Last weekend, I had the pleasure to join neighbors at Westminster's Black History Month program and then later to join a tour at the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum to mark Rosa Parks birthday, now celebrated with a push to achieve greater transit equity.
There was a lot of overlap at both meetings in discussing how transportation has been used to destroy historically Black communities (Southwest was one of the first sites for the federal government's disastrous urban renewal in the 1950's) and how it remains underinvested today.
As I take on the large task of chairing the Council's Committee on Transportation and the Environment, these kinds of conversations are guiding my approach on a wide-range of bills and issues that will pass through our committee.
Quick Links: Public Safety | Hands Off DC | Rec Centers | Peter Bug Historic | E-Bikes Rebate | EV Charging | Swap out Gas | SNAP Benefits Reduction | $150 Instacart Workers | New DCPS Contract | Union Station | Special Education | WMATA Future | Follow-Up Items | New Stop Signs | Caps Tickets!
Public Safety Update
It has been just over a week since the horrific shooting at Potomac Avenue Metro Station that killed one and injured two others. Robert Cunningham was the heroic WMATA mechanic who intervened and lost his life while saving others. He should be with us today. Officers tell me MPD was responding to the scene in under a minute and an arrest was made on the platform - he has been charged with murder and is being held. MPD has also reported that mental health was likely a strong factor and this individual's actions began miles away before he ended up at Potomac Avenue Metro. More of the investigation is still ongoing, but this violence has impacted a great many people and our hearts are with Mr. Cunningham's family and the larger WMATA family. The bottom line is obvious: there are simply too many guns that are easy to obtain and DC.
I had already been working closely with neighbors in the area following three unrelated, brazen shootings in recent months when this happened. So last night we met in a larger setting, joined by MPD, representatives from the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, Metro Transit Police, and ANC 6B09 Commissioner Matt LaFortune to discuss ongoing and specific steps we will take to improve public safety in the immediate neighborhood. I've also met earlier this week with some neighbors along the H Street corridor to further efforts to maintain a safe environment. Let me know if my team and I can connect with you. I've included a few follow-ups near the end of the email for folks.
Ward 6 Public Safety Updates:
2/3: Arrests in Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle: Four juveniles were arrested for unauthorized use of vehicle charges at 17th and Maryland, NE.
1/27: Arrests in Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle: Includes multiple arrests around H Street and NoMa.
Congressional Interference in Local DC Matters is Wrong. Hands Off DC.
Congress just meddled in the affairs of the District once again, voting yesterday to overturn two laws passed unanimously by the Council. Not one of the representatives in Congress who will cast a vote will ever appear on the ballot of a DC resident. We are the body that should be both speaking for District residents and, in turn, being held accountable by them. Not Congress.
I released a statement on Monday on the federal interference to overturn locally passed legislation. The main message is simple: this isn’t about the merits or contents of either law. Don’t pretend it is. This is about power. This is about certain members of Congress cynically using the District’s lack of statehood to try and score cheap points. That’s all it is. They haven’t read the bills. They don’t care or know that nearly every state in the country has gone through a criminal code modernization and revision like the one they just overturned. They aren’t representing what it is and isn’t honestly. They don’t care about the safety of District neighbors. If they did, they'd confirm more of our judges that our Courts need right now.
As I noted in my statement, there are plenty of states where the maximum penalties for serious violent offenses are already lower than what is in the Revised Criminal Code - and that's without including any of the new penalty enhancements for repeat offenders, pre-trial release, protected classes of victims or more found in DC's revised code. There are also 35 states who have the same standard of a jury trial when you face jail time that we’ve proposed. I only point this out to be sure you know we are well within national norms with our legislation and Congress’ interference is never actually about the laws – it’s about power and politics at our expense. Hands. Off. DC.
ICYMI: Helpful links of media coverage of the Revised Criminal Code Act from last newsletter:
- First, following the outright false statements from the Post’s Editorial Board a couple of weeks ago, they published this letter to the editor in the Post correcting many of their mistakes.
- Second, this Slate article makes a deep dive into the RCCA to highlight where the fear mongering and misinformation have misled people.
