Randall Junior High School, which was open from 1906 until 1978 and boasts Marvin Gaye as a graduate. The school was in the building now occupied by the Rubell Museum. The DC History Center is calling on anyone who attended, worked at, or lived near the Randall School when it was open to share their stories. You can submit your stories here. The stories will culminate in an exhibit to be displayed at the Rubell Museum. There is an upcoming community meeting about the project at the Southwest Library (900 Wesley Place SW) on Wednesday November 16 from 6-7:30pm.
Reminder, the Department of Public Works (DPW) has shared their schedule for upcoming leaf collection this fall and winter, stating they will provide leaf collection service from November 7, 2022 (that's Monday) through January 28, 2023. You can see the schedule and map for Ward 6 leaf collection in this graphic and on the leaf collection website.
Additionally, the parking restrictions for street sweeping are lifted for the season. Street sweeping takes place March 1 through October 31, so just remember when it starts up again in the spring!
Related: You can also receive custom alerts about street sweeping, towing and booting, and leaf collection though the MyDPW app.
Winter is coming folks! And you’ll notice pretty quickly in your heating bill if your house isn’t weatherized properly. The good news? The Public Service Commission is providing free weatherization tools through Winter Ready DC. Between November 5 and December 20, you can go to participating libraries around the city to receive a free weatherization item and talk to Commission staff about how to save energy and money this winter. The Commission can also provide information on utility discount programs for eligible consumers and preparing for weather-related events. Trust me, a little time and effort toward this can make a big difference in your monthly bills over the winter.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is hosting a Town Hall Meeting on with representatives from the National Park Service to provide updates and address questions, comments, and concerns regarding federal park lands and other issues under NPS jurisdiction in the District. Link to register and details below:
- Who: All DC Residents
- What: Town Hall Meeting with the National Park Service
- When: Wednesday, November 16th, 2022, 6-7:30pm
- Where: Zoom (Link: https://ushr.zoomgov.com/j/1603789012)
Related: While not in Ward 6, you may have heard that the National Park Service has decided to keep Rock Creek Park’s Beach Drive close year-round. This is great news for bike and pedestrian safety in Rock Creek and will allow hikers and bikers to fully enjoy the park’s nature without worrying about traffic and vehicle conflict.
On Friday I was honored to speak at the promotion ceremony for Cohort 11 of the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement’s (ONSE) Pathways Program. Pathways is a transitional employment program, focused on teaching participants professional, educational, and life skills, as well as wrap-around supports, in order to decrease their risk of involvement with the criminal justice system. Pathways is a great example of the quiet, ongoing work happening every day to make our community safer by working with at-risk folks to give them an alternative. These promotion ceremonies are so special to the participants, their families, and the ONSE staff and recognize the accomplishments of the young men who have participated. Congratulations to Cohort 11, your city is so proud of you and we know you’ll do great things!
Two major projects in different parts of Ward 6 are finally underway. First, DDOT’s Bus Priority Project is installing bus lanes stretching from 13th St. SE to 2nd St. SE to improve bus speed and reliability by creating bus-only lanes, among other changes. Crews just painted a car-free bus lane this week on Pennsylvania Ave SE. You can check out the other Ward 6 projects here. I’m excited about these changes and hope we can continue to push for ways to improve bus service and reliability in the District (including through the Metrobus investment part of Metro For DC).
Second, for my neighbors in NE living near Florida Avenue, DDOT is also getting underway with a permanent installation of the streetscape project I helped lead a few years ago.
Related: If you’re Passionate about Transportation, Apply to Join the Transportation Planning Board.
Applications are open for the Transportation Planning Board’s Community Advisory Committee (CAC). TPB is our regional transportation planning body, housed in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The CAC is the TPB's long standing citizen-oriented committee whose mission is to promote public involvement in transportation planning for the region, to advance equitable representation in regional transportation planning, and to provide independent, region-oriented community advice to the TPB on transportation plans and issues. More information here: www.mwcog.org/cac
On Wednesday, November 23, Safeway’s Thanksgiving Feast of Sharing in partnership with Events DC is back in person for the first time since the pandemic! Instead of the usual sit-down dinner, this years’ feast will be a grab-and-go meal box with a Thanksgiving lunch, as well as a gift bag of winter clothes and other items. There will also be live music, special guests, and a COVID and flu vaccine clinic. Doors open at 10am for seniors and 11am for general admission.
There will soon be a new way to get around the Wharf and Southwest waterfront! An on-demand electric shuttle service will be launching next spring. The shuttles are operated by Circuit, and are part of the Mayor’s Mobility Innovation District project in partnership with the Southwest BID to improve transportation access in Southwest. The rides will be a $2 flat fee for most, while some residents will receive free rides subsidized by the city. This is great timing given the grand opening of phase two of the Wharf. I’m hopeful it will also improve mobility an area that has been a traffic nightmare. I’ve heard from folks frustrated with the congestion on Maine Avenue, and driving to the Wharf is both inconvenient because of traffic, and costly to park. The new electric shuttles, in addition to existing free Southwest shuttle, Circulator, and bus routes in the area will hopefully make the Wharf and Southwest a more pedestrian and bike friendly neighborhood that is both easier to get to and around.
If you’ve fallen behind on your water bill payments, you may qualify for the Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge (CRIAC) Residential Relief Program which provides a percentage off of a household’s total monthly water fees. See here for more information like income limits, eligibility, and application details.
Look, I’m as excited as nearly everyone not named Dan Snyder to hear that Dan Snyder is exploring selling the Washington Commanders. The franchise has been plagued with problems under his ownership, and new leadership is sorely needed to improve the Commanders organization both on and off the field. And naturally, as soon as the news broke, plenty of folks started wondering what this means for the future of the 160-acre campus that has been sitting vacant. However, I remain committed in my opposition to building a new stadium at the RFK site. The District needs that land for more affordable housing, public parks, jobs, and community spaces, not a massive NFL stadium that will only be used 10 to 20 days a year. I hope eventually the city can come to an agreement soon to get the land back from the federal government and work towards creating thriving community spaces.
Related: In the meantime, the RFK stadium demolition plans are still moving forward, with demolition scheduled to be complete by the end of 2023. As part of Events DC’s “Farewell to RFK Stadium,” they are selling old turnstiles and stadium seats. Part of the proceeds will go the The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington and St. Coletta of Greater Washington. You can both own a piece of DC history and contribute to a good cause!
Thanks for reading along this week! As always, feel free to reach out to me or my team with any questions, concerns, or thoughts. I'm looking forward to more important legislative work on the Council and of course, more exciting fall events throughout Ward 6!
See you around the neighborhood,