3-18-22 Ward 6 Update

Now that Capital Weather Gang has officially declared winter over and spring here, it's time for Ward 6 to put its best foot forward as we all come out of our winter hibernation. As a way to celebrate and reconnect with each other, please join me and my team for The Great Ward 6 Spring Clean on April 2 to do a little spring cleaning around the ward. Sign-up to join us at one of our locations across Ward 6, or just grab a neighbor and clean up your own block or alley - and be sure to post some pics with #GreatWard6SpringClean! The point is pretty simple: let's all welcome spring by taking a few minutes to show off our neighborhood pride and do a little spring clean on the block, in the alley, or at the park. More details below, and a lot of updates to jump into to!

Long Newsletter, Short Links: Budget Town Hall | Public Safety | Trucker Convoy | COVID-19 | Metro For DC | Harris Rider | Paid Family LeaveNE DC Water | Win on the Water | Teachers Running for Office | Open Caption Movies | Literary HillAnacostia River Fest | Build First at GreenleafTax Credit for Longtime Homeowners | Free Tax PrepSolar Options | Southwest LibraryOffice Re-Opened | The Great Ward 6 Spring Clean

Ward 6 Budget Town Hall

If spring is in the air, most people think about cherry blossoms, but our team's digging into the $19.5 billion budget proposal that just dropped from the Mayor. This week, the Council receives the Mayor's proposed budget, kicking off several months of hearings, number crunching, and debates about our shared priorities before the Council approves the final product. As part of that process, we always reach out to Ward 6 residents to hear what's important to you. So I'm excited to announce we're going to have a hybrid Ward 6 Budget Town Hall on Thursday, March 31, from 6-7:30 pm, with limited seating available at the Southwest Library and an online live stream for everyone. RSVP for either in-person or live here.

As in past years, I'll take you on a tour of the Mayor's proposed budget and lay out some of my priorities. But then I want to turn it over to Ward 6 neighbors - both in-person and online - to make comments or ask questions about your priorities or projects in the Ward and across the District. 

Public Safety Update

We had a tragic and painful double shooting this week in Ward 6 outside of Potomac Gardens apartments, where a 22-year-old and a 62-year-old were murdered in what investigators believe was a targeted shooting. MPD is looking for the public's help in solving this crime. I've been in contact with MPD and Potomac Gardens' Resident Council President, as well, and have asked DCHA to address several community and resident leadership concerns. 

In other public safety news, MPD, working in partnership with the NYPD, announced the arrest of a man suspected of shooting five individuals who were likely unhoused in a horrific series of attacks in both DC and New York City. I'm grateful for our detectives and officers for their fast work before someone else was harmed, and I'm mourning our residents lost to this senseless cruelty.

MPD also just yesterday announced an arrest in the carjacking a few weeks ago on H Street, charging the individual with armed kidnapping and carjacking, when when the car was taken with a mother and child still inside. Both mother and child safely escaped shortly after. MPD also may have connected the individual to a separate carjacking, in yet another reminder that the majority of violent crime is caused by a small, mostly identifiable group of people. I continue to push all of our agencies to focus their efforts on this group in a targeted way. But this is another example of the focused and coordinated work of the Car Jacking Task Force being able to make an arrest and hold this type of violence accountable.

The District continues to take a both/and approach to public safety I've been talking about -- meaning we need to be focused on both prevention and rehabilitation and on traditional law enforcement if we want to see sustained decreases in crime. I have led the District in pursuing a fully-funded public safety response, because it works and it has immediate results. Recently, for example, the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, which heads up much of the District's violence prevention and interruption work, released some high-level data showing declines or smaller increases compared to city-wide data. Given the spike in violent crime the District is experiencing (and across many parts of the country), a small decrease or flat levels are progress, compared to areas where violence interruption work isn't taking place. The Office of the Attorney General also runs a violence interruption program called "Cure the Streets", and their team that will begin work in neighborhoods around NoMa/Sursum Corda was just announced by the agency

In the coming weeks, we will have a robust debate on public safety funding in next year's budget, and I'll hold public hearings on the Mayor's proposals for each agency in the public safety cluster. You can weigh in in writing or virtually at any of our hearings. To sign up, just email [email protected], and let my team know at which agency's hearing you plan to testify.

Finally, this Southwester piece has a good run down from a recent public safety meeting, with a lot of the key folks needed to make that change happen at the neighborhood level.

Ward 6 Updates: 

Arrest Made in February Carjacking on Capitol Hill
Arrest Made in Three Robberies on Pennsylvania Avenue

Trucker Convoy: I am certain most Ward 6 neighbors have noticed, or been impacted by, the ridiculous trucker "convoy" that is starting to try more and more to get into District neighborhoods after spending the first week circling the Beltway. For safety reasons, this has pushed MPD, in partnership with federal law enforcement, to have near daily rolling road closures to try and contain the convoy to highways and prevent them from coming into downtown and residential neighborhoods. This creates pressure points all over and causes massive headaches for neighbors. Keep an eye on Alert DC for road closure information. If you're able to forgo a trip in the car right now, the weather is nice enough to give a new Capital Bikeshare E-Bike a spin or take metro. Both options aren't likely to be disrupted by a bunch of truckers with vague and unspecific complaints about federal policy that have no tie to our neighborhoods or even to reality. I'll remain in close contact with MPD about ways we can minimize disruption to neighbors just trying to get to school pick-up or run an errand.

Somewhat Related: If you're a District of Columbia school employee, did you know you can get $200 toward the purchase of a new bicycle (for yourself)? So if you're tired of your commute being disrupted or high gas prices, take advantage of this offer

COVID Precautions -- Prepare for Whatever is Next

We don't know yet how it will play out in the US, but cases are spiking dramatically in other countries, and now is the time to prepare. We have tools that can help us, tools we've developed painstakingly over the course of the past two years: vaccines, testing, physical distancing measures, and masking when we can't physically distance. And while we've experienced a steep decrease in cases following the omicron surge, we've been here before. I'd urge you to prepare responsibly, even as we hope for the best possible outcome. 

DC Health continues to operate COVID centers throughout the city. For Ward 6, the location is on Barracks Row at 507 8th St., SE, and it's open every day except Tuesdays. Check the locations' hours here, as each varies a bit. At these sites, you can:

  • Pick up rapid tests
  • Take a PCR test
  • Get vaccinated and
  • Pick up masks for adults or children.

All at no cost to District residents! We don't know what this new subvariant may mean for us, but if you haven't gotten vaccinated, do so now before you're at risk again. Here are 50 locations close to Ward 6 where you can get protected - for free. Let's prepare now so we're not scrambling later.

Finally, just as a reminder, businesses in the District have the right to require masks for customers and patrons. Please do not give our small businesses a hard time as they do their best to balance the needs of their staff, their customers, and what they feel is best for their operations.

Council Committee Holds Metro For DC Hearing

In a major step forward for my Metro for DC legislation, the Council's Committee on Transportation and the Environment held a public hearing to consider the bill. As a reminder, Metro For DC would provide every DC resident with a monthly balance of $100 on a registered SmarTrip card. It was a great hearing with a lot of support for the bill and some thoughtful ways to consider improving the legislation or expanding it. The next step will be a vote in Committee, which hasn't been scheduled yet. To follow along with the bill's progress and learn of any needed advocacy, you can join a dedicated mailing list here. I'm grateful to my Ward 3 colleague Councilmember Mary Cheh, who chairs the Committee, for holding the hearing. 

Congress Blows Opportunity to Get Rid of Harris Rider

In what can only be described as a failure of leadership, Congress passed a budget proposal that left in place a budget rider forbidding the District from creating and maintaining a regulated marketplace for the sale of legal marijuana, known as the "Harris Rider" after Rep. Andy Harris. Rep. Harris represents Maryland's eastern shore and, it should be noted, has never appeared on a ballot for District residents to elect. The rider has been in place since 2015 and has done real damage. Because our non-medical marijuana market exists in a so-called gray area (DC voters made legal the consumption of marijuana, but the Harris rider prevents the District from creating a legal system of sale and regulation), it leads to public safety risks like robberies and bad actors being bad neighbors -- a problem we've long contended with along H Street NE's western end. It was expected that House leadership would remove the rider in its budget, clearing the way for the District to create and maintain a safer, taxable, and regulated industry that would benefit District residents. Instead, in just the latest example of why DC needs its own full representation in both the House and Senate, we were once again a bargaining chip to earn votes. More from DCist.

DC Expands Paid Family Leave Benefit to 12 Weeks, Lowers Tax on Employers

Earlier this month, DC's CFO announced the city could expand the amount of paid time off up to 12 weeks available to anyone who works in the District, while at the same time lowering the tax that funds the leave on employers. This is great news as DC offers one of the most generous paid family leave benefits in the country and can still provide some relief to our local businesses. I fought hard and remember how tough it was to get this law passed during my first term. To see it play out in a way that is benefiting people in a critical time of need and doing so without putting an outsized burden on our businesses is encouraging. If you want to learn how you can use these benefits, start here.

DC Water Meeting on Construction in NE DC

For neighbors in a few large sections of northeast, DC Water is about to undergo major pipe replacement work, and a lot of neighbors are understandably concerned about the timeline and effects on parking. I'm going to host a virtual meeting on Tuesday, March 29, at 7 pm, with DC Water. I'm encouraging any impacted neighbors who want to learn more about the project and work on solutions with minimal residential disruption to join us. RSVP here for the link.

Ft. McNair Pauses Plan to Create Restricted Water Space

For Southwest neighbors (and all DC residents who enjoy getting out on the water), I'm happy to report the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has officially paused their efforts to establish a restricted area of the Washington Channel. This has been a multi-year fight that would have dramatically limited the public's ability to enjoy the water and river access in the Washington Channel, without a real justification. This announcement comes more than a year after a town hall I helped organize with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's leadership and the USACE's lengthy review. So thanks to our many incredible community advocates, and now get out and enjoy our open waterways!

Teachers Can Now Run for DC State Board of Education

Last month, I worked with Councilmember Janeese Lewis George to introduce and pass a bill that would allow DCPS teachers and other public school employees to run and serve on DC's State Board of Education, a nonpartisan body that helps dictate school policy. Until this bill passed as an emergency measure, DC had an awkward and unfair system where teachers and staff at public charter schools could run for the Board of Education, but teachers at staff at DC Public Schools could not. So some of the folks with the most familiarity with our schools weren't allowed to run without first resigning from their jobs. I appreciate the support from the State Board of Education members, including our own Ward 6 SBOE member Jessica Sutter, in making this change and ending this nonsensical double standard. Recap in The Afro.

Bill Requiring Some Open Caption Showings at the Movies Re-Introduced

This week, I re-introduced a bill that would require movie theaters to offer screenings for films that include open captioning. This is a bill I first introduced a few years ago after working closely with some of our neighbors who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. There's a simple solution that makes the movie-going experience far more accessible to more of our neighbors and offers benefits to seniors, families with young children (who enjoy reading the text), and anyone else who has experienced impacts to their hearing or just likes captions. Read a little more here.

Literary Hill BookFest is Back on May 1

After a hiatus to go virtual during the worst days of the pandemic, the Literary Hill Bookfest is returning to in-person at the North Hall in Eastern Market on Sunday, May 1. This is an annual celebration of DC's local authors, poets, publishers, and almost anyone else associated with literature and books. Learn more here and save the date!

April 10: 8th Annual Anacostia River Festival 

Save the Date for the 8th Annual Anacostia River Festival, coming up on Saturday, April 10, with activities planned on the river in the morning and in the park in the afternoon. Learn more here.

After Pressure, DC Housing Authority Commits to Build First at Greenleaf

Happy to share at its most recent meeting, the board for the DC Housing Authority voted to approve a resolution moving forward on a redevelopment for Greenleaf public housing only with guarantees that there will be zero displacement and a home for every current resident. Along with several residents and community leaders who testified, I wrote a letter urging the DC Housing Authority Board to honor their commitment to residents as the details of the work start to get considered more concretely. This is an effort I'll be watching closely to ensure as we take on this much needed work to update and modernize critical public and affordable housing, no one is being forced to move out of their community. 