- Third, you might have seen this CBS 9 Verify piece explore the ways penalties have changed in the Revised Criminal Code and helps explain how the RCCA maintains or *even strengthens penalties* in many offenses, particularly ones where great harm is done.
- Fourth, Washington Post columnist Colby King wrote a thoughtful piece that cut to the chase "That the 100-year-old code needs revision and updating isn't up for debate" and titled his column "DC's crime problem is not the criminal code. It runs much deeper." He gave honest and sobering accounts of young people experiencing violence in our city.
- Finally, if you missed it, I wrote about the need for this new criminal code in the Hill Rag.
DC’s Rec Centers are Mostly Closed on Weekends. Let's Change That.
Did you know DC’s nearly 70 recreation and community centers are mostly closed or have limited hours on the weekends? It’s hard to understand when you look at the important role our libraries play seven days a week. I’ve introduced legislation to open all our recreation centers on weekends - when kids and residents really need them! And yes, that means we’ll need to bring on more staff and more programming for residents at all ages. But that’s exactly the point of rec centers! They’re meant to be a place people can go and find community. Watch this story on ABC7.
Related: I recently wrote a letter to both the Department of General Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation asking for improvements and expanded hours. I’m happy to report Greenleaf Rec Center will soon extend hours 6 am to 9 pm on weekdays and 9 am to 6 pm on weekends. This is a rec center that offers a safe place to many in the neighborhood, and the expanded hours are a great start to making it even better.
Ward 6’s Peter Bug Shoe Shop Designated a Historic Landmark
Last month, the Historic Review Planning Board voted unanimously to designated Peter Bug Shoe Repair Academy (located at 13th and E St, SE) a historic landmark in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites. As a friend of Peter Bug’s for many years and a supporter of his work in our community, I was proud to support the nomination of the site, which is very unique within the surrounding neighborhood.
E-Bikes offer a lot of promise. Let’s make them affordable for DC residents.
Last week I introduced a bill my team has been working on for some time to create an e-bike rebate program that can successfully help more DC residents get on two wheels and ensure bike shops are prepared for the increased business. If you’ve ridden an e-bike even once, you know it can be like a cheat code for getting around the city – and so fun! My bill proposed creating a larger rebate for DC residents already enrolled in TANF or SNAP or a car-free household that would also include a bike lock and some refunds toward annual maintenance. In researching this bill, we talked with folks who have been part of Denver’s wildly successful rebate program and our local bike shops. One big change we propose is making the refund available at the point of sale. Read more in DCist or from the press release.
We Need Electric Vehicle Infrastructure to Meet the Moment
Last Friday, I also reintroduced my legislation setting a goal for 7,500 electric vehicle charging stations in every part of the District by 2027. Electric vehicles are growing faster and faster. And as more enter the market and the re-sale market, we need to be ready for the transition with the right infrastructure. My bill will help shape the federal funding coming to the District specifically for building out charging stations. Read more in the Washington Post.
Making It Easier to Swap Out Gas for Electric Stoves and Heat
Last Friday (it was a busy day), I also re-introduced a bill to make it easier, and perhaps free, for District residents to make the change from fossil-fuel burning stoves (natural gas includes methane) to electric stoves and heating. As we make the transition to an electric future, we need to take these steps fast. And don’t worry, no one is coming for your gas stove (although have you tried induction?!). But for families who are worried about the air quality issues associated with natural gas or simply want to make the change, we want to be sure to make it easy. Read more in DCist from last November or in the Post this week (though they went more for the culture war angle than really exists...).
SNAP Benefits Reducing on March 1
During the pandemic, the federal government provided funding to increase the amount of money provided in SNAP benefits. That increase will on March 1, 2023 and it will put some vulnerable families in a tough spot. If need to know what your regular (pre-pandemic) benefit amount is, log in to District Direct Online or download the free District Direct Mobile App from the Apple Store or the Google Play Store to connect to their individual account and view past or upcoming benefit amounts.
