It's hard to argue with spring in Ward 6, isn't it? Truly every part of the Ward seems to be showing off as trees and gardens hit full bloom, the weather is perfect for walking, and the weekends are packed with trips to the local farmers market, little league games, outdoor dining, and lounging at the neighborhood park. I hope you've been able to get outside and enjoy some of the best weather we get each year.
But I know you're here for updates. And I've got a bunch, starting with the budget, but ranging to vacant houses, yard waste collection, DC Water, and more. So let's jump in. As always, you can reply to this email with any questions or reactions.
Quick Links: Budget | COVID-19 | Public Safety | Roe v Wade | ParkDC | Potomac Gardens | Yard Waste | Produce Rx | Vacant Property | Mail-in Ballots | USPS | Hill East Pipes | Rain Gardens | Grass Cutting
Next Tuesday, the Council will take the second and final vote on next year's budget. In case you missed it, I sent out two updates related to the budget: one on Ward 6-specific projects that I helped secure funding for; 2) a comprehensive rundown of the budget we passed to fully fund public safety and make immediate and long-term investments in reducing violent crime in particular.
A few other specific items I'd like to highlight:
Monthly Basic Income Extended to Undocumented Workers in 2024: You may recall, in last year's budget, I led an effort to fund the creation of 2,400 new housing vouchers for homeless neighbors, increase pay for child care workers, and create a first in the nation monthly basic income -- all paid for with a small increase in the tax rate for the District's highest-income individual earners (about 4% of DC taxpayers). How does the Monthly Basic Income work? Well, DC already matches the federal EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) up to a certain %. We funded an increase that will step up over the next few years, and then we converted it from an annual payment during tax season to a monthly payment. This will reach thousands of lower-wage DC households earning less than $53,000, and at its max, likely offer several hundred dollars per month to each eligible resident. That's direct help to pay the rent, put food on the table, afford medication, take care of kids or parents, and basically, afford to call DC home.
Still with me?
I say all of that to explain we then expanded eligibility for that Monthly Basic Income to undocumented workers in this year's budget, to begin in 2024. Undocumented workers aren't eligible to receive the federal EITC. It'll take some time to set it up, so the extension won't show up for undocumented workers until 2024. But it will be a big boost for those families and workers, but also for our local economy as low-income households actually spend more of their dollars right in their community.
At-Risk Student Funding Increased by the Council: It's worth noting Chairman Mendelson included a boost in funding to the formula for students who are at-risk -- defined broadly as students who will require extra supports in the classroom and school to succeed. This is a great and meaningful improvement for schools with high percentages of students at-risk. I remain concerned we aren't doing enough to support schools that are just below the Title I line (defined as serving 40% or more of students who are at-risk). We have a few Ward 6 schools serving 30-39% students who are at-risk, but that steep drop-off from 40% means these schools don't receive as much funding as they need. I'm going to continue pushing for more support for those schools as well.
Pilot Curbside Compost Collection: The details are still being worked out, but the budget also includes funding for a DPW pilot program for collecting household compost at the curb, similar to trash and recycling. I know plenty of Ward 6ers are going to be interested in participating, so I'll share more info as I learn about it. In the meantime, don't forget you can drop-off food waste to be part of the city's composting program for community gardens most weekends at farmers markets, including Eastern Market.
COVID-19 is not over. But it has gotten harder to understand community spread with major gaps in data transparency, an issue I joined my colleagues in raising last week (DCist). But I do want to share some updates, including new information on upcoming booster shots for children as young as five (we're still waiting for vaccinations for children under five, as many parents know).
Boosters for Kids 5-11: I've had more than a few folks ask me about upcoming booster shots for children. The FDA has offered approval, and the CDC issued approved guidelines last evening. DC Health and providers will be ready to provide booster shots today at COVID Centers (see below). Children are ready five months after their initial vaccination (so check your vaccine cards).
COVID Centers Remain a Great Resource: If you need a test, a vaccine, or masks, the District operates COVID Centers in every Ward (ours is on Barracks Row at 507 8th St., SE). You can get masks, vaccines, and tests for free. And for those age 5-11 boosters are available today - following CDC guidance approved last night - by walking into the COVID Center to get one for your child if it's been 5 months since their initial vaccine. And if for some reason your 5-11 year-old never got vaccinated, well, there's no time like the present, and the COVID Center can make that happen, too.
Get Vaccinated, and Boosted: All residents over the age of 12 are eligible for vaccination and a booster. Having the vaccine provides immense protection against the most serious effects of COVID-19, and we have a number of highly transmissible variants right now. If you got your first shots, be sure to bring your vaccine card so the provider can verify you're eligible. Find a location in Ward 6 now.
Public Safety Update
In the past few weeks, I've been closely engaged with residents at Potomac Gardens, Hopkins, and in the nearby neighborhoods as we've suffered from repeat gun violence stemming from cyclical conflicts. First District MPD Officers have increased their physical presence and patrols in the area, and I'm finding myself having to push DC Housing Authority to step up its own officers' presence to ensure resident safety and tamp down on retaliation. At the same time, I've met with the Senior Resident Council, Potomac Gardens leadership and residents, and with two nonprofits who work in the community in an effort to break the cycle. If you missed it, MPD also announced an arrest in the double homicide at Potomac Gardens on March 14.
In my time as Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, my approach has been to fully fund public safety. That means we have the right responses for violence prevention and interruption, accountability, and rehabilitation. Important to all of these efforts is coordination and planning. Making both immediate and long-term reductions to violence can't solely be the job of the police. But to do the work correctly, we have to have incredibly focused coordination around the small number of people most likely to be involved in violence -- either as a victim or a perpetrator. That's why I created and funded the position of Gun Violence Prevention Director in the Office of the City Administrator, and why I've funded a strategic gun violence prevention plan. Many people ask me, so what is the plan? We agree with the goals, but how do we get there? Regular newsletter readers will recognize the graphic to the right, which has shown the steps I've funded and pushed.
I'd like to share a recently released, and thoroughly drafted, Gun Violence Reduction Strategic Plan for the District, assembled over the past year by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (an independent District agency) and the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform. The report is accessible to those who aren't steeped in the world of criminal justice and offers 16 clear steps forward for the District, which it describes as "resource rich, coordination poor" - an assessment I fully agree with. If this is an issue you care deeply about, spend some time with the plan and let me know what you think. You can also read a quick WaPo story on the plan here.
Ward 6 Public Safety Updates:
Overturning Roe v. Wade Would Threaten DC Residents
When the leaked draft of a potential Supreme Court opinion showed a majority of the justices are actively considering overturning 50 years of precedent, it was a gut punch to all of us. And for many, it was also the moment we'd been dreading since 2016. Without that federal protection, it doesn't require much imagination to assume some overzealous and extreme Members of Congress would love to meddle in DC's local laws. I pledge I'll do everything I can to fight for and support everyone's rights to plan their families how they choose and decide to have an abortion, if that's the right choice for them. And I'll back any efforts to protect those who live in states that are hostile to choice. I was proud to join my Council colleagues and the Mayor at Planned Parenthood Metropolitan Washington recently to affirm that commitment and speak with one voice.
What's Going on With ParkDC and Visitor Parking Permits?
DDOT has been in the process of transitioning away from printed Visitor Parking Permits for a while, but hasn't been able to do so without causing a great deal of headaches for residents. As a result, and due to the pandemic, your printed Visitor Parking Permits from 2020 continue to be valid. However, I've gotten a few questions recently, so I wanted to share. First, if you want to learn more about ParkDC and sign-up, start with this page.
- What should someone do if they lost their printed VPP? Unfortunately, DDOT is not reissuing visitor parking permits. You will have to register with the ParkDC system.
- Can you still go to police stations and get printed passes? In theory, yes, there are DDOT kiosks at police stations (if the printers are working), but you will have had to already register with ParkDC. Gone are the spiral bound notebooks they used to keep track of permits.
- If you're having issues getting ParkDC to work, my constituent services team tells me people have reported good experiences calling for assistance at (202) 671-2631.
WiFi Pilot Program Coming to Potomac Gardens
Earlier this week, I joined Mayor Bowser at Potomac Gardens as she announced an effort to expand broadband internet service in the District and *finally* announce a WiFi project coming to Potomac Gardens, something I funded in the budget two years ago. The Mayor's announcement closely mirrors legislation I introduced that would expand accessible, affordable, and reliable broadband to every household. And these are excellent efforts for us to undertake. But it can't come without also meeting residents' basic needs for safe and decent housing, timely repairs, and safety in their hallways and on the grounds of DCHA properties -- something highlighted by a reporter who connected with residents at the events with a plea to their city leaders.
In the past, I've been extremely frustrated with DC Housing Authority's ability to make timely repairs to units (or get vacant, unlivable units repaired and ready for a new tenant). Even when I've fought hard with the CFO to secure $24 million for immediate housing repairs, because DC Housing Authority is a quasi-federal agency, conducting proper oversight to see those repairs made is a challenge. We don't get a clear accounting of where the funding goes, and certainly residents in public housing aren't seeing the investments on their end. I'll continue to work closely with Potomac Gardens leadership to get improvements, as well as WiFi, because it's what they need and deserve. Management owes residents better pest control, repairs, and every other service any tenant would reasonably expect. I've been working closely with new DCHA Director Brenda Donald early on to improve safety at Potomac Gardens and address repair needs at all of our Ward 6 public housing sites. I spoke with WUSA 9 as they ran with the story - and I hope this pressure finally gets work done.
ICYMI: Yard Waste Collection Changes
I've fielded enough calls about this that I want to make sure we spread the word. Last year, DPW, which handles trash, recycling, yard waste, and bulk collections for households, announced a change in their yard waste collection plan. They no longer collect it as part of the routine trash collection (though they will take what you can fit into your garbage can). Instead, you should file a separate 311 request for yard waste collection and then put the yard waste where your trash is collected. So if you've been putting out yard waste and it hasn't been collected, that's why. Learn more here.
Related: Fort Totten Trash Transfer Station is closed while it undergoes improvements, so if you're dropping off bulk trash or hazardous waste, head to the Benning Road Transfer Station.
DC Greens Produce Rx Expands to More Grocery Stores
Just a quick note to share some good news. The DC Greens Produce Rx program, funded by DC government, allows medical professionals in participating clinics to prescribe fruits and vegetables that patients can purchase at participating stores. It's been a great way to help ensure residents, particularly those on fixed or limited incomes, can meet their nutritional needs. And it's expanding to three new locations! Check out this article about the expansion. And you can learn more about the program here.
DC Attorney General Brings Suit Against Vacant Ward 6 Property
File this one under "FINALLY." For Ward 6 neighbors, few things are more aggravating than a vacant house falling into neglect. And if you live around 1000 C Street NE, you know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm happy to share that DC's Attorney General Karl Racine announced a lawsuit to start cracking down on vacant properties where the owners aren't taking steps to maintain the property and get it reactivated, including this property specifically. Relatedly, in this budget, I funded my bill to give ANCs notice of vacant property designation appeals, so starting this October, they'll be able to weigh in with evidence that properties are indeed vacant.
Mail-In Ballots Arriving at Home
Just a heads up, the Board of Elections is mailing out ballots to all registered voters for the upcoming primary election. Mail-in ballots are just one way you can cast your vote in this election. You can mail them back or drop them off. You can vote early, or if you're old fashioned, wait to vote on Election Day. Check out the Board of Elections’ website for more information: https://dcboe.org/PrimaryElection2022
Update on US Postal Service Issues From Congresswoman Norton
Across Ward 6, mail service has been abysmal at times over the past two years. While it's gotten better lately, we know - both as your neighbors and as the folks answering your calls and emails - about mail service that might go days between delivery at times. And while we don't have any oversight or control of the US Postal Service, our team has been working with Congresswoman Norton's office to raise these issues and see that service gets improved. In that vein, wanted to share this update sent out from the Congresswoman's office this week.
Hill East Neighbors: DC Water Construction Update
While construction began earlier this month, just sharing project details with you for DC Water's ongoing Small Diameter Water Main Replacement Project, which is now headed down Massachusetts Avenue until October. I've attached the map to the right, and you can follow progress and updates at the DC Water Project Page.
Get a Great Garden and Clean Our Rivers...All at Once!
As those April showers finally bring out May flowers, I'll make a quick plug that anyone experiencing 'garden envy' this spring should look into the District's Riversmart program. This is program that professionally installs bayscapes and rain gardens with beautiful, water-soaking plants to help prevent runoff. And here's the best part: it'll only cost you $100 (or less) to get it all done!
Grass Cutting in Public Spaces
I wanted to quickly note that we have National Park Service parks and triangles across Ward 6, and they're all getting overgrown this spring. Grass is knee high in some places, including all over Seward Square, Stanton Park, the Maryland Avenue parks, and the Pennsylvania Avenue parks and medians. I talked with our National Parks Service contact who confirmed they're delayed in their contracting for mowing services and doesn't expect it to be up and running until the beginning of June. I've asked NPS to make a special effort to catch up and focus on NPS parks around Capitol Hill where we've seen a lot of overgrowth. He said he'll be sending teams out specifically to our Ward 6 parks - keep me and my team posted if you have an overgrown space that needs addressing.
Alright, I think that's enough updates for one newsletter.
See you around the neighborhood!