We're in the middle of annual performance oversight hearings at the Council - thank you to the many Ward 6 residents who submitted concerns about (as well as some kudos for) District agencies to my staff. We haven't been able to respond to each submission, but know that they have been received, shared among my team, and included in questions I'll try to ask in hearings.
100% affordable new apartment building opens on H Street: In what might have been record time from groundbreaking to ribbon cutting, The Baldwin is now open at 13th and H Streets, NE! This is a really, really great project. There are 33 units in the building, all newly-constructed, ranging from studios to three-bedrooms -- priced entirely at affordable rates. For example, a three-bedroom apartment would rent for less than $1,500 to a family of four earning no more than $58,000, living in the heart of the exciting H Street, NE corridor. I was able to get a preview ahead of the ribbon cutting - take a quick one-minute tour with me.
Happy 3rd birthday, Books From Birth! My very first piece of legislation was to create the Books From Birth program - and it just turned three years old! In only three years, nearly 800,000 books have been mailed to DC kids under the age of five to foster a love of reading and increase school readiness. Nearly 80 percent of age-eligible kids are enrolled citywide, including a very encouraging 85 percent enrollment in priority neighborhoods with lower adult literacy rates. In my remarks at the birthday celebration last week, I told a story that helped inspire me to introduce the legislation when a young boy brought the only book in his home to his school's book club -- a phone book. Every kid deserves their own books and this program is making it happen.
Police Districts have been redrawn - do you know yours? The Metropolitan Police Department recently shifted the boundaries of their policing districts to match with population increases and calls for service. This won't affect any of the services you would receive when you call the police, but might change where your nearest substation or police district office is. No matter what, it's a good excuse to be sure you know which MPD district you call home - double check here.
DC residents to be prosecuted under federal laws: This week, US Attorney Jessie Liu, who is the federally appointed prosecutor for the District of Columbia, announced an intention to substantially increase the number of local crimes that will be tried in federal court, circumventing District laws passed by local elected leaders accountable to the voters in favor of federal laws passed by Congress. This is a frustrating issue as the USAO does not answer to anyone from the District government. District laws are being circumvented here, including laws aimed at deterring crime and laws aimed at helping returning citizens avoid re-offending through a successful re-entry after incarceration. I released a statement and the InTowner wrote an editorial walking through the issue. I remain very concerned about this approach, as I do not think it will make our city safer long-term and it's a step backward in DC's push for autonomy, which is already considerably limited in the criminal justice system.
Checking in on violence interruption efforts: I recently held a public roundtable to dig into details on the District's two violence interruption programs. As I've written in this newsletter before, we can't treat violent crime solely as a challenge our police officers must confront. We have to think of it as a public health crisis and we have to understand violent crime doesn't just happen in a vacuum. These two programs are doing innovative work in the neighborhoods hit hardest by violence, seeking to interrupt the cycle of violence in several ways, including an intensive job training program and employing "credible messengers" who are known in their community and can help foster dialogue instead of violence. Here's a wonderful Washington Post article on a recent graduation program tied to these efforts.
Pushing for a better response on DC's opioid crisis: I co-chaired a hearing with Councilmember Vince Gray, who chairs the Council's Committee on Health, to get answers on why the District's response to an alarming rise in deaths due to opioid addiction hasn't been more comprehensive and faster. In 2017, we lost 279 District residents due to an overdose, which came on the heels of a 178% rise in overdose deaths from 2014 to 2016. Frankly, we haven't done nearly enough to protect District residents. The Washington Post covered the hearing.
Last public hearing on DCPS Chancellor nomination: This week was the third and final public hearing on DCPS Chancellor nominee Dr. Lewis Ferebee. Over the past year, I've spoken with hundreds of Ward 6 residents about their priorities and concerns for the new Chancellor and our public school system overall. I posted some longer thoughts and some video on Facebook from my opening remarks before we heard from Dr. Ferebee.
Should DC Public Charter Schools be exempt from FOIA? I shared some thoughts on my Facebook page around Washington City Paper's excellently-reported article looking at CEO pay at some of the District's charter schools compared to what teacher salaries are like in those same schools. For me, the article highlights a key challenge -- we simply don't know much about how many charter schools are run, despite being funded by DC tax dollars. And that makes it hard to do effective oversight as a lawmaker or judge a school's values as a parent. My thoughts here.
"Hail No" RFK Update: You may have read in the Post that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has decided not to pursue keeping the Washington NFL team in Maryland, which means all eyes will turn to the RFK site. Late last year, I circulated a petition to begin organizing against a push to build a new NFL stadium at the current RFK site, which I think is a terrible idea. If you haven't signed the petition yet, join nearly 4,000 neighbors to push for a better use of that space. We should be extending our neighborhood to the nearby Anacostia River, creating more affordable housing and mixed-use development with opportunities for small businesses, access to fresh food, parks and green space, a connection to the river, and more. It's an opportunity for the city to grow while relieving our housing crunch, not setting aside acres of asphalt for a billionaire who does not share our DC values. More from DCist.
Celebrate Black History Month at the Wilson Building: On Friday, February 22, I hope you'll join me and my colleagues for "Reflections & Milestones," a celebration and discussion of racial equity in the District from 2:15 to 3:15 pm at the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW). I look forward to an enlightening discussion and several great musical performances.
Did you know you can direct Pepco to purchase renewably-sourced energy for your home? As an FYI, customers of Pepco (including both renters and homeowners) can direct the utility to purchase energy for your home from a renewable source. The energy will still be provided by Pepco and you'll continue to work with them on all issues and billing. The only difference is where you tell Pepco to purchase the energy they provide to your home. It is worth some research so you know how rates might change. A helpful primer on how to switch and what to look for is on Pepco's website. This Medium article also is useful for understanding how to calculate your rate.
Maternal Mortality Review Committee update: Last year I wrote legislation that was passed unanimously by the Council to establish a Maternal Mortality Review Committee to collect data and study why DC has the nation's highest rate of death related to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery, and more importantly, help recommend policies to reduce those deaths. In January, I sent a letter to check on the progress of filling that Committee and getting to work on this urgent issue. The Post's Theresa Vargas revisits the issue in a recent column.
Compiling the data on pedestrian safety -- and it is not good: The Washington Post pulled together regional data on pedestrian fatalities due to traffic. Nationwide and region-wide, the percentage of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities from traffic accidents is rising. Last year in the District, there were 36 fatalities, half of which were pedestrians or cyclists. This is an issue I am very focused on. We have to take steps to improve both street design and enforcement. As we invite more and more residents to walk, bike, or scoot rather than drive, we need to curb impatient and dangerous driving habits, including ensuring our bike lanes and crosswalks aren't blocked and that traffic laws against speeding and running stop signs are reliably enforced.
I'll be speaking at ANC meetings this month and next: Each year around this time, I like to visit each ANC in Ward 6 to provide updates on what the Council has been working on, what are my priorities for DC's next budget, and take questions from residents and commissioners. I'd love to have you join the meeting if you'd like to hear from me or ask me a question. Check below on the calendar for dates for the remaining ANC meetings I will be attending.
Upcoming Events Calendar: