6-16-20 - Ward 6 Neighborhood and COVID Update

A lot has happened since my last update. I want to begin by saying thank you.


So many Ward 6 neighbors have diligently taken to wearing a mask when they leave the house. Many, many Ward 6 neighbors have told me they are "writing to their councilmember for the first time" to speak out on concerns around policing and communities of color. Ward 6 neighbors waited for hours in line to vote, despite poor planning and execution from our Board of Elections. So many Ward 6 neighbors have asked how they can help during this time. And of course, many residents braved a pandemic and some high heat to protest in unity and now are waiting in long lines to get tested. There are a lot of areas where we need immediate and long-term change and improvement. I'm just appreciative that it hasn't deterred residents from being active members of our community. Let's jump in, there's a lot to update you on.

Police Reforms | MPD Budget Hearings | Metro & Racism | COVID Testing For Anyone | Summer Student Meals | EXTRA SNAP Benefits | Ward 6 Small Biz | The Fields at RFK | Summer Metro Station Closures |Park(Ing) Day 2020 | Volunteer | Free Diapers | Free Groceries

Council Passes Emergency Police Transparency and Accountability Reforms: On last Tuesday, the Council unanimously passed my Comprehensive Policing and Justice Emergency Act, an effort I led working with my colleagues to put into law some immediate changes around policing. I've posted a summary of what I included in the bill, and you can read the bill itself and the amendments added to the bill during the vote. It bans chokeholds, requires body-worn camera footage be released within 72 hours of a police-involved shooting, expands the authority of the Office of Police Complaints, requires consent for more searches, and moves forward Councilmember Robert White's Restore the Vote bill to enfranchise DC residents currently incarcerated. Amendments from my colleagues placed limits on future police union contracts to determine discipline and bans the use of chemicals like tear gas and rubber bullets.

I want to speak for a moment to the process for crafting this bill. My Committee and I moved fast to pull together reforms we thought we could implement immediately to make policing more transparent and accountable to the public. Most of these ideas were ones that have been discussed in many of the public hearings I've held on policing over the past three years, including a five-hour hearing on body-worn cameras last October. For those less familiar with inner workings of the Council, emergency legislation requires only one vote by the Council and the signature of the Mayor to go into effect. However, it can't have a cost to implement or run and it only stays in effect for 90 days before expiring, which limits what can be done. I will be introducing these reforms, and likely more, in a permanent bill soon. 

Budget Hearings for the Metropolitan Police Department and Other Public Safety Agencies: The protests that have dominated globally should be forcing us to talk about what actually makes us safer as a community as well as who our current public safety policies have benefited and who they have harmed. As I write this, 10 people were shot the other night in DC. It's absolutely unacceptable and each person responsible should be held accountable. At the same time, the District of Columbia already has some of the strongest gun laws on the books. We have the highest number of police per capita of any major city in the US - a number that doesn't include the many federal law enforcement agencies here. We spend more per resident on our police department than any other major city. We have the *highest* incarceration rate in the nation and likely the free world. If police presence and tough laws were the keys to public safety, we would already have the safest city in the US.

It's hard for me to square those facts and conclude we just need a few hundred more police officers as the solution to reducing and preventing crime. We aren't solving the problems that lead to violent crime, but we are over-policing the communities where violent crime is at crisis levels. As more than a dozen days of protests have made clear, over-policing has eroded trust between the police and those communities. The fear of violent crime has led us to view policing as the only solution, ignoring the harmful ways our growing reliance on security is affecting Black neighborhoods and largely making us less safe. We know the more interactions someone has with the criminal justice system, the harder it is to recover and become a successful member of our community.

And with limited resources this year, we should think very carefully about our priorities when our police department's budget is larger than our Department of Health, our Department of Behavioral Health, our public university, and our violence prevention programs combined.

As of today, we've received nearly 16,000 written or video testimonials about MPD's budget or our funding priorities for the agencies under the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. More than 500 people registered for a hearing I held on Monday on MPD's budget specifically that was streamed on my Facebook page (you don't need an account to watch). We didn't have enough time to hear from everyone, unfortunately, so we allocated speaking slots based on a first come, first served basis. Today the conversation will continue as I hold a budget hearing with the Deputy Mayor for Justice and Public Safety and our Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, which heads up our growing violence interruption work. Those hearings can be watched live here beginning at 3 pm.

If you want to follow along during the budget process, here's the schedule and how to testify. I've previously held a Public Safety Budget Town Hall on Facebook, a Ward 6 Budget Town Hall, and just this past Tuesday a Budget Oversight Hearing with MPD, Fire and EMS, the Office of Unified Communications, and DC's Attorney General

Related: Our election on June 2 was a mess. I know from visiting Ward 6 polling sites during the day and late at night that people waited for hours to cast their ballot. On Friday, I'm holding an oversight hearing on the Board of Elections to find out what went wrong and how we ensure November is a much smoother process.

Metro Transit Police Need Civilian Oversight: Last week, the WMATA board passed a resolution pledging a plan to address systemic racism within the transit system. This is a welcome, and overdue, signal. Read more in the Washington Post. You might remember for the past few years I've had to deal with aggressive pushback as I passed a law that simply turned fare evasion from a criminal penalty into a civil penalty, citing the frequency Metro Transit Police were enforcing the law overwhelmingly against Black riders. And just last year, Councilmember Robert White and I held a joint-hearing to look into the Metro Transit Police's aggressive policing following a number of incidents. As a reminder, any changes to Metro Transit Police must be approved by WMATA's Board, not just the District. Here are a few thoughts of mine from Twitter as well.

COVID-19 Update: I haven't written with a COVID-19 update in a while, so let me share some resources around testing and some updates as we head into summer. The District has been slowly expanding opportunities for individuals who are not symptomatic to get testing, which is critical if we're going to trace and contain the spread as we re-open. Our Public Health Emergency has been extended to July 24. And as the school year has ended, the summer meals program will continue on, transitioning to DPR for the summer starting yesterday - more info on summer meals below.

Free COVID-19 testing for anyone: Beginning this week, the District now offers a number of daily testing sites where anyone can receive a test, regardless of symptoms and without needing a referral. A daily testing location downtown on F Street, NW between 4th and 5th Streets, NW offering testing Monday - Friday from 10 am to 2 pm.

Starting yesterday, the District launched ongoing daily testing at different firehouses around the city. Here's the schedule:

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, 4-8 p.m.

  • Engine 4 (2531 Sherman Ave. NW)
  • Engine 11 (3420 14th St. NW)
  • Engine 24 (5101 Georgia Ave. NW)
  • Engine 31 (4930 Connecticut Ave. NW)

Thursday and Friday, 4-8 p.m., Saturday 12-4 p.m.

  • Engine 8 (1520 C St. SE)
  • Engine 10 (1342 Florida Ave. NE)
  • Engine 30 (50 49th St. NE)
  • Engine 33 (101 Atlantic St. SE)

On https://coronavirus.dc.gov/testing, there are a number of testing locations throughout the District. The majority of them are prioritizing testing for specific groups, however the District is steadily expanding testing for anyone. 

Anti-Body Testing Now Taking Place in Navy Yard/ Capitol Riverfront: The District also started offering scheduled antibody testing for District residents ages 6 and up as another way to track community spread with a site in Canal Park open to all DC residents. You need to make an appointment before heading over there, however.  Learn more here.

Contact Tracing: A critical part of any safe and successful re-opening of our city that still minimizes the spread of COVID-19 will have to have robust contract tracing. This is exactly what it sounds like - a team of people who work backwards from a positive case to trace and contain possible spread by alerting others who may have been exposed. If you get tested and have a positive result, please, please work with the contact tracing team that reaches out so we can identify and head off hot spots. And keep in mind, contact tracers will never 1) ask your immigration status, 2) ask for your social security number, or 3) ask for any payment or financial information. 

Free Student/Kid Meal Sites As Of June 1: Click here to see the updated list of school meals being provided over the summer here.

If Your Child Receives a Free School Meal, There's Extra Help For You: During the pandemic, families with one or more children receiving free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program, you can sign-up here for extra support with food during the pandemic. Learn more and enroll with DC's Department of Human Services and share this information in your neighborhood.

We Need More Space for Pedestrians and Non-Drivers: This pandemic has also shown how important our sidewalks and bicycle lanes are for safely moving around the District while maintaining social distancing. DDOT is in the process of implementing 'slow street' and last Tuesday the Council passed emergency legislation requiring DDOT to release a plan for the creation of 20 miles of connected pedestrian and bicycle pathways by September 1 and another five miles after that by December 1.

Ward 6 Neighbor Volunteer Call: Hey neighbors, I wanted to amplify a call for volunteers who can offer to drive some food supplies on Fridays. Serve Your City, our Ward 6 Mutual Aid Group, has asked for help with volunteers. Sharing the note here: Ward 6 DC Mutual Aid needs four drivers at 1 p.m. each Friday to transport 100 boxes of foods for families in need from Food for All DC at 1810 16th St. NW to a distribution point at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 7th St. S.E.  If you can help on an upcoming Friday, please contact John Cochran at [email protected]. Because I'm guessing we'll have more than enough interest for this specific volunteer effort, check out Serve Your City for other ways to help out your neighbors or volunteer.

Checking In With Ward 6 Small Business Owners: I was able to get some time to hear from Ward 6 small business owners and talk through what recovery and re-opening should look like. I remain committed to seeing the District do as much as we can to support our small businesses during this pandemic. If you are a small business owner and want to share your ideas/concerns with me, reach out to me and CC Nichole Opkins from my team (contact info here). I'd also recommend keeping an eye on https://coronavirus.dc.gov/recovery-business to know what resources are available as we go on. 

Related: You might remember a little over a month ago I fought unsuccessfully to make it easier for small businesses to bring business interruption insurance claims related to the mandatory closures around COVID-19. I spoke with Reuters about our debate locally for an article looking nationally at the claims by the insurance industry paying out claims would cost the industry billions. As a reminder, the insurance industry also said DC businesses have been collectively paying around $16 million a month in premiums.

The Fields at RFK Have Re-Opened! The Fields at RFK are back open for at least informal play and access to the outdoors. But before you head out, check out hours and what you need to know

Metro Announces Summer Rail Stations Shutdowns for Repair Work: Over the summer, while trying to take advantage of low ridership, WMATA announced a series of closures to do capital projects at these stations. Here's the full list, which includes: 

  • June 28-July 2  – Mt Vernon to U St
    • Closed Station: Shaw-Howard
  • July 6-July 18  – U St to Ft. Totten
    • Closed Stations: Columbia Heights and Georgia Ave
  • July 19-July 25 – Judiciary Sq to Rhode Island
    • Closed Station: Union Station and NoMa
  • July 26-August 1 – Ft. Totten to Silver Spring
    • Closed Station: Takoma

Interested in how we do Park(Ing) Day 2020? Info Session on June 17: DDOT is hosting an online information for those interested in participating in Park(ing) Day this year. Staff will present information about the design guidelines, timeline, and review process. Park(ing) Day is still expected to occur for 2020, however, event logistics may change based on DDOT’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Please email RSVP here to the information session. Once received, you will receive a link to a Teams Meeting invitation.

Here's Who To Support Financially or By Volunteering: At this point, we've been living physical distancing for more than 100 days. The initial burn to do something may have faded, but these organizations are still doing great work to help our neighbors and they're worth your support. If you find yourself with a lot of time and you are healthy and able to volunteer, these are groups that can put you to work. I cannot emphasize enough, however, that if you are not feeling well at all, please do not volunteer. And if you are fortunate enough to be in a position to make donations, these are organizations helping put food on the table and meet other needs for your neighbors right here in Ward 6 and across the District:

  • Table Church DC (via Ward 6 neighbors): Started by Ward 6 neighbor Allison McGill, this is a great effort pairing volunteers with residents who need help with a range of needs, including just someone to run to the store for them.
  • Ward 6 Mutual Aid Network: Started by Ward 6 neighbor Maurice Cook and Serve Your City, this is a group collecting and redistributing food and other essential items for neighbors. 
  • World Central KitchenChef José Andres' nonprofit kitchen has set up shop at Nationals Park and has been serving up hundreds of meals to Ward 6 seniors. If you can chip in to keep their work going, know it is helping your neighbors.
  • DC Medical Reserve Corps: Organized by the DC Government, here's a way to help out as our medical response scales up.
  • DC Public Schools: In need of volunteers to help keep running their many meal sites for kids in DC during school closures! Please fill out the linked survey.
  • Capital Area Food Bank: In critical need of volunteers to help sort and pack food in their warehouse and assist at their offsite food distributions
  • Food and Friends DC: In urgent need of extra volunteers throughout the coming weeks. There are two volunteer opportunities, food preparation and packaging and meal and grocery delivery
  • Food Rescue US: Volunteers with vehicles needed to pick up and deliver food from businesses to DC residents in need
  • Grace’s Table: Looking for volunteers to help feed the homeless each Saturday
  • Martha’s Table: Volunteers needed to help prepare and bag food for their emergency food sites across the city
  • We Are Family: Volunteer to deliver groceries to seniors. 
  • Food for All DC: Volunteer to drive groceries to seniors, immunocompromised, and other DC neighbors who are homebound. Volunteer here.
  • Aunt Bertha: Aunt Bertha’s network connects people seeking help and verified social care providers that serve them by zip code. Contact your local shelter to see what help and/or items may be needed

Free diapers: 

Free groceries for residents: 

  • Ten DC School Sites Distributing Free Groceries Each Week: I mentioned this above, but sharing here as well. Ten DCPS meal locations are now distributing groceries as well as student meals. Every Monday is Eastern High School's day to distribute in Ward.
  • Martha's Table: Daily grocery distribution at 2nd and H Street, from 5:15-5:45 pm. Donate here to support their work: https://marthastable.networkforgood.com/projects/95536-martha-s-table-martha-s-table-expanded-programs-covid-19 
  • Capital Area Food Bank: Behind many good nonprofits is the CAFB, supplying many groceries from bulk purchasing to food pantries across the region. Help them today: https://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/donate/
  • Father McKenna Center Grocery Pantry Now Open: One of the programs partnering with the Capital Area Food Bank is the Father McKenna Center at 900 North Capitol St., NW. Information on how to support or receive groceries here.
  • H Street Food Drive for Ward 5-6 Neighbors: Contactless food/groceries available for neighbors who need some extra assistance. They also offer contactless food delivery for anyone in the area that needs it, especially elderly, single parents, those with special needs. Drop off or Send Non-Perishable Food Deliveries To: @maketto1351 | Attention: H ST. NE FOOD DRIVE | 1351 H ST. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002. Send all monetary donations To: PayPal: PayPal.me/CHRiSCARDi | Venmo: @ChrisCardi
    • Pick up at Maketto: 1351 H Street, NE
      Monday – Saturday: 7:30am – 9:30pm
      Sunday: 7:30am -5pm
    • If in need of delivery assistance text 202-681-3532


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