I do want to highlight one helpful step eligible families should take right now. File your taxes for the Earned Income Tax Credit and automatically get enrolled in the District’s new Monthly Basic Income program and start receiving monthly checks that can help offset this drop in benefits. I fought to get this created in the budget two years ago, and this is the first year eligible DC residents can apply. And all you have to do is file your taxes and be sure to check the box for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
$150 for DC Instacart Workers Per DC AG Settlement
If you work for Instacart in DC, you may be entitled to compensation following a successful lawsuit brought by the District’s Office of the Attorney General. Scan the QR code in the graphic to the right to learn more or click here.
Council Approves DCPS Teacher Contract
On Tuesday, the Council unanimously and quickly approved the contract agreed to between DCPS and the Washington Teachers Union. Our teachers have been without a contract for years while on the job and this comes with some important gains. But the years-long process to get this contract finalized means it's already almost out date. My comments from the vote and how we need to do right by our teachers again.
DC Special Education Hub is a Great Resource for Families and Caregivers
If you have a special needs child in your life, it can be hard to know all of the tools available to you. The DC Special Education Hub aims to consolidate information into one location. Start here at their website to see what might be helpful to you.
Union Station's Immediate Future
Earlier this week, I joined U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg and her team for a detailed tour behind the scenes (and in the bowels) of Union Station. As you know, I've been fighting for the revitalization of Union Station not just for the economic recovery from the pandemic, but for the larger vision of remaking this space into the transit hub DC and the region needs for the next century.
In the coming years, we'll see a rebuild of the H Street "Hopscotch" Bridge, increased rail capacity at the station, decking over the north portion to create a vibrant mix of new homes, businesses, and public spaces, and much, much more. And some of the less glamorous work (think: back of house operations!) will take creative thinking and hard work - and is just as important as the ribbon cuttings and ground breakings. Partnering with federal and regional leaders will be crucial to staging and lining up the massive overhaul Union Station will need and I'm excited about some of the energy coming out of our meeting and the next steps we're going to take together. Oh, and in case you ever wondered, I found out where they keep the giant Christmas wreaths the rest of the year!
WMATA’s Strategic Plan Needs Your Feedback
Metro is seeking community feedback on its draft multi-year strategic transformation plan, #YourMetro, The Way Forward and wants to hear from you. During the public comment period, you can weigh in on the future of WMATA. Start here.
Follow-Up Items from Feb 9 Potomac Ave Public Safety Meeting
As I mentioned up above, we had a very productive public safety meeting last night at Friendship Chamberlain with neighbors in the area surrounding Potomac Avenue Metro Station. A few follow-ups from that meeting:
- I will continue to work with MPD and Transit Police leadership to make the safety around Potomac Avenue Metro a priority.
- Neighbors and I are working together to get this area designated a Safe Passages area to focus on safety and intervention with the large number of students that utilize this station.
- We're exploring ways to create immediate opportunities to program the Metro plaza and activate for safer spaces, and exploring long-term solutions with WMATA about what's possible.
- Metro Transit Police wanted to share that in addition to 911, riders can call 202-962-2121 to report any suspicious behavior or send a text to 696873 (MyMTPD).
- If neighborhood residents need to reach Lt. Mulrooney, including for those interested in regular PSA meetings in the neighborhood, her contact info is: [email protected]
New Stop Sign at 9th and K St., NE
Thanks to advocacy from neighbors and ANC 6A Commissioner Keya Chatterjee, 9th and K Street NE has new and improved stop signs! I was glad to work with them to expedite and push DDOT to make this needed installation. The K Street NE corridor overall continues to need safety improvements, but this intersection desperately needed more after a tragic and fatal collision that took the life of a neighbor last year. As Chair of the committee with oversight of DDOT, I want to see the agency working faster across the city to make fast and simple safety improvements as needed and before tragedy strikes.
Want to see the Caps take on the Ducks?
There's been a lot of interest in giving away a pair of suite tickets to see games at Capital One Arena, so let’s keep going. Reply to this email if you want two free tickets to see the Caps play the Anaheim Ducks on Feb 23 at 7 pm. You must be a Ward 6 resident to win. I’ll make a random selection from all entries on Monday, Feb 13.
As a reminder, I'll be at Maketto on H Street NE this morning from 9-10:30 am. Stop by if you can and say hello.
See you around the neighborhood,