Tax Credit for Long-Time, Low-Income Homeowners

In a hearing earlier this year, I learned that only five (!) people had applied for a tax credit that put money back into the pockets of homeowners who are low-income. The Lower Income, Long-Term Homeowners Credit was passed by the Council to ease the effect of rising assessments and taxes on low-income residents who have lived in their homes seven consecutive years or more. If that's you, make sure you don't miss out on it this year. This is a great benefit for senior residents in their own homes or any longtime residents who are living in the same homes their family may have owned for generations.

The current requirements for receiving the credit are:

  • You must have owned and occupied the property as your principal residence for at least the last seven (7) consecutive years;
  • The property must be receiving the Homestead Deduction;
  • The total household income of all household members of your residence must not exceed the Household Income Limit Table listed in Section D on the Schedule L; and
  • Your application must be filed by December 31 of each year.

Interested homeowners should call (202) 727-4TAX (727-4829) for more information. Check out other tax credits available here at all income levels.

Free Tax Prep Help for Families Earning $58,000 or Less

Tax season is here, and the United Planning Organization offers a great tax prep service for income-qualified DC residents, beginning in February. This is an excellent way to ensure you're getting all of the benefits you're owed, including both a federal and local Earned Income Tax Credit that often puts money back in your pocket. And if you need to, you can also talk with banking representatives, sign-up for Medicare or Medicaid if eligible, and more.

Another local nonprofit, Catholic Charities DC, also offers the same free tax prep services.

Take Advantage of More Sunshine to Lower Your Electricity Bill

With spring here and Daylight Savings in effect, you might be loving the extra daylight. You'd love it even more if you had some solar panels turning all that sunshine into power for your house and a lower (or even negative) energy bill. And did you know that you live in the jurisdiction with the most valuable incentives to go solar? If you haven't explored it yet, I strongly recommend you check out these solar incentives, including some great options for anyone on a fixed income

The Southwest Neighborhood Library is Award-Winning. No, Really! 

I know we're all proud of the new Southwest Neighborhood Library, but now we know we aren't just being proud neighbors. The new building was recognized by the Design Build Institute of America in its 2021 awards for Best in Design - Engineering. Kudos to the team at DC Public Library, Turner Construction, Perkins & Will, and StructureCraft Builders USA for the recognition. If you haven't checked it out yet, maybe you should stop by on March 31 when we'll hold the Ward 6 Budget Town Hall inside the library!

Our Physical Office is Open Again

We're thrilled to announce that after nearly two years of mostly working remotely and in the community, our team is returning to the Wilson Building in Suite 110. We'll be working on a hybrid telework schedule moving forward, which will allow us to re-open the office 5 days per week while also maintaining a daily presence in Ward 6. Again, we're in Suite 110 in the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW), Monday-Friday from 9 am to 5:30 pm. Stop by if there's something we can help you with! We'd love to see you! And remember that proof of vaccination and masks are required. 

April 2: Join the Great Ward 6 Spring Clean

It's been a long two years with neighbors largely having to stay indoors and away from each other. But as we welcome in warmer weather and longer days, I want to bring us together to do a little spring cleaning together. On Saturday, April 2, join me, my team, and your Ward 6 neighbors to step outside and do a little clean-up on your street or alley. My hope is we get a bunch of neighbors to take steps both big and small to give our community a little glow up. Whether for 15 minutes or an hour, just a little effort makes a big difference, and it's a great way to reconnect with neighbors as the weather warms up. Plus, show off your pride and hard work using #GreatWard6SpringClean on social media. 

My team will also be organizing five locations around the Ward where you can show up and help out at a local park or public space if that's easier for you. RSVP here for either!

If you need cleaning bags and gloves, we're going to set up on Friday, April 1 (no joke) from 4-5:30 pm at Eastern Market Metro Park to distribute supplies if you need any. Let's get back out together and give Ward 6 a good cleaning. 

Charles Allen

P.S. - Just one more plug for the Ward 6 Budget Town Hall, since it's two weeks away. You can RSVP for an in-person slot (limited to 60 people) or RSVP for the Zoom broadcast. Either way, you'll be able to ask questions live.

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